Aquavit (1890)
[Swedish and Danish akvavit, Norwegian akevitt, from Medieval Latin aqua vitae, "water of life", also spelled aquavite, or akvavit, also called snaps in Denmark.]

A Scandinavian flavoured, distilled liquor, ranging in alcohol content from about 42 to 45 percent by volume, clear to pale yellow in colour, distilled from a fermented potato or grain mash, flavored with caraway seeds or cumin seed, others that may be used are lemon or orange peel, cardamom, aniseed, and fennel.

Liquor was imported to Norway from Europe starting in the 1500s. The name aquavit is not of Nordic origin, but it has aquired a special place in the Norwegian as well as the other Scandinavian languages. Today, aquavit is known as the Norwegian liquor and holds a special place among liquor lovers all over the world.

Norway is famous for its Linie Aquavit, so called because it is shipped to Australia and back (across the Equator, or the "Line") in oak containers to produce mellow flavour. The origin of this "invention" was a failed business venture. The owner of a distillery, Jørgen Lysholm, didn't sell his barrels of aquavit in Asia as planned and they were return to him. Upon inspection, he found that the aquavit had changed and had aquired a richer flavor! After this, Lysholm began loading barrels of aquavit onto freighters carrying dried cod for export around the world, and retrieving them at the end of a long round trip.

In the Scandinavian countries, the aquavit is usually served chilled and unmixed, often straight out of the freezer, in small, stemmed glasses which will be emptied in one go. The stem on the glass prevents your hand from warming the liquor. It is a traditional drink at the Christmas table along with beer, which accentuates the caraway flavor. It is said (as an excuse?!) to have the great power of making more space for eating more of the delicious food. It's consumed year-round on other special occasions such as birthdays and Constitution Day.

This strong liquor is of course only for sale in the Vinmonopol, the State's monopoly of wines and liquors.

Related links:

Kitchen of Light : The New Scandinavian Cooking , a cookbook by Norway's best known food writer, Andreas Viestad, and companion book to the public television series "New Scandinavian Cooking with Andreas Viestad". It means the shedding of light on a long-overlooked cuisine and culinary tradition. There is more going on in the Land of the Midnight Sun than smorgasbord. One of the chapters is given over to gravlaks, cured salmon, you can do at home with spice and Aquavit.

Check out the Bookstore for books about Norwegian cooking, and find recipes in the Cooking section.

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