15 Facts to Know About Aquavit Spirits

  1. Aquavit is a category of spirit all its own, just like gin, vodka, or whiskey.
  1. Aquavit‘s base is a neutral spirit—it is colorless and tasteless, just like vodka—that is most commonly distilled from grain or potatoes. One of the most common grains used in the United States is corn.
  1. People have been making aquavit since the 1500s. The earliest known record of aquavit appears in a letter about a package sent to the Archbishop of Norway that was said to contain an elixir that cured disease and aided in digestion.
  1. The word aquavit means “water of life.” Eau de vie and whisky also mean “water of life.”
  1. Aquavit is the national spirit of most Scandinavian countries. It can be found almost everywhere in Northern Europe and is especially popular as a celebratory drink for the holidays.
  1. EU regulations stipulate that aquavit must have a minimum ABV of 37.5% and must be flavored with caraway and/or dill. Many other herbs, flavorings, and spices can be added to that, but caraway and dill are required to be called an aquavit.
  1. Every Scandinavian country has its own unique recipe for making aquavit. In Sweden and Denmark, the spirit is made by distilling grain. In Norway, it is made by distilling potatoes. The Swedes prefer a style that is very fennel-and-anise forward. The Danes prefer a more dill-forward style.
  1. Most clear aquavits are from Sweden or Denmark. The darker, more caramel-colored aquavit liqueur tends to be from Norway.
  1. Aquavit is commonly called “Scandinavian gin” because it shares many of the same herbal and floral properties with gins, though it contains no juniper. Many bartenders use aquavit instead of gin to create unique riffs on classics like the Negroni, the Aviation, and the Bijou.
  1. Coffee pairs wonderfully with aquavit. A Scandinavian favorite is called “Kaffepunch,” which is made by putting a coin in a coffee cup, pouring coffee into it until the coin cannot be seen, and then pouring aquavit into the coffee until the coin is visible.
  1. There is a famous restaurant called Aquavit in New York City, which opened in 1988 and serves a wealth of aquavits, including housemade Juniper and Lemon, Horseradish, Corn and Bell Pepper, and Strawberry-Ginger. This revered NYC institution was also the springboard for Chef Marcus Samuelsson, now a superstar in the culinary world.

A bottle of Batch 22

  1. Aquavit’s popularity is exploding in the United States. In 2023, The Verge declared that “2023 Is the Year of Aquavit.” In 2022, the Winner of Best Cocktail Menu in the World (from 50 Best Bars.com) had two aquavit cocktails on their list. According to industry analysts, the North American Craft Spirits Market will see a 23% growth in aquavit sales over the next five years.
  1. Vikings drank aquavit. According to historians, Vikings particularly enjoyed drinking aquavit from the skulls of their vanquished enemies.
  1. The traditional toast when drinking aquavit is Skol! which means “good health” in Swedish.


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