How to Make Your Own Akvavit

How To Make Your Own AkvavitAkvavit (also spelled Aquavit) is a Scandinavian spirit that dates back to the 1500s. It is made by flavoring a neutral spirit with botanicals. Caraway and dill are two traditional flavors. In Scandinavia, home cooks make the spirit with an infinite variety of spices, herbs, and flowers.

The specific herbs and spices used to flavor akvavit are determined by local preference and cuisine. Danish akvavit leans heavier on dill, coriander, and caraway. Swedish aquavit features more anise and fennel flavors. It’s quite different in Norway, where aquavit is barrel-aged and can include diverse aromatics like cumin and citrus peel.

If you want to toast like a Viking, pour your akvavit into a shot glass, raise it high, shout Skaal! while maintaining eye contact, and toss it back in one long draw.

You can also substitute akvavit for vodka in cocktail recipes for a bold and savory kick.

We have posted a starter Akvavit recipe below. And, here are some suggestions for other flavors to experiment with. Many of these grow wild around the Bay Area at different times of the year. You may want to make a few batches to taste test.

  • Red rhubarb lends a vibrant glow to the akvavit—the alcohol tempers rhubarb’s tartness.
  • Juniper berries, give off a menthol spice with just a hint of sweetness.
  • Caraway seeds provide a musky, rye-bread flavor.
  • Fresh Dill brings a grassy note with a mild celery-like flavor. You can also try fresh, wild anise.
  • Cherry blossoms impart a floral note with a touch of bitter almond. You can try elderberry flowers when in season, too.
  • Lemon verbena and lemon balm add a citrus kick.
  • Fennel seeds add a licorice flavor
  • Star anise gives a strong anise flavor
  • Lemon, orange, and other citrus peels (with the pith removed) add a bright citrus flavor

And if you want to forego the wait, we have several bottles for sale in our Wine and Spirits department: Linie, Aalborg Jubilaeums, and Aalborg Taffle Akvavit.

Akvavit Recipe
Yields 2 cups

Be certain to sample the infusion as you go to check if it has reached your ideal flavor. If you prefer an intense aquavit, let the spices steep for a longer amount of time—up to two weeks. Orange zest can be used in place of lemon if desired.

2 cups vodka
1 large sprig fresh dill
2 (2-inch) strips of lemon zest, white pith removed
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 pods star anise
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed

Set aside your dry spices for tomorrow.

Put the vodka, dill, and lemon zest in a glass mason jar, or another jar with a good sealing lid. Seal the jar and shake to stir. Allow the vodka to infuse at room temperature for one day. Remove the lemon zest and dill and discard.

Next, add the caraway seeds, star anise, and fennel seed to the infused vodka. Allow the vodka to steep at room temperature. In two days, shake the jar and taste. If you prefer a stronger flavor, continue to steep for up to two weeks, tasting every few days. When the desired strength of flavor is achieved, strain the spices through a cheesecloth, discard the spices, and return your akvavit to the jar or decant into a nice bottle.

Akvavit can be stored at room temperature for up to 6 months. You can also store it in the freezer. It is delicious served right out of the freezer as alcohol will not freeze.

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