Aquavit (or Akvavit) is a traditional Scandinavian distilled spirit. It begins life as a neutral grain (or potato) spirit, just as vodka and gin do. It is then infused with various herbs and spices, notably star anise and caraway seeds. In that sense, it's similar to a Danish/Swedish/Norwegian version of gin.
Krogstad Aquavit, however, is made in the United States, by the distilling wizards at Oregon's House Spirits. They have crafted their aquavit based on a traditional Scandinavian recipe, and distilled it to perfection, recently winning a double gold medal and being named "Best of Class" at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
It's easy to see why Krogstad Aquavit has won such acclaim. It's a beautifully pure and viscous spirit; very interesting just swirling in the glass. It has a wonderful aroma of licorice (anise), with dill lurking underneath it.
The flavor matches the smell — mostly sweet licorice, but not cloyingly so. There's a little dill in there as well, and some spice. (I assume that's from the caraway seeds.) Although it's 80 proof, it's not overly hot. It has a long, spicy finish that really dances around your tongue, without being overpowering.
Aquavit is an unfamiliar spirit to most Americans, but it's one that's well worth exploring — and Krogstad makes a perfect place to start. It's tasty and well balanced, with flavors that are familiar, yet presented in a new way.
With the exciting work being done by various craft bartenders around the country, it should come as no surprise that aquavit is finding its way into the mixing tins of inventive mixologists. Naturally, I wanted to try it in a cocktail.
I didn't feel creative enough to create one out of whole cloth, so I turned to the expertise of Martin Cate, owner and bartender at Smuggler's Cove, San Francisco's acclaimed rum bar. Martin mixes up an aquavit cocktail called the Norwegian Paralysis, based on an old drink called the Polynesian Paralysis. Here is my version, a minor variation of Martin's.
1 oz Aquavit
1 oz Rum
1 1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Orange Juice
1/4 oz Orgeat
1/4 oz Simple Syrup
Shake with ice, then strain into an ice-filled collins glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
Quality Grade: A
Value Grade: A-
Final Grade: A