Whether you spell it aquavit, akvavit, akevitt, or akvaviitti, this ‘water of life’ spiced hard liquor is traditional to Scandinavia, and dates back centuries. Distilled from either grain or potatoes, aquavit is then flavored with a wide variety of spices and herbs, from caraway, dill, coriander and cardamom, to cumin, anise and fennel.
While aquavit has long-standing connections to many major holidays, it is especially revered during Midsummer celebrations in Sweden.
Last week’s summer solstice provided the perfect backdrop for my own Midsummer feast. In the manner of one who has never truly experienced said traditions, I enthusiastically prepared quite the smörgåsbord [bonus Nordic word!] of pickled herring, dill potatoes with smoked salmon, pickled cucumbers, spice-encrusted salmon, and fresh berries with vanilla whipped cream.
And I also made a jar of Homemade Aquavit.
Typically, you let aquavit sit for a few weeks, so that the spices can infuse successfully. I bought my vodka the morning of Feast Day, so a few hours was all I had. But really, it was all I needed.
I used 2 tbsp or so of this aquavit in combination with sour cream and parsley, which I then served with the cooked fish. We also made sure to pass the shot glass around, in the name of tradition, of course.
Aquavit is traditionally drunk ‘as snaps’ during meals. Since I only own one shot glass, however, we weren’t all able to look each other sternly in the eye whilst announcing “Skål!” in tandem. Despite this oversight, the sentiment was there, and aside from Christmas Eve, Midsummer might now be my favorite holiday for celebrating traditions while feasting. I’ve also learned that aquavit isn’t actually that bad – it’s savory, and herby, but not overpowering or unpleasant.
But perhaps I’m just so excited about Midsummer because I finally had the excuse to make and wear a pretty daisy garland.