All the way back in 1531 we have the first dated mention of the aquavit spirit, although back then it was not regarded as a spirit at all. The mention was found in a letter from the Danish Lord of Bergenhus castle in Bergen to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Norway. The letter came with a package, offering the archbishop an unusual liquid. The liquid was said to be “some water which is called Aqua Vite and is a help for all sorts of illnesses which a man can have both internally and externally”. The name descends from the Latin word aqua vitae, meaning “water of life”. For many years aquavit was regarded as a medicine, mainly for coughs, fevers, impure skin, and other smaller illnesses. In contrast to the aquavit the archbishop was served, today’s aquavit is not regarded as a medicine, but some believe it eases the digestion of richer foods.
Years of Tradition
While aquavit slowly lost its reputation as a medical drink, it gained more and more popularity as a festive drink. Aquavit is often seen accompanying feasts and banquets, celebrating Christmas, Easter, the Norwegian constitution day and other large celebrations. The spirit is traditionally almost exclusive to large meals, and drinking it without food is not very common. Aquavit is here to accompany people through great and small moments, as we say in Scandinavia, the moments we live in the now. This is a drink made to enhance the events you experience right there in the moment, whether it is New Year’s Eve or Easter Sunday.
We recently published a blog post about living the moments, and how the Scandinavians enjoy smaller and greater events in life. Read more in our blog post, Living in the Now.
In the late 1500s, the distillation of grain- and potato-based spirits grew in popularity. Manufactures started flavouring the spirits with different spices and herbs. The use of caraway, dill and coriander was in particular very popular, and the use of those ingredients became the mainstream aquavit ingredients for many years to come. In later years manufacturers have started using other, not so mainstream additives like fruits and berries. Just like any other product, recipes and flavours differ from brand to brand. Some use cumin, fennel or dill, while some, like Nuet Dry Aquavit, use blackcurrant and grapefruit peel.
The spirit is rarely produced outside of the Scandic countries, and in the few areas it is produced, it is often because of a large population with Scandinavian heritage. Although the production is quite similar, it is not as authentic as the real deal, with ingredients fresh from Scandic fields and forests.
Aquavit has always been regarded as a strong and bitter spirit, often used for what Scandinavians call snaps, small shots of alcohol consumed during the course of a meal. It has also been enjoyed slowly, as a pure spirit, and never really in cocktails. This is where Nuet Dry Aquavit arrives on the arena, as a smooth and refreshing take on the traditional aquavit. Nuet Dry Aquavit is created just like other aquavits, to enhance the moments you enjoy, but in a far more versatile way. Fitting perfectly in cocktails, or with tonic water, the fruity and citrusy aquavit is a perfect substitute to gin. You can buy your own Scandinavian moments in a bottle in our shop, and read more about the many use-cases in our drink-section.
Here at Nuet, we strive to share the moments and the stories from the great Scandinavian region. We publish weekly blog posts about Scandinavian cuisine, culture, and people. Read our stories at nuetaquavit.com/stories and follow our Instagram @nuetaquavit for instant updates on new posts straight to your feed.