How to Drink Aquavit: A Comprehensive Guide to Scandinavian Spirits

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Aquavit, a traditional Scandinavian spirit, holds a rich cultural significance and a unique drinking ritual. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the history, serving etiquette, and enjoyment of aquavit, ensuring you fully appreciate this beloved Nordic drink.

Origins and Ingredients of Aquavit

How to drink | Åhus Akvavit Cocktails and Drinks Recipes

Aquavit, derived from the Latin term “aqua vitae” meaning “water of life,” has been produced in Scandinavia since the fifteenth century. Typically made from grains or potatoes, it is flavored with a variety of herbs and spices, with caraway and dill being the predominant flavors.

Flavor Profile

With its herbaceous and often slightly spicy notes, aquavit offers a complex flavor profile that varies depending on the producer and the specific blend of botanicals used. Some varieties may have hints of citrus, anise, or even fennel, adding depth to the drinking experience.

Alcohol Content

Traditionally, aquavit has a relatively high alcohol by volume (ABV) content, typically around 37.5%. This potent spirit is meant to be sipped and savored, rather than consumed quickly.

Serving Aquavit

What Is Aquavit?

Temperature and Glassware

Aquavit is best served chilled in small, stemmed glasses known as aquavit glasses. Many aficionados prefer to store both the spirit and the glasses in the freezer before serving to achieve an extra-cold temperature, although some argue this may dull the flavors.

When to Serve

Aquavit is often enjoyed during festive occasions, such as smörgåsbords, crayfish parties, and holiday celebrations like Christmas. It pairs exceptionally well with traditional Scandinavian dishes, particularly pickled herring.

Pouring and Etiquette

When serving aquavit, it is customary for the host to pour shots for each guest. Guests should wait for the host to offer a toast, known as “skål,” before raising their glasses and making eye contact with everyone at the table. Singing traditional songs, such as “Helan går,” may accompany the toast, depending on the cultural context.

Enjoying Aquavit

How to drink | Åhus Akvavit Cocktails and Drinks Recipes

Tasting Notes

Before taking a sip, take a moment to appreciate the aroma of the aquavit. Swirl the glass gently to release its bouquet, then take a small sip, allowing the flavors to unfold on your palate. Note the nuances of the herbs and spices, as well as any lingering warmth from the alcohol.

Food Pairings

Aquavit’s herbal and savory notes make it a versatile companion to a wide range of foods. In addition to pickled herring, it pairs well with smoked fish, cured meats, hearty breads, and aged cheeses. Experiment with different combinations to discover your favorite pairings.

Social Aspect

Beyond its culinary appeal, aquavit has a social significance in Scandinavian culture. Sharing a shot of aquavit with friends or family fosters camaraderie and conviviality, helping to break the ice and create lasting memories.


In conclusion, drinking aquavit is not merely about consuming a spirit; it’s about embracing a centuries-old tradition and immersing yourself in Scandinavian culture. Whether enjoyed as part of a festive gathering or a quiet moment of reflection, aquavit offers a taste of the Nordic way of life. So raise your glass, say “skål,” and savor the flavors of this beloved Scandinavian spirit responsibly.