Aquavit (Akvavit) , the Scandinavian drink

Akvavit gets its distinctive flavor from spices and herbs, and the main spice should be caraway or dill. It typically contains 40% alcohol by volume. It is also referred to as a shot of snaps. 

Akvavit has quite long roots, the oldest recipe that I found is dated back to year 1642, this is a Finnish recipe is from year 1802, and this is how it goes (converted for home distilling purposes):

  • 1 kg of barley flour
  • 1 kg of oat flour
  • 2 kg of rye flour
  • 5 kg of cooked and smashed potatoes
  • 5 kg of gristed rye malt
  • about 30 L of water
  • 15L of sour mash (from previous batch) or 20g of citric acid and 10l of water
  • couple of juniper branches
  • ½ L of beer sediment (or yeast starter)

  • 100 g of coarsely chopped caraway seeds
  • 500 g of powdered charcoal (made from birch if available)
  • 20 g of coriander seeds
  • 10 g of dill

Put the grains and potatoes in the bucket and soak in the sour mash for couple of hours. Boil the juniper branches in 30 litres of water and pour the boiling water on the grains and potatoes and stir well. Leave there over night, and in the morning check the temperature (must be 20 - 27 degrees Celsius) and add beer sediment (or about 50g of ale/porter yeast). Stir. Cover the bucket with the linen cloth and secure tight with rope. (You'll see why in a day or two). Let ferment until there is about 10cm (4") deep layer of clear liquid on the top (this should take about two weeks or so). Distill in a water/steam bath pot still (with the tails from previous batch) three times.

Fill the still with the middle run from third distillationFill the cotton bag in the following order: first put sand in the bag, enough to cover the bottom of the bag. Then put the spices (caraway seeds, coriander and dill) in the bag. Mix the charcoal and the remaining sand and put in the top of the bag. Hang the bag below the stills outlet tube, so that the distillate can drop through the bag to the receiving container. Distill slowly. Collect until the tails show up. Cut the distillate down to 50 vol.% with spring water (use bottled water if you can't obtain fresh spring water) and age in the glass bottle at least for two months. (Add some oak and sandalwood chips if available). 

Simplified recipe 4 L of 40 vol.% vodka (or well made Moonshine...)

30 g of caraway seeds  
5 g of coriander seeds  
5 g of dryed dill ..........Buy the botanicals online through StillCooker's Selection!
Some oak chips  
Splash of Irish whiskey  

Crush all seeds and combine in a large jar, macerate for a week. Filter through a coffee filter and add a teaspoonful of glucose (dextrose). Age for a month or so in order for the flavours to marry. 

Akvavit

is distilled from grain and in Norway of potatoes. After distillation, it is flavoured with herbs, spices, or fruit oil. Commonly seen flavours are caraway, cardamom, cumin, anise, fennel, and lemon or orange peel. Dill and "grains of paradise" are also used. The Danish distillery Aalborg makes an akvavit distilled with amber. The recipes and flavours differ between brands, but caraway is typically the dominant flavour.

Aquavit usually has a yellowish hue, but this can vary from clear to light brown, depending on how long it has been aged in oak casks or the amount of colorant used. Normally, a darker colour suggests a higher age or the use of young casks, though artificial caramel colouring is permitted. Clear akvavit is called taffel; it is typically aged in old casks that do not colour the finished spirit or not aged at all.

Historical perspective

The earliest known reference to "aquavit" is found in a 1531 letter from the Danish Lord of Bergenshus castle, Eske Bille to Olav Engelbrektsson, the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Norway. The letter, dated April 13, accompanying a package, offers the archbishop "some water which is called Aqua Vite and is a help for all sort of illness which a man can have both internally and externally".