If you’re Scandinavian, it’s the elixir of your roots. If you’re someone who craves savory caraway and herbaceous dill flavors in your cocktail, it’s the drink of your dreams. We’re talking, of course, about the spirit called aquavit. The longtime outlier from Nordic Europe tends to get lost on American back bars—until now.
A small but sturdy bunch of domestic distillers are turning out fantastic versions of the liquor. Some drink like a silky vodka; others share the botanical breadth of gin, with notes of fennel, citrus, anise and coriander. Each is elegant, unique and worth folding into your sipping routine. These are the five American aquavits you should know.
Geijer Spirits California Aqua Vitae ($34)
San Francisco’s Geijer Spirits, known for its Swedish-style glögg liqueur—a family recipe that goes back three generations—also produces this California Aqua Vitae, a vibrant tribute to Sweden and the Golden State. Swedish transplant Martin Geijer pulls from his roots with a recipe that was in development for about eight years. It’s a New World aquavit with traditional caraway, fennel, orange peel and dill, but also black pepper, clove, cardamom, ginger, grapefruit and sage.
Long Road Distillers ($35)
From its home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, this aquavit nods to Scandinavia with Michigan ingredients. It starts with a silky base of local red winter wheat, full of bold caraway and dill, then unfolds with cumin, star anise, fennel and cinnamon. It’s one of the most integrated and memorable of any American-made aquavits, and it’s gorgeous in cocktails. Also, look for its elegant aged version, currently only available in Michigan.
Spirits of French Lick ($43)
The town of French Lick, Indiana, is an unexpected source for aquavit. Master distiller Alan Reed Bishop was raised on a third-generation tobacco farm and is both farmer and owner of Bishop’s Homegrown/Face of The Earth seed company. He’s also a distiller who previously plied his trade at Copper & Kings. The classic base of this aquavit––caraway, coriander and dill––is enhanced by citrus and juniper for a robust spirit that holds up in craft cocktails.
With its freezing winters and Nordic heritage, Minnesota has a thing or two in common with Scandinavia. So it’s no surprise to find great aquavit here. Tattersall Distilling’s top-notch aquavit is a caraway-forward, Danish-style example of the spirit distilled from 100% certified organic corn. It’s infused with a range of botanicals, including fennel, mustard seed, coriander, orange, nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
Aided by the coastal fog and Pacific cool of his Santa Cruz, California, location, brewer-turned-distiller Sean Venus makes this aquavit with a classic but forward-thinking approach. Caraway seed, juniper, coriander, orange and anise come together for a sip that starts off strong and savory, giving way to bright, sweet citrus, then layers of pine, pepper and licorice.