A Norse to Be Reckoned With

  “As far as we’re concerned, it’s a real damned disaster.” So fretted Jorgen Lyth, then-president of Vancouver’s Danish House Society, about the great Christmas akvavit shortage of 2006. During that dark season, the wizards at the province’s Liquor Distribution Branch underestimated the public’s-by which I mean solely ex-pat Scandinavians’-desire for the caraway-infused alcohol. The result was that the holiday traditions of many a Dane, Swede, and Norwegian were ruined.

We have no such worries this year-partly because the LDB has added one paltry label to its shelves, and also because it’s still almost exclusively the purview of Laplanders and their ilk. But mostly it’s because craft distillers have hopped onto all things Nordic and taken an interest in the spirit as an alternative to all the gin they’ve been producing. Unlike juniper-driven gin, akvavit (or aquavit, if you prefer) gets its digestive-aid component from caraway-and, to a lesser extent, dill, fennel, and other infusions. You’ll be thankful for any help with digestion after you’ve put away a pound of gravlax and three plates of turkey with lingonberry stuffing.

Tradition dictates that you down an ice-cold shot with a hearty “Skål!” (You’re actually supposed to drink them in twos-one for each leg, as the Danes say.) But our local bartenders have glommed on to akvavit’s uniquely savoury and complex flavour profile, and they’ve created a raft of cocktails that pair beautifully with food.

The Drink: Den Kloster
From Thor Paulson, The Diamond,
6 Powell St., 604-568-8272

1.5 oz Long Table Långbord Akvavit
2/3 oz yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1/6 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz honey water (made by mixing equal parts honey
and hot water, and allowing to cool)
Grapefruit peel

Combine all ingredients, except the grapefruit peel, in a cocktail shaker. Shake with ice and fine-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express the oils from the grapefruit peel into the drink and discard the peel.