Aquavit: Scandinavian Warmth

One spirit makes the cold, dark winters of Scandinavia considerably warmer and more festive. Known variously as aquavit, akvavit, or akevitt (from the Latin aqua vitae, or “water of life”), this translucent grain- or potato- based alcohol is flavored with herbs and spices, most notably caraway and dill. Similar in alcohol content to vodka, aquavit is heady stuff that should be consumed with respect.

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Though Scandinavia enjoys dozens of varieties, U.S. imports of Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian aquavit have dwindled. Fortunately, North American craft distillers have begun producing their own versions of the spirit.

Traditionally, aquavit is sipped either chilled or at room temperature or taken as snaps, a quick shot during the appetizer course of a meal.

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Before downing it from raised glasses, courtesy and custom dictate that you look your companions squarely in the eye, nod, and propose the age-old Scandinavian toast: Skål! Another nod before placing the glasses back on the table seals the timeless ritual.

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