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The Rise of Aquavit: Everything You Need to Know About the Nordic Spirit

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He adds: “When I lead a tour, I always offer a sample of Halftone Aquavit, and the reaction is often one of amazement. Ours leans into the caraway, and when people make the connection to rye bread, they absolutely love it. It’s often a flavor they’ve never tasted in a spirit, and it leaves a lasting impression.”

Outside of a bar called Hickok in an old part of town with brick buildings in the background.
Courtesy World’s Best Bars

Concocting New Cocktails With Aquavit

Even in aquavit’s native Scandinavia, there’s been a noticeable uptick. Erk Potur, owner of Himkok—tapped as one of the world’s 50 best bars, which makes its own variety—has witnessed the change. “Around the time of our opening in 2015, Norwegians were not used to ordering aquavit-based cocktails.”

First they had to make an aquavit that was well-suited to cocktails, but that also had a foothold in the Norwegian tradition. Then they had to convince guests to try said aquavit cocktails, which ironically was much easier with international visitors.

“That’s understandable because the products on the market were mostly used for traditional food pairings,” Potur explains.

But aquavit has been through a mini revolution in the last 10 years with Norwegian craft distilleries constantly pushing the envelope.

“Simply looking at the sales from our bar shows the interest in aquavit is big and increasing, likely because guests have more options now than before,” Potur adds.

Aquavit, spirit experts believe, has the potential to be the next mezcal—but in a different sense. While mezcal’s smoky backbone tends to dominate in a cocktail, aquavit has more subtle nuance. Thompson is partial to pairing it with gin, but adds that it works beautifully with Cognac or even rye. “It would make one hell of a brown derby with rye, a paloma riff, or anything with grapefruit,” he says.

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