Give Your Cocktail A Savory Twist By Swapping Vodka With Aquavit

Glasses of clear liquor
Glasses of clear liquor - Marko Jan/Getty Images

One of the benefits of mixing drinks with vodka is its neutral flavor. It's a great way to add some booze to your beverages without overpowering other ingredients or introducing unwanted flavor profiles. But sometimes, you do want to give your go-to cocktails a little extra something. If that's the case, rather than using plain vodka, you might want to consider aquavit. This is a type of liquor hailing predominantly from Scandinavia that is made by distilling potatoes or grain.

Aquavit shares some similarities with vodka, particularly in the distilling method, but it's flavors are savory. It has notes of herbs and spices, most notably dill and caraway. These profiles will give cocktails that usually use vodka a unique twist. The caraway adds a toasty flavor reminiscent of rye bread, while the dill brings out grassy, citrusy notes. That means when you mix it into your favorite cocktails, it can give the drinks more complexity than indistinct vodka.

Read more: The Ultimate Vodka Brands, Ranked

Not All Aquavit Tastes The Same

Bottles of aquavit
Bottles of aquavit - Ralf Liebhold/Shutterstock

Although, in general, aquavit adds herby, savory notes to cocktails, the flavor profiles of this liquor varies depending on where it's from. Danish aquavit is made from grains and tends to strongly feature caraway and dill. Caraway seeds and dill are often used in pickle brine, so try using aquavit in a dirty pickle cocktail. It also works extremely well with the salty, savory flavors found in a classic Bloody Mary.

Swedish aquavit is also distilled from grains and can also feature caraway but it more strongly has notes of anise and fennel. Aquavit from Sweden would be a natural swap in a Ruby Maker cocktail, which calls for vodka infused with fennel. Norwegian aquavit is typically distilled from potatoes, and the predominant spice used is caraway. It's also barrel-aged, which gives it a golden color, and it can have hints of vanilla. Norwegian aquavit is meant to be more of a sipper, but you could feature it in a simple cocktail like a vodka soda so as not to drown out the complex, barrel-aged flavors.

Aquavit Can Make A Decent Gin Replacement Too

Pack of Scandinavian liquor
Pack of Scandinavian liquor - MoreGallery/Shutterstock

Aquavit doesn't just work well as a savory, more complex swap for vodka, it also makes a great alternative to gin. Much like aquavit, gin starts with a neutral spirit that is then infused with botanicals. Of course, the botanicals are different. With gin, the predominant flavor must be juniper, followed by complex notes developed from spices, flowers, citrus, herbs, or other ingredients. A Negroni cocktail recipe might work well with this swap. The herby dry vermouth works well with the botanicals in aquavit, while the bitter Campari can bring out some of the citrusy notes in the aquavit.

Beyond this, you could also play around with using it as a substitute in a French 75. Turn this fancy French beverage into a Nordic dream by replacing the gin with aquavit. You can even play up the savory notes by adding star anise as a garnish or adding a sprig of fresh dill to the glass. Whether it's gin or vodka you replace, aquavit can make a unique swap in some of your favorite cocktails and can add extra tasting notes you wouldn't otherwise pick up on.

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