Aquavit: Let’s Cocktail Like the Scandinavians


The Danish food trend has been brewing for some time (see: Pellegrino’s Best Restaurant Noma, the forthcoming Tribeca sandwich shop Aaman’s), so it’s only natural that aquavit is popping up on cocktail menus around the city, and on a micro-level … in the East Village.

Gabrielle Hamilton’s 1st Street restaurant, Prune, boasts a dozen Bloody Mary options at its popular weekend brunch. The most popular features lemon vodka and a slew of pickled veggies, with a beer chaser, but opt for the Danish for an aquavit kick. The herbal liquor lends a pleasantly smooth alcoholic kick to the horseradish-heavy drink. It’s topped off with two to three skewered anchovies to snack on while you wait for your eggs Benedict.

Walk over to Avenue A to continue your aquavit crawl at the Beagle. Within the l’etoile laden walls you’ll find two ways to get your aquavit fix: one cocktail and one pairing board. The Rosalind Russell cocktail is a barrel-aged number of fragrant aquavit, white vermouth, and angostura bitters that’s sophisticated and exquisitely smooth. It also goes down unsettlingly easily; be careful. The aquavit and mackerel pairing board features a jiggerful of the liquor, served neat in a decorative mini-goblet the size of an egg-cup, to sip while alternating bites of mackerel and creamed pickled onion on rye crisps. It’s a concept that could be overwrought but in this case works beautifully.

Vandaag has championed Scandinavia since its opening a year back, so it’s no surprise that they serve four cocktails featuring aquavit. Settle into the comfortable corner 6th Street spot to try one, or four. You may want to start with the Salt-N-Pepa, chile-infused aquavit with tequila and a fennel pollen rim. Or opt for the Turf War, where lillet and absinthe fight for the aquavit’s attention. Each $12 cocktail is surprisingly layered with distinctive flavors — shocking considering they contain a laundry list of ingredients.

For non-tipplers there’s an aquavit-cured salmon on the menus at the Smorgas Chef mini-chain, including the 12th Street location. As expected, it makes its appearance in a few cocktails in their repertoire as well. In fact, it’s hard to walk a block in the East Village without stumbling upon an aquavit something, and with the deluge of foreign single-spirit focused restaurants and bars (ahem, Amor y Amargo), it’s only a matter of time before someone opens one devoted to aquavit. Oh, wait …