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The Sipsmith Blog

Around the World in 80 Gins: Swedish Gin

in Articles January 20, 2014

Next stop on our globetrotting journey of gin-loving nations is Scandi capital of cool, Sweden. It turns out that the Scandinavian country, ranked in the top 20 gin consumers in the world, is an exciting place to be a connoisseur.

We’ve delved into Sweden’s long distilling history, as well as its new pioneering generation of distillers, in search of the secret to Swedish gin.

History

The Swedes have been drinking their own version of gin since at least as long as the Dutch have enjoyed genever, gin’s precursor (records going back to the 15th century describe the drink). In Sweden, though, their traditional version isn’t called gin. Instead, it goes by the name of aquavit.

As gin does, aquavit uses a neutral, clear spirit for its base – called brännvin here, and typically made with grains or potatoes. The spirit is then infused with a number of specialty herbs and spices.

Where aquavit differs from gin is in the primary flavour profile. Gin must always feature a predominantly junipery flavour, while aquavit is typically associated with dill and caraway. Other spices that are frequently used in aquavit include cardamom, coriander, and fennel seeds.

What do they drink

Home distilling of aquavit and other spirits was once very common across Sweden. These days, though, that trend has been replaced with the burgeoning growth of creative, small-scale distilleries – many of which are crafting exciting new gins.

One leading distillery is Hernö, whose Swedish gin won a number of medals at the 2013 World Gin Masters. Self-proclaimed as the world’s northernmost distillery, Hernö is located in Härnösand, a town on the country’s remote eastern coast. The distillery’s homemade wheat spirit is the underpinning of a smooth and spiced gin. Perhaps the most exciting offering crafted by the Hernö, though, is their Juniper Cask Gin, which ages the spirit in barrels crafted from juniper wood.

In addition to Hernö, a number of other exciting gins have crept up of late – from the well-regarded Hven Gin, distilled on Hven Island in the Öresund Strait, to Right Gin, which blends a corn-based spirit with exotic botanicals and water from Sweden’s Lake Bolmen.

How do they drink it

Aquavit has traditionally been drunk in ‘snaps’ form (i.e., ‘shots’), and drinking small drams of neat gin, or gin blended with just a small amount of water, is not unheard of. Sweden is also home to a vibrant cocktail bar scene, and a number of leading venues in Stockholm, like Häktet Vänster, The Corner Club, and the Purple Room, are serving up innovative gin-based cocktails.

Cocktail Recipe

Inspired by a recipe crafted by celebrated Swedish chef Marcus Samulesson, our take on his Lingonberry Cosmopolitan subs in Swedish gin in place of aquavit. The addition of lingonberry juice makes for a supremely Scandinavian tipple.

Lingonberry Cosmopolitan

2 ounces gin

2 ounces lingonberry juice

1 ounce triple sec

1 ounce lime juice

Add all four ingredients into an ice filled cocktail shaker, and shake until well blended and chilled. Strain into a cold Martini glass.

Feature images © TT/iStock/Thinkstock, Mikael Damkier/iStock/Thinkstock

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