Mr. Graham really likes Linie, a smooth aquavit that is aged in oak sherry barrels. Not only is the aquavit aged in barrels, but the barrels are aged as they travel from Norway via ship to cross the equator. Linie is Norwegian for line, and it during this journey across the equator twice that the wood in the barrels lends flavor and smoothness to the aquavit.
If you look through the bottle to read the back of the front label, you can see the name of the ship and the "travel" dates for the contents. Our latest bottle sailed on the ship Tysla from July - November in 2012.
We are both aquavit fans. Our favorite is Krogstad Festlig, which is distilled here in Portland at House Spirits. It is bright, herbal, with a bit of welcome sweetness.
In addition to sipping on its own, I love to make drinks with aquavit. It is fun to play with the herbal notes. In the spring and summer, I add fresh juice, dill, fennel, and borage to make something that resembles a garden in a glass. Mr. Graham loves to make kaffepunch with it. I will tell you how to make kaffepunch below.
This time of year though, it is nice to keep it simple and make sours.
Have any of you tried my recipe for homemade aquavit? I have been so busy working on other things that I forgot that I had made some in early December. I had a few sips, and put it away in our basement bar. We have a lot of bottles around here, and I often find little surprises when I go looking for that lost bottle of something or other. Do you believe I didn’t even put the aquavit in a pretty bottle, it was still in a jar? I tasted some again and it is lovely and herbal. It is really good on its own, but then I discovered that it makes a really good sour. It is one of those cocktails that I would be happy to pay a little extra for at a swanky cocktail bar.
This past weekend I decided to taste three different aquavits in sours to see what tastes best. I tried the following:
2. Krogstad Festlig
3. My homemade aquavit
I decided to keep it simple and not add any other liqueurs. I added some egg whites because the frothy creaminess plays well with the citrus and herbs. It also tames the fire a bit.
In this experiment there were two clear winners: The Krogstad and my homemade aquavit. The Krogstad sour is fresh, herbal, and highly drinkable. The homemade aquavit sour is brightly herbal and tastes unlike anything I have ever had. I highly recommend it, but you are going to have to visit me, or follow my recipe and have one in a month. The one sour that was a dud was the one made with Linie. Linie is very smooth, so the sour was too flat.
A Little Discussion of Egg Whites in Cocktails, or How I Learned not to Fear Salmonella and Love the Whites
Before I give you the recipe, we are going to have to talk about raw eggs. Even though scientists have confirmed that egg whites are alkaline and are therefore not hospitable environs for salmonella, there are some precautions to take. The main culprits for bacteria are the yolk and the shell. Some bartenders use a bleach solution to rinse their eggs. I just wash mine really well with warm water. I also buy pastured eggs from small farms. You can also buy containers of pasteurized egg whites, but they don't always froth and foam nicely. If you are totally grossed out, just skip the egg whites. Before the 1980s and the sharp increase in salmonella contamination most sours included egg whites. They are not necessary, but I really love the creaminess they create.
A bit about technique: I prep the egg by washing it well. I crack the egg and carefully put all the white into a cocktail shaker and make sure the lid is on tight! I put the yolk on a saucer and feed it to our kitties (although I really want to learn how to cure the yolks). I then shake the egg white really hard to froth up the white. Some bartenders recommend removing the spring coil from a Hawthorne strainer to increase the froth. It works really well, but isn't necessary.
I then pour the frothed egg white into a glass. I also make one cocktail at a time in the shaker or else the force of the shaking will cause the shaker to burst and the contents will fly in every direction all over your kitchen and there will be a multitude of expletives. Water will be boiled and the entire kitchen will be scrubbed until it gleams. So no economizing, just make these sours one at a time.
1 ounce aquavit, I recommend Krogstad Festlig, homemade aquavit, or Aalborg
1 ounce lemon or lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (I used the cardamom simple syrup from my Cardamom Blood Orange Soda recipe)
1 - 2 teaspoons egg white
1 dash citrus bitters, optional
Garnish: twist of lemon, 3 grains of bee pollen, a pinch of fennel pollen, or a few nasturtium petals
Add the egg white to the shaker first and shake strongly to start frothing the whites. You can use a spring from a Hawthorne shaker, if desired, but it is not necessary.
Add the remaining ingredients to the shaker and shake very well. Strain into a small cocktail or Nick & Nora glass. Garnish as desired.
Mr. Graham's Kaffepunch
Place a clean silver coin (Mr. Graham uses a 25 øre coin) in your coffee cup. Use a demitasse cup for the best results. Add coffee until you can’t see the coin anymore. Then add aquavit until you can see the coin again. It will take a lot of aquavit! Sweeten with sugar, if desired.
homemade aquavit, Krogstad Festlig, and Linie
I saved the yolk for our kitties
cardamom simple syrup and citrus
Aquavit sours garnished with bee pollen
coins in our cups
pour coffee until you can't see the coins
pour aquavit until you can see the coins