Americans have been slow to gravitate towards aquavit the same way they’ve picked up gin in the last decade. One of those obstacles, that some have cited, is the dearth of aquavit cocktails in books and the mainstream. Robyn Cleveland, as a bartender turned aquavit distiller, might be uniquely positioned to help turn the tide. He and his wife launched Norden Aquavit.
Distilled in Michigan, from corn with a combination of ten botanicals— boasting both dill and caraway, as well as juniper and local sumac. The aquavit botanical bill reads more like a bold botanical gin.
Norden Aquavit is done in the taffel style, which means it is completely un-aged. It is distilled using the one-shot method on a copper pot still.
Nose: Classic caraway and toasted dill take center stage, while hints of menthol, sage, and dried orange lend depth and roundness.
Flavor: Mild spice-forward palate. Dill seeds with citrus and a hint or coriander early. Mid-palate, peppermint leaves meld into fennel seeds, which then finish with sumac. Dried orange and caraway come through and evoke a slight hint of cocoa nib.
Finish: Rather long and atypical for aquavit. Dried citrus, hints of menthol and a moderate astringency accompany echoes of caraway.
Aquavit is not typically a cocktail spirit, but as a spirit designed by a bartender— some thought has gone into this underrated use for aquavit. The Norden Cocktail is an accessible aquavit sour, while the Norden Long Drink he recommends has great appeal, if only I had easy access to Sea Buckthorn. [source]
The reason some aquavits don’t work in gin cocktails is because they tend to be less botanically bold or are designed to be sipped neat or on the rocks. Given the botanical heavy design, Norden Aquavit works better than most as a replacement for gin. Try it in an Army Navy Cocktail or Arsenic and Old Lace.
Overall, Norden Aquavit
Although not typically a cocktail spirit— bartenders looking to delve into the world of aquavit cocktails may find Norden Aquavit a better starting point than many imports. Further, the bold, almost gin-like botanical blend makes it an accessible entry point for people new to the category.
But overall, Norden Aquavit stands outside of comparisons. It is truly its own thing. It’s bold, beautiful, and botanically complex. It’s as good sipped as it is in cocktails.
That is rare praise, in a category where it’s usually about the former at the expense of the latter.