Emily and Joel Vikre started their Duluth, Minnesota, distillery after Emily had an epiphany New Year’s Eve 2012. She and Joel were at the Kitchi Gammi Club with her parents, and the conversation turned to the history of Swedish whiskey. At one point, Emily’s mom said the Swedes were sick of hearing the Scottish distillers brag about their Scotch, and decided to do something about it. They had the fresh-water sources and ingredients needed to make their own whiskey, so they did. That’s when it clicked: Duluth had all those things, too. Why was no one making Minnesota whiskey?
Enter Vikre Distillery. Emily put her cooking skills and PhD in food policy—and 100-percent Norwegian blood—to use in coming up with the distillery’s first offerings: three types of gin and an aquavit “that people would actually like drinking,” she says, explaining how Joel initially balked at the idea, recollecting the times he’d had to drink less palatable aquavit at her family gatherings. Whiskey will be ready to bottle and sell this fall and winter. Another aquavit—the Voyageur, matured in cognac barrels—will be released this month.
Vikre’s aquavit, Øvrevann (Norwegian for Upper Lake, or Lake Superior) is infused with caraway, cardamom, and lympa—a sweet rye bread. The flavors make it more sipping friendly and also provide an excellent base for cocktails.
In honor of Syttende Mai, Norway’s Constitution Day, on May 17, Emily created a special cocktail using Øvrevann as the base. The festive sparkling cocktail is a simple variation of the French 75, the classic gin cocktail. Here, the gentle caraway, cardamom, fennel, and orange-peel flavors of the aquavit marry beautifully with lime and Prosecco. It’s refreshing, effervescent, and tastes like a celebration.
The Norsk 17
- 1 ounce Vikre Øvrevann Aquavit (or Voyageur Aquavit)
- ½ ounce fresh lime juice
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- 3 ounces Prosecco (or other dry sparkling wine)
Shake the aquavit, lime juice, and simple syrup with ice until chilled. Strain into a cocktail coupe or champagne flute. Top with the Prosecco.
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