It’s a splendid May afternoon and I’m gazing up at turrets and spires, relaxing in the courtyard of a castle. Inside, there’s a stark white cafe where I found a bitter and spicy cocktail that feels just right for the season.
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“I’ve been playing with infusions lately, and specifically, my newfound love of Skaalvenn Aquavit,” says Kara Sweeney, who runs the bar at Fika, the cafe at the American Swedish Institute. “It’s super drinkable and not as ‘hot’ as a lot of aquavits.”
Sweeney infuses the aquavit with star anise for a few hours—a nice complement to the fennel note that dominates the spirit, and a nod to the absinthe that would usually be found in a Sazerac. Her Swedish riff on the New Orleans classic has ginger syrup for spice, and a spot of apple juice for balance and body.
“It’s interesting,” she says, “if you look up aquavit cocktails, and you use a different one than they say, you’re going to have a whole different experience. It’s like gin in that way.” It’s true—even the few local aquavits on shelves right now offer wildly different profiles. (See this month’s Spirits Close-Up: Aquavit).
Of course you could mix this drink with a non-infused aquavit of any kind. Or you could just have Kara make it instead while you soak up the sun in style.
- 2 ounces anise-infused Skaalvenn Aquavit
- 1/4 ounce ginger syrup (2:1, see below)
- 1/4 ounce apple juice
- 5 drops Peychaud’s Bitters
Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, and strain into a lowball glass with no ice. Garnish with a lemon peel.
Ginger Syrup: Run a couple large chunks of peeled ginger root through a juicer (or finely grate on a microplane if you don’t mind a little pulp in your syrup). Measure your ginger juice and simmer with twice that volume of sugar until dissolved.