Food & Drink Aug 06, 2015

The New York Times Features Brennivin, the Famed Icelandic Aquavit

Also known as "Black Death," the Icelandic drink has a truly unique flavor you can't find elsewhere.

The New York Times recently featured an article introducing the Icelandic aquavit Brennivín to newcomers with a cocktail recipe and history of the drink. The article calls Brennivín “Iceland’s newest export,” because although the drink has been in production since 1935, it has not been available anywhere in the U.S. until recently. “Ever since I had come back from London, I have always been looking for how I could get [Brennivín],” barman Matt Piacentini told The Times. But today, the unique beverage is quickly gaining availability in many U.S. and Canadian liquor stores and bars. “Now, Brennivín is everywhere: places you’d expect… and others you might not.”

Brennivín can be consumed straight as a shot, but for some, an 80 proof aquavit with no added sugar may not go down easily alone; Brennivín’s nickname in Iceland is “Black Death,’ after all, but not so much for its taste. When Iceland partially lifted its ban on alcohol in 1935, Brennivín, which was then produced by a government-owned company, implemented an austere black label to appear unappealing and limit demand. However, this had the opposite effect, and the unique label became a treasured symbol for Iceland’s signature drink.

New York bartender Chaim Dauermann shared his enthusiasm for Brennivín with The Times, discussing how he used to have to search high and low for the bottle on the “Internet gray market” before it was finally sold in the U.S. He even gave readers his personal recipe for a great Brennivín cocktail! 

Chaim Dauermann’s Stone Crush

1. In a mixing glass, muddle three or four slices of cucumber into a juicy pulp.
2. Fill the mixing glass with ice, then add the Brennivín, vermouth and Zucca. Stir well. Lastly, add the Stiegl beer.
3. Strain the drink through a fine-mesh sieve into an ice-filled rocks glass.
4. With a paring knife or peeler, cut off a strip of lemon peel and twist it over the drink to express the lemon oil. Discard the peel.
5. Garnish with more slices of cucumber and serve.

Let us know what you think of the cocktail in the comments below!

For more Brennivín cocktail ideas, check these out! And if you’re looking to find the nearest place you can find a bottle or two of Iceland’s official drink, we have a list here for you!