While aquavits are extremely common in Scandinavia, they’re still considered a “fringe” liquor in the United States. Production of these spirits goes back to the 15th century and are commonly consumed during festive gatherings or as an aperitif. Aquavits get their distinctive flavor from spices and herbs, mainly caraway or dill, and are distilled either from grain or potatoes.
Iceland’s most famous aquavit is Brennivin, a potato-based spirit flavored with caraway seeds. Brennivin was introduced to the public in 1935 when the Icelandic government partially repealed prohibition. It was only recently introduced to North America, with first shipments arriving in 2014. The spirit has a subtle sweetness that comes from the pure Icelandic water used in distillation. While many cocktail artists will utilize Brennivin as a replacement for gin, white rum or rye whiskey, one of the most popular ways to drink Brennivin is still to drink it neat.