I founded Aquavit Week in December of 2012 as a celebration of the spirit. I’ve been a fan of using aquavit in cocktails since tasting Krogstad Aquavit when I moved to Portland to tend bar in 2008. At the time there were only a few aquavit brands available in the United States, but by 2012 there were five different American distillers producing it. I felt that these spirits were underrated, so the idea of Aquavit Week came about as an opportunity to feature them both neat and in cocktails.
The first Aquavit Week was hosted at Portland restaurant Metrovino, featuring cocktails made with six different aquavits, Scandinavian-inspired food, and a New Nordic Porter flavored with caraway, fennel pollen, and dill pollen brewed by my friends at Breakside Brewing. The second was hosted at The Hop and Vine with even more aquavit, more food, and a new Aquavit Barrel-Aged Braggot from Breakside. In year three we expanded to multiple events and invited other bars and restaurants to take part by offering aquavit cocktails throughout the week — an invitation that, I’m happy to say, has been taken up with enthusiasm and creativity.
In 2016, now in it’s fifth year, Aquavit Week is bigger than ever, with events in Portland, New York, Chicago, and Houston, and bars from all over joining the celebration. This growth has been made possible by the generous sponsorship of Linie Aquavit from Norway. As always, it’s my hope that drinkers and bartenders alike will explore the category as a whole, from Nordic stalwarts to the newest interpretations from American distillers.
If you’re in one of these cities, I hope you attend one of our events. And if you’re not, we invite you to enjoy aquavit or visit one of our participating bars wherever home may be.
Jacob Grier is the author of Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer, and has worked in various Portland drinking destinations, including The Multnomah Whiskey Library, Expatriate, and The Hop and Vine. He writes at www.jacobgrier.com.