is also spelled akvavit or aquavite depending on where you come from, in Denmark it is also called snaps. Aquavit is a clear or pale yellow liquor, slightly above 40 percent alcohol and tastes mostly dry with a caraway flavor. Originally the name means 'water of life' coming from the latin 'aqua vitae', while some folks say it means 'fast water'1.
Aquavit is popular in the scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway and Denmark (these countries are the main producers), Finland (even if the finnish people mostly drink vodka) but is also consumed a lot in northern Germany. It is made from fermented grain or potato mash, redistilled in presence of the different flavourings, such as caraway or cumin seed, cardamon, lemon peel, aniseed or fennel. It is usually bottled without aging. In times past, aquavit was solely distilled from imported wine, which made it a quite expensive drink, but human ingenuity made this an obstacle long forgotten.
Brands of aquavit are for example the norwegian Linie Aquavit which gets its name from crossing the equator (line or 'Linie') twice by being shipped to Australia and back in oak containers2. They actually print the name of the ship, the date, the route they were travelling and all that on the backside of the label4.
The other brand which comes to mind is Aalborg Akvavit from the town of the same name in Jutland, Denmark. There are about 15 different types of Aalborg-stemming aquavits, the most popular (in Denmark) is Aalborg Taffel Akvavit which is also called Rød Aalborg. This one has 45 percent alcohol when purchased in Denmark, but only 42 percent when exported5. Please feel free to add your favourite aquavit in a forum entry.
Now to the fun part of this article: aquavit is to be consumed straight and chilled out of small glasses. Traditionally, it is the ideal companion to appetizers or sandwiches and to a smorgasbord, a swedish cold and warm buffet6. In Norway, aquavit is considered a must to a meal of lutefisk; some people say it is even more important to have aquavit than to have lutefisk. In Finland, it is tradition to drink a lot of aquavit to a meal of freshwater crayfish and to fall into a lake on your way home. Also, you could drink it in large quantities as medicine after a large meal in eat-as-much-as-you-can-mode to avoid serious stomach trouble, even if a large hangover is then unavoidable. If you plan to offer aquavit to your guests, be sure to have more than one bottle at hand, and, even more important, to put it in the freezer at least a day before consumption. Note, however, that aquavit has to be served chilled, not frozen.