This year’s Northern Restaurant and Bar in Manchester saw the hosting, for the first time, of a seminar that showed off the centuries-old spirit of akvavit, or aquavit as it’s more commonly known. Dave Marsland examines the drink's history and its growing importance up north
Hosted by Jon Anders, aquavit brand ambassador for Amathus Drinks, the tasting carried on the current trend of utilising the Scandinavian spirit in the north of England. But why this and why now though, especially when the likes of bartender stalwart Monica Berg and certain London establishments have been embracing the category for a while?
The call for bartenders and the concepts springing up in the city of Manchester are pushing the boundaries regarding diverse spirit and cocktail offerings, using influences from their travels to cities such as London and Edinburgh, as well as further afield to countries such as Spain, France and Germany.
Ultimately, native spirits are enjoyed and new flavour combinations are experienced. As a consequence, innovative ideas come together and the spirit will create a talking point within a bar or restaurant.
The easier access of good quality and diverse aquavit brands in the north over the last 12 months have proven worthwhile. Gethin Jones' Cottonopolis creation 'It Came From Beneath The Sea' sees Linie Aquavit shaken with sake, lemon juice, sugar, egg white and a pinch of sea salt, finished with a squid ink and peat whisky spray.
The other side of the city sees Mr Cooper’s House & Garden embrace two creations by Shane Kilgarriff. 'Birds of Passage' combines Aalborg Dild, wild strawberry vermouth, cucumber tonic and lemon dust. The short serve 'A Breath of Air On a Cold Day' includes Linie Aquavit, rye whiskey, jasmine and wild mint come together.
But it’s not just the restaurants and hotel establishments that are embracing the unknown within cocktails, as Dominic Alessia Papalia's speakeasy venue Wood & Company offers up a Manhattan twist using Linie Aquavit, Contratto Rosso, Sangue Morlacco and barrel aged bitters.
Across the way from here, Nordic recipes are not the name of the day when it comes to the serving of aquavit, as Hawksmoor is now offering Aalborg Taffel as an aperitif, working it into the traditional Scandinavian serving suggestion.
The mindset of the bartending community in Manchester has made aquavit a sought-after spirit, in part due to the creative minds when producing cocktails. This change of heart is also due to consumer behaviour embracing new and exciting spirits, formed into exciting serves. Great bartending skills on reassuring the paying public that aquavit is just as worthwhile to invest into as gin or whisky is certainly working.