Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Scandopolitan

There are some dishes you prepare because they are ridiculously delicious. And others because they are just too pretty for words. And others, like the scandopolitan, because they are just too much fun to say. Seriously. I can't stop. Luckily, this aquavit-based cocktail is delicious as well, in addition to being Christmas-bright, and a good way to use up any leftover schnapps.

Aquavit is definitely something of an acquired taste. It's the traditional booze of Scandinavia, flavored with a variety of spices. The particular combination varies by distillery, but caraway is usually front and center. In my rigid view of the food pantheon, caraway seeds have one acceptable place: rye bread. And the occasional loaf of Irish soda bread. But that's pretty much it. Certainly not in my beverage. And I don't think I'm alone in this view. Aquavit can be a hard beverage to like, especially straight up, as it's traditionally enjoyed. A few years ago we bought a bottle to celebrate the summer solstice. Come winter, it was still lurking about in the back of our liquor cabinet. Which led to the development of the Scandipolitan.

The basic template for the cocktail, as the name suggests, is shamelessly borrowed from the Cosmopolitan. If you want to go for a full-on Scandinavian theme, you can mix the aquavit with lingonberry juice, made from the cold-climate berries that grow there. But if you'd prefer to be a bit more domestic, cranberry juice makes a fine substitute. The remaining ingredients of lime, Triple Sec and seltzer temper the fusty edge of caraway, easing it into a sweet context (much like the aforementioned Irish soda bread). It takes aquavit from something to be thrown back (followed, in my case, by an involuntary full-body shudder) to a drink to be savored. I'm still trying to figure out the perfect garnish, since sprigs of lingonberries aren't readily available. A twist of liquorice? A few sprays of fresh dill? Skewers of herring? I'm open to ideas. Skål!

The Scandopolitan

yields two drinks

feel free to adjust the proportions of sweet Triple Sec (or orange liqueur of your choice) and lime to suit your tastes, and the sweetness and tang of the juice used

2 shots aquavit
2 shots lingonberry juice concentrate (or unsweetened cranberry juice)
1 shot triple sec
juice of 1/2 lime

Pour the aquavit, lingonberry juice, triple sec and lime into a shaker with a few cube of ice, and shake until chilled and well combined. Pour over ice into a cocktail glass, with a lollipop (sugared) rim if you like. Top with a bit of seltzer, stir, and enjoy.