Sune Risum-Urth and Rasmus Poulsgaard authors of Akvavit - Rediscovering a Nordic spirit

New book on Akvavit

Rediscovering a Nordic Spirit

Where is Scandinavian cocktail culture heading now that we have all learned to stir a martini and appreciate an old fashioned?

This question is at the core of a new book on akvavit, by Rasmus Poulsgaard and Sune Risum-Urth, which is about to hit the streets.

Akvavit - rediscovering a Nordic spirit - book coverRasmus and Sune are probably two of the most knowledgeable people in Copenhagen when it comes to akvavit. They intended their new book to be a distillation of their knowledge gained through the past many years, but quickly turned into somewhat of a journey into uncharted territory of identity search and reflection.

As they prepared material for the book, they were amazed by the input they got from fellow Scandinavian bartenders. The insights given all seemed to pivot around the following questions: What is Scandinavian cocktail culture? What characterizes a Nordic cocktail? And how can aquavit be re-introduced in the contemporary bar?

These questions seem relevant indeed and are rooted in the fact that the Nordic bar scene for most of its infancy has been drawing the trunk of its inspiration from the strong cocktail capitals abroad in the US and the UK.

Sune and Rasmus point out that when you plunge into the depths of creativity, you’re searching for that extra dimension. However, if you don’t have a clear sense of your own identity, as a starting point “that something extra” seems to manifest in somewhat baroque and overly complex ways. This tendency has been palpable on the Nordic bar scene for the past few years with syphons, smoke infusions, gold dust and funky glassware.

Green Old Fasioned-aquavit cocktail by Sune Risum-Urth

Green Old Fashioned

Sune og Rasmus propose in the book that we look back and focus inwards in search for meaning instead of gathering inspiration on instagram of elaborate “world class” servings from Singapore:

“It makes more sense to us to use techniques and ingredients that are rooted in our soil and culinary heritage. It is from here that an original and meaningful expression can be created for the future.”

Besides offering a solid introduction to the history of European spirits and the production of aquavit, Sune and Rasmus explores what they call “the four pillars of Scandinavian identity”: Nærhed, æstetik, sæson og arv (proximity, aesthetics, season and heritage). This exploration is fueled by the core question:

What characterizes a Nordic cocktail?

Beetroot basher-aquavit cocktail from Duck and Cover

Beetroot Basher

Sune and Rasmus offer suggestions for possible answers inspired by traditional techniques and ingredients.They season this Nordic focus with perspectives from bartenders from London and New York City who are also exploring the potential of aquavit in the contemporary bar.

One of the many interesting aspects of the book is Sune and Rasmus’ exploration of “drivers”. As they put it, all spirits need a driver – a simple drink to pull the category forward like rom & coke, vodka & orange juice and gin & tonic. They give their suggestion for an aquavit driver inspired by the ideas set forth by the bartenders and producers interviewed throughout the book.

We can’t wait to have this book in print!


The book will be available at the coming Aquavit and Snaps Festival Spirikum on the 26th of August 12:00-22:00 at Copenhagen Distillery, where Sune and Rasmus will give a talk on it.  

We have asked Sune and Rasmus to share some of the interviews from the book in length on our blog over the coming months. So stay tuned and these guys will bring you up to speed on what aquavit has to offer!

In the meantime you can immerse yourself in the basics with our free e-book on aquavit cocktails.

Spirikum - Snaps / Aquavit festival

Author image
Thomas Klem Andersen
I believe that true mastery eventually leads to original creation given the right conditions. I love creative cocktails that push the limits of flavor pairing. But I can't deny I have a personal preference for whisky and love everything that is clear and stirred.