DIY Aquavit Recipe

This savory Scandinavian spirit dates back to the 1500s.

A stirred cocktail with as lemon twist sits next to a bottle of DIY aquavit. Some of the botanicals used in the recipe are scattered on the table nearby.

Serious Eats / Marcia Simmons

Why This Recipe Works

  • A two-step infusion precisely extracts the optimal amount of flavor from fresh aromatics, followed by dried spices.
  • Infusing the dried spices "to taste" ensures you arrive at an aquavit that suits your tastes.

Aquavit is a Scandinavian spirit that dates back to the 1500s. Much like gin, it's a neutral spirit flavored with botanicals—only caraway seed is the primary flavoring instead of juniper berries. Use aquavit instead of vodka in a cocktail recipe to add a bold and savory kick.

My liquor cabinet is starting to resemble a liquid United Nations, with almost every region and culture accounted for. Until recently, however, Scandinavia was sorely missing from the General Assembly. Then a bartender in L.A. served me a spritzer that had a savory rye-bread kind of flavor to it that I couldn't quite place. I figured she had gotten creative with a syrup. But when I asked how she got that flavor, she whipped out a bottle of aquavit. I quickly got to work experimenting with making my own.

Aquavit (sometimes called akvavit) is a traditional Scandinavian spirit that dates back to the 1500s. Much like gin, it's a neutral spirit flavored with botanicals. Caraway seed is the primary flavor, though fennel, dill, and anise are also common. The custom is to drink it straight—often alongside pickled or smoked fish—but aquavit can also really add oomph to a cocktail.

For most people, aquavit is an acquired taste, since it doesn't fit into the flavor profiles of the infusions, spirits, and liqueurs we're used to here in the States. Yet if you set aside your expectations and give it a shot, you just might expand your cocktail repertoire in new and exciting ways.

What's Available to Buy?

Tracking down aquavit falls somewhere in the middle of the difficulty scale. It's not something your average liquor store stocks, but I've seen Linie aquavit for around $30 at BevMo and specialty shops. Linie is aged in sherry barrels as it takes an ocean voyage from Norway to Australia and then back again. The resulting spirit has a very bold caraway seed flavor with touches of licorice.

I haven't gotten my hands on the other imported aquavit brands—there's Aalborg from Denmark and OP Anderson from Sweden—but I hear Aalborg is spicy with a focus on the anise flavor, while OP Anderson has a little sweetness to it. America has some aquavit-makers, too. North Shore Distillery's aquavit isn't as intense as Linie, though it has plenty of spiciness and hints of citrus. Krogstad, from House Spirits Distillery in Oregon, has a strong anise flavor and less of a caraway-seed focus.

Why DIY?

Everyone has their own unique tastes, but that seems to be especially true when it comes to aquavit. For some people, bitter and bolder is better, while other people may want to dial down the caraway seed and licorice for a more subtle flavor.

"That makes it the perfect DIY project—you can decide which flavors to emphasize."

Your ideal aquavit may be something you drink straight along with some fish or simply a new way to spice up a Bloody Mary. The fun thing about aquavit is that there really isn't one "right" mix of ingredients. That makes it the perfect DIY project—you can decide which flavors to emphasize and which ones to skip without feeling like you're straying too far from tradition. I like a little bit of citrus as part of a medium-bodied infusion, but for something wilder, you could add some dill, infuse for a longer period, or even add a little ginger or cinnamon.

Unless you use fancy vodka, you can make a batch of aquavit for around five bucks. Even if aquavit were more common, most of us would rather spend the $30 on, say, a whiskey or gin. I'm a lot more inclined to experiment using aquavit in cocktails if I'm using affordable aquavit that I've made myself.

Use It!

You should try your homemade aquavit straight up—one tradition is to serve it alongside a beer. But don't be afraid to mix with this stuff. Try it in place of vodka, gin, or tequila in a recipe for a savory twist. My favorite way to use homemade aquavit is in a fresh bloody Mary. I also like to mix it with club soda, lemon, and cranberry syrup for an aquavit spritzer.

If you are a fan of the negroni, then the trident is a fun twist on the classic bitter cocktail.

For another creative option, Jeffrey Morgenthaler's Norwegian wood cocktail combines aquavit with applejack, yellow Chartreuse, and sweet vermouth. I'm still experimenting with the cocktail possibilities of DIY aquavit, and so should you: we could all use a little savory spice in our lives.

November 2012

Recipe Details

DIY Aquavit Recipe

Active 10 mins
Total 336 hrs
Serves 6 to 8 servings
Makes 1 cup

This savory Scandinavian spirit dates back to the 1500s.


  • 1 cup vodka

  • 1 sprig fresh dill

  • One (2-inch) strip of lemon zest, without pith (see note)

  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

  • 1 pod star anise

  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds


  1. Put the vodka, dill, and lemon zest in a sealable glass jar. Seal and shake, then let steep at room temperature for one day. Remove and discard the lemon zest and dill.

  2. Add the caraway seeds, star anise, and fennel seed to the infused vodka. Let steep at room temperature for an additional 2 days. From here, taste the aquavit as it infuses. If you'd like a stronger flavor, continue to steep for up to 2 weeks. When desired flavor is achieved, strain through cheesecloth. Store at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Special Equipment

Fine-mesh strainer, cheesecloth


Orange zest can be used in place of lemon, if desired.

Read More

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
65 Calories
0g Fat
0g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 65
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 0g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 2mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 4mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)