This article, written by Emily Vikre, originally appeared in the "Norwegian American Weekly" newspaper
The feeling in the air is special at this time of year. It feels particularly empty and expansive, more, well, airy than summer air. There’s still gentle warmth from the sun but the cold nips playfully at your heels the moment you’re in the shade. Here in northern Minnesota the expanses of maple, oak, birch, and aspen put on a stunning show of colors completely worthy of the parades of leaf peepers that come to visit (sorry Vermont and New Hampshire, you guys don’t by any means have the corner on the autumn leaf market) and the sky seems to grow more electric blue every day until it all flames out in a blaze of glory come grey and frigid November.
I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on why, but everyone I know (myself included) starts to feel more than usually nostalgic in autumn. Perhaps it’s watching kids go back to school that brings back so many memories. Maybe it’s just the awareness that the freshness and brilliance of fall inevitably fades into the darkness (though also peacefulness) of winter. Fall is acutely ephemeral.
I relish taking out my sweaters, flannels, and wooly socks. As much as that, I get excited about trading out the fruity, fizzy drinks of summer for moodier, boozier cocktails. Fitting with this fall mood, it’s hard to get more nostalgic than an Old Fashioned because as far as cocktail historians can make out, the Old Fashioned is, in fact, the original cocktail. An Old Fashioned is just three ingredients, spirits, sugar, and bitters, plus ice. From this open template you can build all sorts of variations, and an aquavit Old Fashioned is one of my favorites. Even better, I think, is an Old Fashioned that splits its base between aquavit and rye whiskey. Visit any Jewish deli, or have a piece of Swedish lympa, and you’ll know I’m not the only one who has noticed the affinity that caraway has for rye (or maybe it’s vice versa). The two combine to give the cocktail a rich, almost chewy flavor. Instead of sugar, I like to stay with the northern-inspired flavor palette and use a spoonful of maple syrup (get even more wild and northern with a spoonful of birch syrup!). A dash of orange bitters and Angostura bitters harmonize all the flavors. They also give the cocktail extra spice and aroma that are as autumnal as mulled cider, but will pull your tastebuds in a Christmas direction, making this Old Fashioned perfect for sipping all winter long.
Aquavit and Rye Old Fashioned
1 ½ oz Vikre Voyageur Aquavit (in this cocktail I particularly like our cognac barrel aged aquavit that has a little richness from being aged, but our unaged aquavit would work as well)
1 oz Rye Whiskey
1 tsp. maple syrup
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice until chilled (about 20 seconds), then strain into a low glass with a large ice cube in it. If desired, garnish with an orange twist.