For the next interview in my series how to “Drink like a local” I met Trine from Norway, in a Scandinavian restaurant in London. Trine, 41, comes from the far north of Norway from a little town called Vadsø, and unlike Sarah Palin, on a clear day she can actually see all the way to Russia! Being only a stone’s throw away from Finland it turns out we Nordics have a lot in common when it comes to drinking…
What’s the most common drink in Norway?
We drink akvavit during meals and with fatty foods. It is served during Christmas time and other celebrations. We serve it with ale or this dark Norwegian Christmas beer. You don’t actually mix it with the beer or with anything else, just drink it on its own as a shot. I like akvavit with sauerkraut or other pickled foods.
The Scandies and their shots! What else do you drink?
As a shot? Vodka, Swedish, Finnish or Russian brands. I also like Turkish Pepper shots, it’s a mixture of salty liquorice and vodka. If we go to a cabin or skiing, we always drink Turkish Pepper shots!
I know that one. Turkish Pepper sweets are actually from Finland!
Oh really? I didn’t know that. Although I am not surprised as we have more in common with the Finns than with the rest of Norway, funnily enough. Many people from the area have some Finnish heritage.
Let’s go back to akvavit – what is it? Could you tell me a bit more about it?
It is a spirit flavoured with herbs and spices. The main spice should be caraway or dill, according to some EU regulations. Other spices are anise, cardamom, fennel and orange or lemon peel. It is actually similar to gin without the juniper.
We also have linje akvavit, which I believe is only a Norwegian tradition.
How does linje akvavit differ from the other ones?
Back in the day, all these barrels with akvavit were loaded on the ships from Norway to Australia and back, passing the equator twice before being bottled. The movement of the ship, the humidity and the changing temperature contributed to the final flavour of the spirit. The name “linje” came from passing the equator.
How fascinating! Do they still produce this?
There’s at least one company that I know of still producing linje akvavit. They tried different methods to come up with the rocking movement but the final spirit was nothing like the original. Therefore, they still store them on ships from Norway to Australia and back before bottling and selling.
What kinds of differences have you found between Norwegian and English drinking culture?
In Norway we gather in people’s houses before going out, or even if we don’t go out, we spend more time in everyone’s homes. It is a great way to catch up with friends as I find you often lose people when you go to bars. It is also more cost effective; Norway is fairly expensive.
The weather is nicer in the UK, therefore I tend to go out more often. Where I am from, it is more common to go out with the purpose of drinking a lot, but here you can go to bars just for one or two and also do so more often. No more binge drinking, basically.
What do you normally drink on a night out?
I’m a prosecco kind of girl. But if I’m drinking spirits I would have dark rum or an occasional G&T. If I drink shots, I’d choose reposado tequila with cinnamon and a slice of orange.
Also, after visiting Greece several times, I have started to really enjoy ouzo, especially with food.
Ouzo does remind me of akvavit due to the strong anise flavour. I know many Finns who also love it, including myself.
Yes. Unfortunately, it is not widely available in most places. You can only really mix it with ice and water, and my advice is to stick with it as ouzo doesn’t go well with other drinks. Next day you will regret having cocktails or even a beer with it!
Do you remember any unusual drink related traditions when growing up, I bet there’s been moonshine involved at some point?
Well… let’s just say it was widely available. I am sure it still is… When I was younger we used to get moonshine and mix it with coffee. You basically put a small copper coin in the cup, then a tiny amount of coffee and a tiny bit of moonshine, just enough that you can still see the coin. Then you add more coffee and a minimal amount of moonshine. That way you could make sure you never used too much of the firewater.
Sounds crazy! I recommend not to try that at home!
To try the legal version of Trine’s moonshine coffee, Karsk, I have amended the recipe below.
Karsk – the hardcore version
1 part black coffee
2 parts vodka
If you dare, you can try 60% ABV to experience a more realistic moonshine Karsk. Just pour the coffee into a cup and add vodka – enjoy!
Karsk – the more enjoyable one
A shot of vodka
Pour the shot into the coffee and drink. This is a Norwegian take on Café Corretto. Italians often use grappa or Sambuca instead of vodka.