We all know that cocktails all around the world have very strange and unusual names, but when I read the title of this one, I was smitten immediately – TALL BLONDE.
What it looks like? Difficult question because actually there is no unified recipe. Diving into the web for information I found that there are a lot of options, but in view of the basic ingredients, I could limit them to two versions.
The first one is sweet. Honestly, for my personal taste, it is quite ‘sweetish’, and more proper name I assume would be ‘the sweet blonde’ (if we keep the main theme ). It consists of Grand Marnier, Baileys, Kahlua, Amaretto, milk, banana and ice (of course, not all in one mix). If you however like such a style – check this and this recipe for details how to prepare it.
The second one evoked my interest and I think it deserves totally its name.
Let’s start with the main ingredient – Akvavit.
I bet that most of you haven’t even heard about it.
Akvavit (also written Aquavit) is an alcoholic beverage that comes from Northern Europe. Yes, you got it! Northern Europe is the famous region where ‘tall blondes’ live (and Santa Claus too). There are probably more tall blondes per square meter than anywhere else in the world.
And what their men, the Vikings, invented? A spirit with distinctive pungent flavour of CARAWAY (I would never stop admiring human’s imagination). Why exactly caraway? Just as there are plenty of juniper in northwest Europe (and they produce gin), anise – around the Mediterranean (here we have ouzo, pastis, sambuca), in the Nordic countries there is caraway. You produce from what you have available in abundance.
Their achievement was only in the flavour not in the invention of the spirit itself. Though still there are reservations in this issue, generally that discovery is awarded to the prominent Arabic scientist Jabir ibn Hayyan, aka Geber (721-815) and thankfully to the Moors in Spain (8th-13th century) the production of the distilled alcohol gradually made its way into the life of the Europeans.
The name Akvavit (Aquavit) derives from the Latin ‘aqua vitae’ which means ‘water of life’. However, it does not have the exclusive rights to that name. ‘Water of life’ was the common denomination attached to all important distilled drinkable alcohol in Europe (for example ‘uisce beatha’ which in Gaelic means ‘water of life’ gave the name to the modern ‘whiskey’). The term was borrowed from the Arabic poetry from the 9th century where the distilled wine was called ‘araq’ which translates as ‘water of life’. It was Arnaud de Ville-Neuve in 1310, who first coined the word ‘aqua vitae’ to the wine he distilled though actually he was searching for the 5th element, the universal panacea, the sought-after ambrosia of the Gods… (I am absolutely sure that there are supporters who will swear he succeeded)
Looking back at history I may say that the title is quite an adequate one. The alcohol beverages were literally life-savers. Drinking water was contaminated and a carrier of many diseases. The only solution to survive was a drink with an alcohol content to kill the deadly bacteria. That is why most Europe was drinking a lot of wines and spirits those days which suggests that they were constantly drunk or put it more poetically … ‘in an intoxicating mood’ 😉
Officially Akvavit is mentioned in a letter from the 15th century from a Danish noble to the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Norway where is recommended for its medicinal properties.
Six centuries later it didn’t go too far from the Nordic shores. Still the biggest producers and consumers’ markets are in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and only a very few in Northern Germany, Canada and the US. Nowadays it is preferred mostly as a festive drink that invariably takes place at Christmas and Easter celebrations. It may not have expanded its fame outside these countries, but there it is praised as a symbol of their cultures.
Besides caraway, which continues to be the dominate flavour, other spices and herbs are also added to the blend. They definitely contribute to the final taste. Though kept in secret by the producers the most common are dill, fennel, cumin, coriander, cardamom, lemon or orange peel.
Usually it is released on the market unaged, but there are examples that stay for some time in oak casks. This inevitably changes the colour from pale golden to light brown. And speaking about the colour of Akvavit, that yellowish hue also sustains the ‘blonde’ trait…
The final touches to the cocktail image are framed by the glass – it is served in a highball, the second ‘tallest’ cocktail glass (the champion is the Colin glass).
Impressive name, interesting cocktail. If by chance you have on hand an Akvavit, give it a try.
And don’t forget to follow the Swedish tradition – SING while enjoying it! If can not remember any song, I guess Swedes wouldn’t mind to use one of their traditional ones.
“Over the mountains, over the sea,
Millions of snapses are waiting for me.
Please go to hell with juice and tea,
Snaps is the drink for me!!”