The Trident Cocktail

Cocktail of the Day today is one that it took me a while to get to, because oddly enough until last year I never had any aquavit in my bar.

That’s not just an oversight on my part. For a long time I wasn’t a fan of that spirit’s major flavor component.

Aquavit is a flavored spirit, usually distilled from grain or potatoes, which comes from the various Scandinavian countries. I see it as a fellow traveler to gin — they’re both neutral spirits flavored with botanicals, with gin’s primary botanical being juniper, and aquavit’s being caraway. (That was the taste I had to acquire.)

Although a cousin to gin in that respect, the cousins get once or twice removed fairly quickly. A lot of aquavit spends time in wood and thusly picks up color and flavor. Linie, from Norway, is perhaps the most well-known example. It’s a potato-based aquavit that’s made in Oslo, then stored in oak sherry casks and aged in the holds of ships, as it travels across the equator through temperatures hot and cold to Australia and back (“linie” means “line” in Norwegian, referring to the equator) — for the makers, just the right amount of time and temperature variation spent in the barrels for a deeper flavor. Aquavits from other countries tend to be lighter in color, and some, like Krogstad, a domestic aquavit produced by House Spirits in Oregon — is clear. (However, North Shore Distillery’s Aquavit Private Reserve, which I have yet to try, is oaked, and I’ve just picked up a small bottle of experimental Krogstad that’s spent some time in oak as well. More on that, and some other House Spirits experiments, in a later post.)

In its native lands aquavit tends to be drunk neat and chilled from the freezer, but talented mixologists are finding it to be an intriguing cocktail ingredient. At Copper Gate in Seattle aquavit is the house spirit (and there’s a housemade one to boot), with several aquavit-based cocktails on their menu.

There aren’t a whole lot of aquavit-based cocktails (CocktailDB lists 18, most of which are fairly obscure), but what’s probably my favorite one isn’t on that list. It’s an original by Robert Hess, who about 10 years ago was playing with Fee Brothers’ Peach Bitters plus thinking about trying a variation on the Negroni. Aquavit replaced gin, Cynar (the Italian artichoke-based bitters) replaced the Campari, and sweet vermouth gave way to dry sherry. The peach bitters added a nice aromatic, fruity finish and the final product is a really lovely and complex drink from three really offbeat ingredients (to many folks, at least).

Murray put it on the menu at Zig Zag, and according to Robert that one drink on that one menu is responsible for Zig Zag being the largest consumer of Cynar in all of Washington State. So nice to see how all our Seattle friends drink so well (and even better to drink well with them!).

The Trident Cocktail

The Trident Cocktail

1 ounce aquavit
1 ounce Cynar
1 ounce dry sherry
2 dashes peach bitters

Stir with ice for 20-30 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Lemon twist garnish.

[2/22/10, 4:06pm – Post updated to mention North Shore Distillery’s Aquavit, which I forgot about when I wrote this because apparently my frontal lobe fell out.]


3 Responses to “The Trident Cocktail”

  1. Tiare said:

    Feb 20, 10 at 2:40 pm

    Even though i live in Sweden where aqvavit is a national spirit it took me long to develop a taste for it..mainly because here you are obligated to drink it neat during every single x-mas dinner and sing along in all the silly songs;-) same around midsummer.

    But when i got it mixed in a fantastic drink at Death&Co well then that was another matter. I can never really figure out why its not used as a mixing component here, i guess its because its such a rigid tradition to drink it neat in shots.And besides we have no real cocktail culture here, sadly.

    I have started to like it with tequila in mixed drinks. I´ll try your recipe too when i manage to get me some Cynar which isn´t sold here.

  2. sylvan said:

    Feb 20, 10 at 2:31 pm

    It took me a while to get to the Trident, also, but in may case because I didn’t have peach bitters. Anyway, at a sherry tasting the other night, we made Tridents with a couple of different sherries, and the Alvear Amontillado made a much better drink than a Fino (I’ve forgotten which brand). I was surprised, since I usually make them with extra dry sherries like Fino and Manzanilla. Also, since we are in Portland, Krogstad all the way, baby.

  3. Daniel said:

    Feb 20, 10 at 3:02 pm

    I tasted the Trident for the first time at the Tar Pit a few months ago and loved it. The unique flavor profile doesn’t appeal to everyone, but Julian Cox (Rivera) and I thought it was the best cocktail on the menu. I just had one the other night, it’s still great!