Anyone still traumatised by 2019 “folk horror” film Midsommar might benefit from a more pleasant experience of Scandinavian summer solstice celebrations this weekend, here in London. Norwegian premium aquavit brand Nuet has partnered with several bars around the capital to celebrate the longest day of the year (with the midsummer madness kept to a manageable level).
Guests can try special cocktail lists, Scandinavian-themed tasting menus and activities such as garland-making and cocktail masterclasses at venues including Pantechnicon in Belgravia; Bar 45 and 10° Sky Bar on Park Lane; Ekte, near Bank; and two venues in St James’s – the Trafalgar and, appropriately enough, Aquavit London.
Aquavit is an underrated spirit outside Scandinavia. Often referred to as the Nordic cousin of gin, it is one of very few flavoured spirits in the world made by infusing botanicals through redistillation. Founded in 2018, Nuet (meaning ‘now’) takes the comparison to its logical conclusion. Nuet Dry Aquavit was developed to work with tonic and in a martini, among other cocktails, as well as the traditional chilled shots.
Although the lead ingredient is, by necessity, caraway (just as gin’s has to be juniper), other traditional liquorice-adjacent aromatics, such as anise and fennel seed, have been eschewed in favour of grapefruit peel, blackberries and blackcurrant leaves. The effect is a spirit that is at the same time brighter and smoother than many traditional aquavits. Despite the “Dry” name (more of a reference to the distillation method, similar to a London Dry Gin), it has a rich mouthfeel that carries complex herbal and citric notes. And the claim that it works as a gin substitute is substantiated by the fact that it won a silver medal in a Norwegian gin competition, when slyly entered undercover for the blind tasting!
Of the venues hosting midsummer activities, Pantechnicon Roof Garden has the most extensive Nuet Dry Aquavit drinks list, featuring 10 recipes created by the venue’s head bartender Gento Torigata and Odd Strandbakken from Oslo’s renowned Himkok bar. This will also be the site of flower garland weaving fun and cocktail masterclasses on midsummer’s day itself, Friday 24 June (also at 10° Sky Bar on Sunday 26 June). Aquavit London has a special midsummer menu (pickled herring and Swedish meatballs included, of course). The Rooftop at The Trafalgar St James has a Northern Europe-themed cocktail menu. And all the venues will be offering guests complimentary shots of chilled Nuet Dry Aquavit, on condition they utter the Norwegian toast, ‘Lev i nuet!’ (‘live in the now’).