December 1, 2022

The holidays may be upon us, but a celebration any time of year is a reason to drink with a traditional drink. In Scandinavia, the cultural spirit is aquavit, and it’s not just for the big Christmas or Easter holidays, but for summer, the commemoration of the summer solstice (and for the religious, Saint John the Baptist), and much more. You really don’t need a reason to enjoy aquavit, as long as you enjoy it. In the case of Batch 22, an “American aquavit,” you can taste-test the original Nordic blend, adjust it to your palate, and bottle it for the masses to enjoy.

Traditional aquavit starts with a neutral spirit distilled from grains or potatoes, which is infused with spices and botanicals. While a spirit like gin is known for its dominant flavor of juniper berries, the central note of aquavit is anise, with distinct hints of cumin, fennel, lemon peel, cumin and dill. It sounds like a lot to swallow, but the Scandinavian spirit is often seen as a perfect digestif to pair with the fatty meats consumed during a holiday feast. It also helps to “make fish swim downstream”, which is why the Swedes take shots of it while eating crayfish and herring at a summer feast. While some believe it’s medicinal and life-restoring, every toast raised with a shot glass is also a drunken celebration. After all, aquavit translates to “water of life.”

Matthew Arkin (son of Alan Arkin) discovered the joys of a particular aquavit during a film shoot in Europe in the late 1970s. Fast forward about four decades, and Arkin still remembered its flavor and became obsessed with trying to find a bottle of something similar. “I would search liquor stores and taste all kinds of spirits, but I could never find anything that replicated the elixir I remembered,” he says.

And so, with time on his hands during the pandemic, he decided to try formulating an aquavit from his fond memory. “I spent hours in my kitchen in Los Angeles trying to create a recipe that approximated the drink I remembered loving so much.”

Eventually, Arkin, along with two friends turned Batch 22 co-founders, Bruce Glassman and Marc Marosi, perfected a blend to his liking. They believed that the traditional old-school recipe for Scandinavian aquavit was too heavy on the herbal flavors of anise, cumin and fennel, so they tried to develop a smoother, sweeter and more accessible taste for their palates Americans, although they still used extracts from The classic aquavit ingredients, such as lemon zest, toasted cumin and dill. In the end, it was his 22nd batch that hit all the targets, and a new aquavit was born.

Expanding from the LA kitchen, the base of Batch 22 is now distilled in Missouri with a neutral corn-based alcohol, which is blended and bottled in California with citrus, cumin and dill extracts coming from Maryland. With production spanning the entire country, it’s a true American expression of aquavit, so much so that it’s helped spawn a new category of spirit: “American aquavit,” which also helps distinguish it from the Scandinavian original. And speaking of distinction, Batch 22 has won Platinum for Best Aquavit at the 2022 LA Spirits Awards and Specialty Spirit of the Year at the 2022 New Orleans Spirits Competition.

Like its Scandinavian cousin, Batch 22 can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or mixed with cocktails. Combine this golden elixir with your favorite meat or fish and let it flow into your stomach. It is the American water of life, after all.

Two cocktails to make with batch 22 Aquavit

1. The Stockholm Lemondrop Martini

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. Lot 22
  • ¾ oz. simple syrup
  • ¾ oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ oz. aquafaba (chickpea water measured from a can of chickpeas)
  • lemon peel (for garnish)

Indications

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients, then shake and strain into a martini glass. Decorate with lemon peel.

2. Aurora Borealis

Ingredients

  • 1½ oz. Lot 22
  • 2 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar simple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Sparkling white wine

Combine batch 22, juices and syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake it up, strain it into a champagne glass and finish with a sparkling white wine of your choice.

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