In European countries, “water” can pack an 80-proof punch. Vodka (Slavic for “little water”) is the best-known clear spirit, but Scandinavians love their Aquavit (Latin for “water of life”). Everett-based Bluewater Organic Distilling just released the nation’s first certified organic offering — Wintersun Organic Aquavit — in honor of founder and head distiller John Lundin’s Swedish heritage.
Distilled from grain or potatoes and primarily flavored with caraway or dill, Aquavit can also have many other aromatic ingredients. In the case of Wintersun, the caraway flavor profile includes aniseed and orange peel in a 100 percent copper-distilled grain base.
“I wanted to craft an approachable Aquavit that would invite sipping and introduce new palates to this intriguing and storied spirit. As the recipe evolved over several years, we began to surprise ourselves with how incredibly versatile Aquavit can be in craft cocktails,” said Lundin. “At our distillery bar, I love how our mixologists explore everything from sparkling wine drinks to cucumber gimlets to variations of old favorites like corpse revivers. Wintersun brings a new, exciting dimension to these drinks.”
dCaraway, best known for its use in rye bread, and the licorice notes of aniseed may seem best suited to warming wintry cocktails, but Aquavit actually goes quite well with light, summery flavors.
Bluewater developed the “Nordic Fire,” featuring Aquavit along with pineapple, sage, lemon, ghost pepper tincture, mescal, and spicy black lava salt. This Aquavit also goes great with fresh lemon juice and a bit of simple syrup served over ice.
Founded aboard a sailboat in the Pacific Northwest in 2008, Bluewater puts sustainability at the core of its mission. Wintersun continues the distillery’s industry-leading commitment of sourcing 100 percent organic ingredients, supporting American-made packaging, and contributing a portion of sales to environmental conservation via its “1 percent for the planet” membership. $36.50; bluewaterdistilling.com
The Portland-based McMenamins brand has its hand-painted tentacles in just about every aspect of the quirky hospitality business. From hotels around the Pacific Northwest (including Anderson School in Bothell), movie theaters, swimming pools, and restaurants to pubs, breweries, a winery, and distilleries — McMenamins equals good times. One of its largest properties, Edgefield, located just east of Portland in Troutdale, boasts all of the above except the movie theater and even has a little golf course.
Among the 12 products crafted at Edgefield Distillery, several are brandies, but one rises above the rest in popularity. The Pear Brandy utilizes more than 40 pounds of pears per 375-milliliter bottle, all sourced from Oregon’s Hood River Valley. In fact, a couple of years ago, the distillery single-handedly purchased the valley’s entire crop of Bartlett pears — roughly 68 tons.
Pears for the brandy must be in “overripe” condition before they are made into the mash that head distiller James Whelan ferments for six days. He uses a wine yeast strain that he thinks elevates the fruit aromas in the brandy. During distillation, the distillers run 22 hours per day. The heads (the first distillate to emerge from the stills) are discarded. It’s the heart (middle portion of the distillation) that best expresses the characteristics of ripe, fresh-cut pear.
Edgefield Distillery just celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018, and the Pear Brandy has been with it since day one. Pear Brandy is only available at McMenamins locations, including Anderson School in Bothell. $25; mcmenamins.com/edgefield/edgefield-distillery