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Spirits arrived onto Scandinavian shores from Germany during the 15th century, imported and used as medicine and gun powder. The government proceeded to take control of the industry allowing only privileged pharmacists permission to sell the spirits as medicine, this become widely known as the "life-elixir". The use of herbs, spices and other ingredients were used to treat different illness and pains. There were two major recipes widely used across the nation at the time - the first, "Aqua vitae contra oppositum" was based on distilled wine and mixed with the spiced root of Angelica. It was considered effective against the plague as it induced sweating. The second, "Aqua vitae for poisons" was used as a preventative against contagious diseases. Many more recipes were created with the use of ingredients such as cumin, fennel, aniseed, chervil, hyssop and wormwood. Towards the end of the century it had become clear that spirits were in fact being used for drinking purposes. By the 16th century people started to distill their spirits at home due to the discovery of alternative raw materials, with grains being used to produce the common drink Brannvin. Here are some of the common ingredients used in our Swedish Snaps recipes.
Lemon
With a high vitamin C content lemons were brought over from Asia and used to help fight against infections such as the flu due to their effectiveness in killing germs, decreasing inflammation and improving digestion. 
 
Fennel
A native to the Mediterranean and considered the perfect remedy for eye diseases due to the stories about snakes eating the seeds to restore and improve vision. Fennel was also used to relieve flatulence and stimulate the appetite and has a calming effect on bronchitis and coughs. Today it is still fed to cows to stimulate milk production.
 
Dill
Apart from protecting people from witchcraft, Dill has always been considered a remedy for the stomach, relieving wind and calming digestion. It can be dated back to 1500 BC when ancient Egyptians used it as a remedy for pain. 
 
Chillies
Be careful with this one as it can get hot! Not a classic Swedish ingredient, we decided to throw this one in as a personal twist on the tradition. Originating in the Americas and introduced to Europe in the 15th century, chillies were grown as botanical curiosities in the gardens of Spanish and Portuguese monasteries. But the monks experimented with the chili culinary potential and discovered that their pungency offered a substitute for black peppercorns, which at the time were so costly that they were used as legal currency in some countries. They were often used to treat headaches and other pains and today, they're commonly used to treat arthritis. 

 

 

Anise

Indigenous to Egypt, Anise is one of the oldest spices known to man. The Romans used it as a breath sweetener, as well as to treat nausea. They also believed it to be an aphrodisiac and it was widely used to treat coughs, bronchitis and asthma.

 

 

Cumin

Cumin is related to fennel and coriander and was again much loved by the Romans. It is mentioned in the bible that the plant was commonly used in the dark and middle ages. Cumin seeds contain high amounts of carotene and iron and were used to help the digestive process and as a tonic for the heart and nervous system. Cumin supposedly has the gift of retention and was at one time was used by European housewives to keep their husbands faithful. It also has anthelmintic and antiseptic properties. 

 

 

Homemade Swedish Scnaps Recipes 

 

Akvavit

Ingredients - Aniseed, Cumin, Fennel Seeds, Dill

 

Take a 700ml bottle, add a few sprigs of fresh dill and a tablespoon of each ingredient. Pour the vodka in and allow it to sit for 3-4 days. Filter the snaps with a coffee filter or sieve of your choice, depending on how many left-over herbs you are happy to have. If you would prefer it sweeter you can add a couple of spoons of icing sugar.

Enjoy with rich foods such as salmon, ham, and cheese.

 

Chilli

Ingredients - 3 long chilis, 6 small chilis, black peppercorns

 

 

Cut the three long and 3 small chilis in half lengthways. Dice up the remaining 3 smaller chilis. Place them all in a 700ml bottle with a tablespoon of black peppercorns. Pour the vodka in and allow it to sit for 1-5 days. This can depend on how strong the chilli is and how hot you like it. Be careful with the chilis and make sure you wash your hands after and avoid contact with your eyes.

Enjoy it with burgers, salads or Mexican. Coleslaw is a favourite.

 

 

Lemon

Ingredients - the zest and peel from three lemons

 

 

Peel two lemons and take the zest of the third and add it to the bottle. Pour in the vodka and allow it to sit for a several days, again depending on how strong you want the flavour. Some people prefer to leave it for a week.

Enjoy it as a nice light drink that can be taken with sweet foods like desserts.

 

 

Make sure the bottles are sealed to keep in the flavours. You can use other clean spirits to make your concoctions such as gin, sake, and light rums. Infusing darker spirits is a little touchier, but  will work if you choose the right complimentary flavour to the liquor like an apricot or cherry. So don't stop with what's above. The world is your oyster!!!