The holidays may be approaching, but a celebration at any time of year is a motive to imbibe with a traditional drink. In Scandinavia, the cultural spirit is aquavit, and it’s not just for the big Christmas or Easter holidays, but Midsummer, the commemoration of the summer solstice (and for the religious, St. John the Baptist), and more. You really don’t need a reason to enjoy aquavit, as long as you have the taste for it. In the case of Batch 22, an “American aquavit,” you can have the taste for the original Nordic concoction, tweak it for your palate, and bottle it for the masses to enjoy.
Traditional aquavit starts with a neutral, distilled spirit of grains or potatoes, which is infused with spices and botanicals. Whereas a spirit like gin is known for its dominant juniper berry flavor, the core note of aquavit is anise, with varying hints of cumin, fennel, lemon peel, caraway, and dill. It sounds like a lot to swallow, but the Scandinavian spirit is often seen as an digestif perfect to pair with the fatty meats consumed during a holiday feast. It also helps “the fish swim down,” which is why Swedes take shots of it while eating crawfish and herring at a Midsummer revelry. While some believe it’s medicinal and life restoring, each raised toast with a shot glass is also an inebriated celebration. After all, aquavit translates to “water of life.”
Matthew Arkin (son of Alan Arkin) discovered the pleasures of one particular aquavit himself, during a movie 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 never found anything that replicated the elixir I remembered,” he says.
And so, with time on his hands during the pandemic, he decided to try and formulate an aquavit from his fond memory. “I spent hours in my Los Angeles kitchen trying to create a recipe that would approximate the drink I recalled loving so much.”
Ultimately, Arkin, along with two friends-turned-Batch 22 co-founders Bruce Glassman and Marc Marosi, perfected a concoction to their liking. They believed the traditional old school recipe of Scandinavian aquavit was too heavy on the herbal flavors of anise, cumin, and fennel, so they sought out to develop a milder, sweeter, and more approachable taste for their American palates—while still using extracts of aquavit’s classic ingredients, including lemon zest, toasted caraway, and dill. Ultimately it was their 22nd batch that hit all the marks, and a new aquavit was born.
Scaling up from the L.A. 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 extracts of citrus, caraway, and dill sourced from Maryland. With production spanning the country, it is a true American expression of aquavit, so much 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 gone on to win 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 into cocktails. Pair this golden elixir with your favorite meat or fish and let it flow down to your stomach. It’s the American water of life, after all.
Two Cocktails To Make With Batch 22 Aquavit
1. The Stockholm Lemondrop Martini
- 2 oz. Batch 22
- ¾ oz. simple syrup
- ¾ oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ½ oz. aquafaba (starching chickpea water from a can of chickpeas)
- lemon peel (for garnish)
In a shaker filled with ice, combine all the ingredients, then shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel.
2. Aurora Borealis
- 1½ oz. Batch 22
- 2 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
- 3 tbsp. brown sugar simple syrup
- 2 tsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice
- Sparkling white wine
Combine Batch 22, juices, and syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake, then strain it into a champagne flute and top it off with a sparkling white wine of your choice.