Friday, October 19, 2007

This looks like some party! The drink featured is Brennivin - otherwise known as svarti dauði ("Black Death") in Iceland. It is a fabulous but wicked Icelandic schnapps, considered the country's signature alcoholic beverage. It is made from fermented potato pulp, and flavoured with caraway seeds.

At times it is drunk as a "chaser" after sampling "hákarl", which consists of putrified shark meat, to mask the meat's taste. The word brennivín literally translates into English as 'burning wine', and comes from the same root as brandy, namely brandewijn.

Despite its unofficial status as national beverage and a traditional drink for the mid-winter feast of Þorrablót, many Icelanders do not regularly drink it. The drink has a strong taste and high alcohol content (37.5% ABV), and carries an equivocal reputation: despite the fact that Iceland levies huge taxes on most alcoholic beverages, brennivín is actually one of the moderately priced liquors available in the national alcohol store, Vínbúð, and is thus often associated with alcoholics. It's very difficult to find in the United States.

Brennivín is similar to Scandinavian Akvavit, especially the Danish variety, called brændevin. In Swedish it is called brännvin. The steeping of herbs in alcohol to create Schnapps is a long-held folk tradition in all Scandinavian countries. Brennivín is featured in the Halldor Laxness novel Iceland's Bell.

The label is black and was originally designed to discourage people from drinking the beverage. It used to have the letters ÁTVR inside the circle but now it has been replaced by a coastal outline of Iceland.

It has been a long time since I've tasted a shot... and one must definitely treat it with respect. It makes a fetching photo though, all iced up and ready to go. Cheers.


lime said...

well, bottoms up!

SoCal Sal said...

Yea, and try to pronounce it after a few shots .... LOL ... have a great weekend dear!

Anonymous said...

pour me a shot :-)

Vikingisson said...

You mean that drinking this doesn't *help* with learning Icelandic? I learned Spanish with the help of Aguardiente Antioqueño (Colombian "firewater" local to Medellin). Also helped was watching Spanish soap operas. I'll bet that a bottle of Brennivín and some daytime soap opera would make Icelandic an easier language to learn. Or at least a lot more fun.

Pour me a shot..

jillie said...

Who, I can't even imagine drinking that stuff...ewwwww! If it's anything like the taste of Schnapps, I KNOW I won't be drinking!

Hope you have a great wknd ;o)

tsduff said...

Lime - *slams down ice cold shot glass* - ready for another? You know, I really do love the stuff, but you have to pace yourself. It has a mean kick for the greenhorn.

Socal Sal - Shay, I can pronnnonce it even betturrr afftur we hafff had a few...Brennivin... sheee?

Sweet Anon - no fair. You didn't bring any back with you... you've had a hhot or two more recently than I my dear :)

Vikingisson - Oh, most definitely, it does help! I'm sure I understand just about everything Icelandic much more clearly after that green plastic bottle has been passed around a few times. And better than the soaps - try singing. Icelanders + alcohol = singing, and lots of it :)

Jillie - I really don't know what schnapps tastes like per say, (except for some awful peppermint schnapps I had cross country skiing one time) but if you like caraway, you will adore this. Being as how I actually have Danish roots, I'm not surprised that many years ago I discovered a fondness for the Danish Aalborg Aquavit which is also flavored with caraway. When I was introduced to the Brennivin, I felt like I had come home :) ahhhh.

Anonymous said...

HAHA, it looks like it needs a skull and cross bones added to the label!

RED MOJO said...

I toast your post! It isn't every day we find such a photogenic alcohol. I raise my big glass of red wine (my poison of choice) to you, and offer you a chance to Mutate along with some of us who are playing a bloggy game!

Nessa said...

The photo is nice and the information fascinating.

ariel said...

Thanks for introducing to Brennivin that is Black Death, I put that on the list of alcohols I should try! I love its very simple label, its name says enough in the end.

I tried Pére Kermann's Absinthe a week or two ago, 60%V/V, uhhoh, Edgar Degas' painting, Absinthe, tells me about new things now.

Minka said...

yep, I have met this fiend several times. Don't remember much after :)