Alcohol is expensive in Scandinavia and the sale of strong beer, wine and spirits in Sweden and Norway is restricted to state alcohol shops (Systembolaget in Sweden and Vinmonopolet in Norway) and licensed bars and restaurants. In contrast, alcohol flows freely in Denmark.
No Scandinavian herring dish is complete without aquavit, literally “water of life”. Distilled from potatoes or grain and flavored with herbs and seasonings (caraway seed, cumin, fennel, dill or St. John wort), ice-cold aquavit warms body and soil. One of the best is Norway’s Løiten Linje: part of its maturation involves a sea voyage across the equator and back. Connoisseurs claim it should be drunk at room temperature.
In line with the growing local-food movement, microbreweries have mushroomed all over Scandinavia. At Christmas, out comes gløgg – hot spicy mulled wine, served with gingerbread, cinnamon buns, Danish æbleskiver (puff pancakes) or rice pudding.
To gain instant friends in Scandinavia, lift your drink and say the word for cheers: skål (pronounced “skoal”). The correct way to skål us to look at the person, say the word, lift the glass slightly, drink and look at the person again.
At formal occasions, strict rules of etiquette govern the “skål”-ing: for example, never drink until your host has given a welcome toast.
Drinking in Scandinavia, written by Tor Kjolberg