Drinking in Scandinavia

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Drinking in Scandinavia

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.

Drinking in Scandinavia
Scandinavian aquavit

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.

Drinking in Scandinavia
Vinmonopolet (Norway)

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.

Drinking in Scandinavia
Swedish actor Max von Südow demonstrates the stylish skoal

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

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Journalist, PR and marketing consultant Tor Kjolberg has several degrees in marketing management. He started out as a marketing manager in Scandinavian companies and his last engagement before going solo was as director in one of Norway’s largest corporations. Tor realized early on that writing engaging stories was more efficient and far cheaper than paying for ads. He wrote hundreds of articles on products and services offered by the companies he worked for. Thus, he was attuned to the fact that storytelling was his passion.