NORDIC COCKTAIL – The flavour journey to the Nordics
The harsh winter and short but vibrant growing season have shaped the diet in the Nordic countries for centuries. To survive the wintertime, our ancestors had to use methods like pickling, drying and smoking to cure food for the season whereupon ”nothing is in season”.
Summer in the Nordics lasts only couple of months. Thanks to the northern location, sun hardly sets at all. Plants get sunlight almost around the clock, and they grow fast and are packed with flavour and nutrients. Seasonality is highly appreciated: the first new potatoes of the season are treated like lumps of gold dug from the ground, and rhubarb is seen in every dessert once the first stalks are ripe enough to use.
Style of the dishes also vary according to the season: spring and summer are celebrated with light and fragrant dishes filled with herbs, vegetables and berries where as during fall and wintertime people crave for hearty meat dishes with game, butter and cream.
New Nordic Cuisine – Purity, simplicity and freshness
A movement called New Nordic Cuisine was developed in the 2000s. In November 2004, a group of chefs and food professionals gathered to discuss new ways to embrace our rich culinary heritage. René Redzepi and Claus Meyer from Noma restaurant were the masterminds of this project. Promoting local ingredients and seasonal products as well as encouraging restaurants to develop new dishes out of classic Nordic foods were some of the goals of the New Nordic Cuisine.
In 2005, the Nordic Council’s agricultural and food ministers from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and dependent territories met in Copenhagen to discuss ”the new Nordic Food Programme”. They gave their support to the developments of Redzepi, Meyer and their companions, and fund the project with 3 million euros.
A21 Dining in Helsinki chose a theme for each season. In the autumn it was Forest Walk. On the plate wild duck consomme, fried wild duck breast, wild duck leg confit, pickled carrots, malt crumble and deep fried sage. In the glass: carrot, red peppercorn, sea buckthorn, thyme, lemon and gin.
”Purity, simplicity and freshness” was the culinary goal of the New Nordic Cuisine. A21 has been the pioneer in using Nordic flavours in cuisine and cocktails since 2007. Looking for inspiration in locality has also been the corner stone in A21’s approach to cuisine in their fine dining restaurant A21 Dining. This restaurant was founded as a case study on cocktail and food pairing in 2011 and closed 2016. The tasting menus in A21 Dining were based on forest walks, adventures in archipelago and Finland’s national epos Kalevala.
In the summer A21 Dining took the guests on a Journey to Archipelago. On the plate: arctic char dill carpaccio, braised king crab, arctic char skin chips, marinated cucumber, ice fennel. In the glass: fennel, celery, lemon, caraway, juniper, gin, akvavit.
From the kitchen to shaker
Nordic cocktail is a unique taste experience based on local Nordic ingredients with timeless pure flavours. It draws its inspiration from the Nordic nature, sceneries, mythology and culture. Nordic cocktail uses local ingredients as the main flavour components. Its pure and elegant taste symbolises purity of nature and respects the authentic taste of the ingredients. Alternative sources for acidity like vinegars, berries and wild herbs are commonly used.
Seasonality is the key
In the Nordic there are four very different seasons in a year so seasonality is the key approach when creating Nordic cocktails. Spring is the time when the growing season starts after the long dark winter. This is the season for fresh wild herbs, flowers and spring vegetables. Short spring season turns into the summer in June. Summertime is the high season for a wide variety of forest berries.
Autumn season starts in mid August with some of the most iconic Nordic ingredients like cloudberries, sea buckthorns, wild apples and mushrooms. Fall season only lasts for couple of months, September to October, and it turns into a long dark, cold and snowy winter. During the winter season nothing grows and most of the ingredients have to be preserved somehow to last through the season.
Nordic Cocktails are inspired by the nature. Koivu 3.0 : birch leaves, common yarrow, linden flower, lime, rum.
Timo Siitonen and his team in A21 has been creating Nordic cocktails for a decade now and has devoted a whole section of the cocktail menu for them. Drinks on the ”Suomi Menu” are filled with Finnish and Nordic flavours: cloudberries, tar, smoke, pickles, sea buckthorn berries, birch leaves, salty liquorice, lingonberries, coffee and so on.
Nordic culture is a strong source of inspiration for the drinks. Savusauna is created to mimic the experience of the Finnish smoked sauna: tar, smoke, Jaloviina infused with smoked tea, orange blossom water.
Herukka is inspired by the Nordic tradition of pickling: red wine vinegar, red currants, black currants, lime, gin infused with berry tea.
Photos: Laura Nissininen and Timo Siitonen (pic of Laura)