The emergence of ‘Nordic Noir’ in crime fiction, film and TV over the last twenty years or so has a lot to answer for – and not just a resurgence of popular interest in mid-century Scandinavian furniture, chunky knitwear and 70s-era Porsches. Most of these gritty detective dramas also favour shadowy urban settings, turning the dial down on colour and making a city even as picturesque as Malmö look like Manchester’s bleaker, moodier sibling.
The gloomy art direction may well play into the malevolent themes of the region’s criminal underbelly. But it also turns Norway, Sweden and Denmark into a homogenous landscape that looks like Narnia in the grip of the White Witch, frozen in a state of perpetual winter. And, while the Nordic nations do have more than their fair share of dark days, Midsummer is quite literally the polar opposite: a time to celebrate the return of light nights and an opportunity to connect with nature.
The festival for the summer solstice is the largest non-religious celebration to take place across Scandinavia – an occasion that’s marked with al fresco feasting and bonfires.
Parties are often staged in countryside or lakeside locations as many families retreat to their summer homes or cabins for the duration. Food is designed to be simple to prepare and eat, comprising of salads, smoked fish, new potatoes and soft fruit, while the aperitif of choice is usually Aquavit or ‘water of life’ whose 400-year-old origins can be traced to the Danish town of Aalborg.
Aquavit is a clear spirit distilled from grains or potatoes, infused with herbal botanicals such as caraway, dill, fennel and star anise and drunk from a frozen shot glass.
For non-Scandis, it’s an acquired taste – a 40%-45% ABV drink that’s infinitely more palatable when incorporated into a cocktail. It's an interesting substitute for vodka in a Martini – we recommend pairing it with Lillet Blanc – and makes a quirky alternative to a traditional G&T: try it mixed with cranberry juice and tonic water, topped with a slice of lime.
All citrus flavours partner well with Aquavit’s savoury notes, though the spirit is also a good foil for the floral intensity of an elderflower liqueur like St Germain – try blending two parts of rosemary-scented Ahus Akvavit with one part pink grapefruit juice and half a measure of St Germain plus a squeeze of lemon for a Midsummer-inspired floral indulgence.
At Edmunds, we happen to think that a Midsummer celebration cries out for our more fragrant and cool cocktails, those that suit the garden setting and sunnier climes.
Our Elderflower Collins is the perfect pick. We blend high-quality Suffolk distillery gin with elderflower liqueur and infuse with lemon and cucumber for a delicate take on this classic cocktail. Simply pour over ice and top with soda water. For a more aromatic alternative, the Lychee Martini is equally refreshing. Our version combines Sapling vodka with lychee liqueur and puree, creating a sweet and fresh take on the traditional vodka martini that’s unforgettably unique. And if you’re familiar with those already, maybe complete your set with a Mojito or an Amaretto Sour.
As Nordic Midsummer celebrations are always held on or around the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere (officially 21 June), they symbolise both the first day of the holiday season and the last point in the calendar before which days begin to shorten once again. Here in the UK, June definitely feels like the start of summer – time to switch off the detective noir for a few months and step out into the sunshine. ‘Glad Midsommar’!