Great Drinks of Europe: Absolut Vodka

Absolut Vodka. Picture: Absolut Vodka

Absolut Vodka. Picture: Absolut Vodka - Credit: Archant

Vodka – The clean, clear spirit is an essential ingredient in many a classic cocktail.

And its image as the drink of purists is helped by the efforts of one of its biggest manufacturers. Sweden's Absolut is the third largest alcoholic spirit brand in the world, and second only to Smirnoff in the vodka rankings. Hailing from the very tip of Skåne County, Sweden's southern-most province, every ingredient that goes into a bottle of Absolut comes from the tiny village of Åhus.

The idyllic spot is home to the distillery where the vodka is purified; the fields where the winter wheat is grown for fermentation; and the deep well where the pristine water is drawn from. Winter wheat is sown in the autumn and harvested the following year. Its hard grains develop under layers of winter snow, and are the main ingredient, alongside water, in the production of this type of brännvin or so-called 'burn wine'.

The vodka contains no added sugar, and its pure taste is reflected in the iconic, simplistic packaging. In fact, the glass bottles' design, inspired by the shape of an 18th century Swedish medicine bottle, spotted in a Stockholm antique shop, is the only element that doesn't originate from the tiny medieval Skåne village.

The brand was established in 1879, by Lars Olssen Smith, who made his fortune challenging the Stockholm liquor monopoly by undercutting their prices with his own product. In 1917, the company was taken over by the Swedish government, and it was introduced to the global market in 1979. By 2008, more than 90 million litres of Absolut were being sold worldwide every year. The brand, one of the most famous spirits ever made, is now owned by the French liquor giant, Pernod Ricard, and is stocked in 126 countries around the world.

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And if you're aspiring to a morning-after that won't leave you wincing with the memory of every sip, then you you'll be pleased to read that the British Medical Association found vodka to be the least likely drink to leave you with a sore head. Despite the 40pc proof alcohol content, the spirit is so meticulously filtered that the body has a far easier time breaking it down, and the lack of impurities create that smooth texture and flavourless vodka taste. Absolut, with its reputation for icy, distilled purity, is a perfect example of this.

Sweden, alongside Poland, Russia, and other Scandinavian and Eastern European nations, is known as part of the 'vodka-belt'. And while Absolut can serve as the star of a vodka cocktail, or mixed drink, to get a real taste of Sweden, try your vodka pure and simple: straight-up and ice-cold.

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