Skip to main content

Gammel Dansk: The Bitter Spirit the Danes Love to Knock Back

Gammel Dansk Bitter Dream
Culturally significant liquors don’t need to be ancient to have weight, just take a look at Denmark’s Gammel Dansk.

The spirit, meaning “Old Danish” in English, first saw light of day in 1964 as Danish Distillers’ factory manager and master blender J.K. Asmund experimented.

Related Videos

“This factory is in need of a new product if it is hoping to continue,” Asmund said, according to the Gammel Dansk website. “I am a man to make a new product. I have studied herbs and have an idea of ​​how a new drink should be made.” Pretty bold, Asmund, pretty bold.

Although the complete recipe is a secret, it’s known that there are 29 herbs, spices and flowers in the recipe, ranging from gooseberries to star anise to orange and cinnamon, which sit in a clear spirit for three months. According to the distillery, a base recipe could date to the 16th century.

A few years following the initial development, production of Gammel Dansk began in earnest and quickly become a brand associated with Danes, now selling more than 4 million liters annually. It’s the nation’s second best selling spirit behind aquavit.

The liquor is bitter and caught on with the Danish back in the 1960s when they were commonly drinking bitter spirits in the morning. The bottles of Gammel Dansk also note the spirit’s suitability for other activities Danes enjoy, “Enjoyable in the morning, after a day’s work, when hunting or fishing, or as an aperitif,” the bottle reads in Danish. Though we’re not sure if we can get behind a bitter morning shot.

Gammel Dansk Shot

The light brown spirit smells of pepper, cinnamon and clove, starting with bitter tannic juniper before transitioning to sweeter fruits and a licorice finish.

Most often served room temperature in shot glasses, Gammel Dansk is a quick drink of celebration, whether it’s Christmas, Easter, a wedding or birthday, or a simple successful hunting trip. The 38 perecent ABV spirit can also be mixed with milk for a traditional cocktail.

The distiller recently released Old Danish Shot, which adds chili to the classic recipe, adding a warm complement to the original spirit.

Production of the Danish Distillers brands of Gammel Dansk and Aalborg Aquavit moved to Norway in 2015, according to The Local dk, an English Danish news site. Aside from where it’s produced, nothing else has changed.

“It is a very important brand,” said Lars Kragelund of the Norwegian firm Arcus Gruppen in the story. “And we think it is important to hold tight to the fantastic history created by Aalborg Akvavit.”

Editors' Recommendations

Here’s what drinks pros have learned from Dry January
How do you extend Dry January all year long? We got some advice from the pros
A pair of mocktails.

A new year is upon us and for a lot of people, that means new healthy habits. It might mean a new diet, pre-bedtime sleep ritual, or cutting back on the booze. Often, the plusses of these lifestyle changes are so significant that you hope to continue them well beyond just January.

There are lots of sober curious people looking to take the merits of Dry January all the way through 2023. But it's not easy, especially with our favorite bars back open, friends always looking for an excuse to get out, and some really good cocktails in the mix. So we solicited some advice from drinks industry pros who've done the Dry January thing and learned from it. Here's some of that valuable wisdom, passed on to the new, 2023 version of you.

Read more
The 5 best low-calorie drinks to order at the bar
Low-calorie drinks: Put down the light beer. You're better than that.

It's inevitable. With the new year now well underway, most of us will at least be flirting with the idea of getting back into shape after the sugar-filled holiday season. For better or worse, those cookies were delicious, Mom's gravy was silky smooth and decadent, and the mulled wine was flowing. There are plenty of good reasons to clean up our diets come January, whether the goal is to drop a few pounds, or just cleanse our bodies of all of those sugar plums. Some even opt for a Dry January, entirely abstaining from alcohol for the whole of what feels like the coldest, darkest month of the year. If that's your thing, more power to you! We salute you. But for those of us with slightly less willpower who still want to tidy up our systems, there are other, less extreme alternatives.

Simply opting for low-calorie alcoholic drinks is a perfectly reasonable compromise. Instead of a creamy, whipped indulgence with a candy cane rim, maybe just order a vodka soda. A diet gin and tonic sure feels crisp, light, and refreshing after consuming all of Uncle Marv's eggnog. The trick is knowing these healthier alternatives and being prepared when the bartender heads your way.

Read more
These terrific mocktails are perfect for Dry January
Giving your liver a break doesn't have to mean skimping on flavor
5 new mocktails mojito recipe 2

January is a time when some people like to take a month off from drinking to let their livers relax a little. After a holiday season packed with parties, office gatherings, and family get-togethers, a break from the booze makes sense. To make it through any of these festivities, a good, stiff drink is often necessary. The problem is that that drink quickly becomes two. Then there’s a few casual beers, a glass of champagne for the toast, and pretty soon you’re throwing up on your boss' shoes. Come January, our bodies need a break. Cue the mocktails.

If you've been living under a rock, a mocktail is a mixed drink that feels celebratory and special, but doesn't contain any alcohol. They're wonderful for those post-holiday get-togethers when your body needs to mend, for people who don't drink, and for parties with guests of all ages. These are a few of our favorites.
Coconut Cream Mocktini

Read more