Skip to main content

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

Gammel Dansk Bitter Dream
Image used with permission by copyright holder
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.

“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.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

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
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.”

Pat Evans
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Pat Evans is a writer based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, focusing on food and beer, spirits, business, and sports. His full…
Forget Hershey’s: Our chocolate sauce recipe is better, and takes 5 minutes to make
Seriously, stop buying chocolate sauce
melted dark chocolate flow, candy or chocolate preparation background

If you don't have kids in your house, it may have been a while since you last enjoyed a generous drizzling of sweet, indulgent chocolate sauce. Or maybe not. In addition to the childhood favorites, chocolate sauce (or, syrup) can also be the star of many adult-themed beverages and...activities. But however you enjoy this decadent sauce, we'll bet you didn't realize how easy it is to make for yourself. No sticky brown jug from Hershey's is required.

Chocolate sauce is the ketchup of the dessert world. Kids love it, adults love it (whether they admit it or not), and it makes anything better with just a little squeeze. Use it to amp up ice cream, magically create chocolate milk, turn it into a dip for your favorite fruits, or garnish cakes and brownies. We love to stir it into our iced coffees and chocolate-themed cocktails.

Read more
Whiskey upgrade: How to fat wash your favorite whiskey or bourbon to add new depths of flavor
Add flavor to whiskey or bourbon with fat-washing
Whiskey glass

If you pay attention to the cocktail or whiskey world, you’ve probably heard the term “fat-washed” at some point. You also might not have any idea what that means. You might assume you should, so you don’t want to ask anyone and seem foolish, right? It sounds like you’re washing whiskey with some kind of fat, whatever that means. If you think that, you’re on the right track. It is a technique to change the flavor of whiskey (and other spirits), but it has nothing to do with your kitchen sink, washing machine, dishwasher, or anything like that.

In the simplest terms, fat washing is a cocktail technique in which some form of fat (like bacon fat, butter, or some other fat) is added to room-temperature whiskey (like in a dish or sealable container, not a bottle). It sits on the counter for a few hours so the fat can separate from the spirit before being put into a refrigerator or freezer until the fat forms a solid crust on top. Scrap it off or strain it through cheesecloth and you have a buttery, fatty, flavorful whiskey to pour back into a bottle to use in your favorite cocktails. Sounds simple enough. To do it right requires a little bit more effort than that. There are steps that need to be taken.

Read more
Feeling rushed in the mornings? This is the best way to get great coffee
Custom coffee at-home without any special equipment? Yes, please.
Cup of coffee with beans on table

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and while we tend to agree, the spread is nothing without some quality caffeine. Yet, we don't always have the energy or time to produce a solid cup. So, for those who live frantic a.m. lifestyles that barely make room for a sip of java -- let alone a bite of toast -- we have a solution, and its name is Frazy.

So, instead of dropping by Starbucks or dusting off that espresso machine (assuming you have one to begin with), try this convenient service instead. Created by baristas, the vials of coffee are customizable and require only water to create. One can decide on the strength of flavor and level of sweetness, along with dairy choice, and the resulting drink can take the form of either cold or hot coffee, along with a straight-up espresso shot.

Read more