Union Trading Co’s co-founder Yao Lu heads to Ikea for inspiration.
What does Ikea have to thank for its allure? It’s hectic, the ready-to-assemble furniture is plentiful and the quality is always that bit lower than you think. What else do they have? Well, there’s one kuai hot dogs, horse meatballs – we serve the pork variety here at the Union – and, importantly, jars of that tart loveliness that is lingonberry jam. For a speed introduction, lingonberry is a sort of Scandinavian brother to the American blueberry, an abundant wild fruit served buffet-style on the forest bed, free for picking for anyone with a basket, a harvesting fork, and the patience to filter through and clean their harvest. Produced by low, evergreen shrubs throughout Scandinavia’s forests, the tart red berries are much smaller and juicier than their distant cousin, the cranberry. A health booster and a rich source of antioxidants, the berry was an invaluable source of nutrition to early generations of Scandinavians.
Logically, as a fitting base for this cocktail, we’re using aquavit. Due to the lack of imagination of our forefathers, this Scandinavian spirit – just like whisky and eau-de-vie – also translates as “water of life”. It holds an important place in Swedish drinking culture, and, like vodka, the spirit is distilled from either grain or potatoes. It is then flavoured with herbs, spices or fruit oil. Commonly seen ingredients are caraway, cardamom, cumin, anise, fennel, and lemon or orange peel. So, the aquavit serves as a beautiful herbaceous base for the cocktail, to which we then add one tablespoon of lingonberry jam. The jam not only gives the drink a thicker texture, but also adds a delicious tartness that complements the fresh lime juice. We then balance the citrus with a barspoon of honey, cutting both the tartness and the acidity, and muddle five or six fresh sage leaves – a fragrant herb frequently used in cooking in various parts of the world. The mildly spicy character of the herb matches nicely with the herbaceous heft of the aquavit.
Shake real hard, serve up and you’ve got yourself a drink. Now, assemble yourself a piece of unpronounceable, flat-packed Swedish furniture, have a seat and take a sip. Screw missing? Who needs it? Skål!
30ml Fresh lime juice
1 Lingonberry jam
1 tbsp Honey
5 Sage leaves
Shake ingredients, double strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a sage leaf.