We've been easing into winter here. The El Niño winds have brought a warmer sort of air than we are used to, and after two winters of being knocked to the ground – literally slipping and crashing as the earth froze underneath our feet in minutes – I'm kind of enjoying this slow approach to chilly winds and bundling up for warmth.
Snow that appears in temperatures that don't freeze your eyes – imagine. I even willingly shoveled my driveway with a smile before heading to do my neighbor's the first time it snowed.
Long before the temperature dropped I read an article on the winter blues and their prevalence, or lack thereof, in Norway where winters are long and dark, and the idea of hygge and mindset helping stave them off.
Hygge is originally a Norwegian word for well-being, and Danes use it to describe a feeling of coziness. Norwegians use koselig to describe the same thing. It's that huddled together warmth that makes you glow from the inside, but it can really be anything that is a stripped down sort of comfort – sitting in front of a fire, watching Christmas lights twinkle, coffee with a friend, connecting with someone over the phone, a good hug.
The idea, basically, is this focus on the good bits causes all the rest to fall to the sidelines, and those things won't have as great of a role on your overall happiness. I'm enamored with how your mentality and mindset when approaching a situation can change how we experience it. Perhaps we all simply complain too much.
To think that simply turning winter on its end and embracing the simple bits – the cozy sweaters and settling down with a good book, the holiday parties with trays of cookies and champagne flutes with cranberry-tinged bubbles – could actually cause you to enjoy these things more is encouraging.
Bound and determined to create my own hygge, I purchased a bottle of aquavit. The Scandinavian counterpart to vodka, aquavit seemed like the right spirit to keep spirits up. Flavored most often with caraway and spices or dill, it can be sipped slowly on its own and pairs well with rich, holiday foods like smoked salmon and meat and cheese platters, and it also makes a great cocktail.
For the aquavit virgin, we're starting simple with plenty of party bubbles. I chose a locally distilled caraway aquavit with notes of cardamom and citrus. (We are Minnesota; of course there is a locally distilled aquavit.) You can substitute any caraway aquavit you prefer, paying attention to the flavor profile when choosing your bitters.
Shake with a sweet-tart cranberry simple syrup, heavy on the cranberry, top with sparkling wine and a few drops of bitters, and you are ready to hygge. You choose whether that means on your couch with a good book, working the crowd at a party of your own design, or dancing the night away.
- 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, halved or slightly smashed
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cranberries, sugar, and water.
- Cook until all the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool slightly with cranberries soaking in the syrup.
- Strain and store in the refrigerator until ready to use, up to 2 weeks.
Le Creuset 3-quart Stainless Steel Saucepan
- 2 ounces caraway aquavit
- 1 teaspoon cranberry simple syrup
- 3 ounces champagne, or sparkling wine
- 2-3 drops herbal bitters, optional
Stainless Steel Cocktail Shaker