As long as anyone can remember we’ve had a tradition in Denmark of making life a bit more pleasant, friendlier, hyggeligere, with a bitter dram. In fact, the tradition of drinking bitters brewed from local berries, herbs and fruits is known all over Europe. In France there is the pastis whose main ingredient is aniseed. In Denmark the characteristic mark of a genuine Danish bitter dram is the taste of the wild rowanberry. The earliest written accounts of the Danish bitter date back to the mid 1500s. This was when the Danish- Norwegian King Frederik II was introduced to the bitter by his sister Anna, Electress of Saxony. But surely our Viking ancestors took a bitter with them on their long voyages to keep their spirits up before ripping into the English and the French. This was the task facing J.K. Asmund, production manager of De Danske Spritfabrikker in Roskilde, 50 years ago. They experimented with hundreds of herbs and spices, tasting endless combinations for months. When they were finally satisfied they had a panel of tasters award points to the selected blends. But it took a further three years before they were sure that the best recipe had been found, what was to result in 1964 in the Gammel Dansk Bitter Dram as we know it today.
The secret behind the special bitter taste lies in the proportion between the 28 different spices and herbs from all over the world, including angelica root, nutmeg, aniseed, ginger and blackberries. You may not be able to taste the individual ingredient directly but you would certainly be aware of the difference if one of the ingredients were lacking. Bittersweet scent with herbs. Bitter and full flavor of blackberries, licorice and herbs. Long, dry and complex on the finish.