Metal Etiquette

Tumbler of the Beast: Brennivín

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Tired of the same old well whiskey and plastic bottle brandy, but don’t want to feel like an asshole ordering some bullshit digestif like a hipster? Welcome to Tumbler Of The Beast, our guide to the most metal liquors on earth.

Liquor: Brennivín, AKA The Black Death

Country of origin: Iceland

ABV: 40% (80 proof)

Musical accompaniment: Myrkur, Solstafir, Björk

I respect Iceland because it always seems like it’s doing its own thing. The black magic there is weirder than it is in Germany, but doesn’t get as predictably drunk and silly as that of Scandinavia. Make no mistake, though, Iceland gets drunk. All isolated out there, close to the Arctic Circle? You bet your ass they get drunk. And they get drunk on Brennivín, so be careful.

Brennivín is generally categorized as a schnapps, which doesn’t do it justice because that makes you think of the peach-flavored shit you force down when the party’s over and everything good is either in a stomach or a toilet. It’s also technically an aquavit, but though it’s flavored with caraway something about its transparency and spiciness make it a little more dangerous than most Scandinavian liquors. Basically, imagine aquavit and baijiu had a child, and you’ve got Brennivín, a drink known colloquially as “The Black Death.” Its suggested accompaniment is fermented shark. I’m not fucking kidding.

If you don’t have any hammerhead jerky steeping in the basement, the best way to drink Brennivín is ice cold in a shot glass, and to chase it with a clean yellow beer. But no matter how cold your shot is, prepare to reel a little, and enjoy that burn as it moves through your body and pools in your stomach. Brennivín is made with potatoes, which means it’s basically state-sponsored moonshine, and one can sense that in its fire and thin texture. This won’t leave a sticky glass—Christ, it could be used to clean a driveway.

Regarding the state-sponsored point, Brennivín is considered the national liquor of Iceland and up until last year it was literally impossible to find anywhere other than Iceland (that’s actually an outline of Iceland in the middle of the label). There were even laws in place about the sheer amount of Brennivín that could be taken out of the country. Obviously, the Icelanders were looking after a rare national export, though one wonders if they were actually trying to protect the world from a booze they thought everyone who doesn’t live on a tiny island in the Arctic Ocean wasn’t ready for. These days, you can order it from specialty liquor stores, though it’s definitely pricey: at least $40 a bottle, usually.

If you happen upon a shop with it in stock, Brennivín is hard to miss — green bottle, black label, white letters, silhouette of Iceland. Like Hongxing, you can also buy it in a flask bottle, which is a cool thing to have cops pull out of your coat, as it’s the legal equivalent of a bottle with three X’s and a skull on it. Gotta love those Icelanders.

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