KRONAN Swedish Punsch: An American Take on a Scandinavian StapleApril 5, 2018
We’ve covered aquavits, Swedish whisky, ciders and beers, and now we’re covering a Swedish staple making a comeback in the United States: Swedish punsch.
About seven years ago, two men devised a plan to restore the presence of the Swedish favorite in the American market. One, a rare and obscure wine and spirits enthusiast and distributor; the other, a master blender well versed in producing traditional Swedish spirits.
Together, Eric Seed and Henrik Facile started KRONAN Swedish Punsch, a spirit derived from a blend of Batavia Arrack, Jamaican and Denemara Rum with a handful of spices that has proven versatile to bartenders across the States.
A Meeting of Minds
In 2011, Seed, owner of Haus Alpenz, a distributor of rare spirits and wine located in Edina, Minn., approached Facile, a master blender and owner of Liquid Innovators LLC. Seed had a distinct goal in mind: develop a Swedish punsch that would be appealing to the U.S. market.
Seed’s interest with distinct, authentic and original liqueurs began about 12 years ago.
He first was introduced to Swedish punsch when visiting Gramercy Tavern in New York City. As he began researching it more closely, Seed noticed some of the ingredients used to develop Swedish punsch were the base ingredients to several classic American cocktails dating to the Prohibition era, like the Doctor Cocktail. He also found that authentic spirits and liqueurs like Swedish punsch no longer were being sold in the United States.
“Punsch had taken on a much greater meaning in Scandinavian, Dutch, and German trade due in part to theHanseatic Trading League [1358-1862], a confederation of Baltic trade merchants and their individual towns.” said Seed, who has been a James Beard award semifinalist several times in the Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional category.
Separately, Facile’s fascination with Swedish punsch began in the 1980s when he worked as a sommelier in various restaurants.
“What surprised me the most was that the Swedish retail monopoly stores Systembolaget only carried four punsches that had not changed since 1917,” Facile said.
He envisioned setting a new standard for international quality liqueur. In 1993, he launched his signature recipe, Facile Punsch, a recipe focused on blending the highest quality Batavia arrack and West Indian Rum.
“I didn’t see any reason why this classic Swedish tradition couldn’t have a place among other classics, just like Grand Marnier, Drambuie and other well recognized liqueurs,” Facile said.
A Swedish Tradition
Dating to 1733, Swedish punsch is made from Batavia arrack, fermented sap from red rice or sugarcane (or fruit depending on the country of origin), and rum. It’s a result of the Swedish East India Company (SOIC) importing rare spices and spirits from the East and West Indies. The spelling punsch (instead of punch), originated from a Sanskrit expression meaning “five,” with respect to its five most traditional ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water and spices (or tea). Seed explained, “The SOIC needed the alcohol for sailors, what they uncovered was, when the spices and spirits from the island were paired, the spirits would lift the aromatics of the spices.”
Historically, the sweet characteristics of Swedish punsch often are paired with a cigar or pipe. In fact, the practice became so popular among men in Sweden, the smoking rooms (or patios) regularly were referred to as “Punsch Veranda.”
The Market Today
Today, KRONAN Swedish Punsch is owned by Liquid Innovators and operates out of (and Swedish punsch in general) is most commonly paired warm, with ärtsoppa, or pea soup.
“What U.S. consumers don’t know yet is the many ways that KRONAN can be used,” Facile said.
Because it is a liqueur, it can be used for baking, in or with chocolate or even as a topping for ice cream or hot apple pie, among other things.
Today, KRONAN Swedish Punsch can be found on the shelves of Total Wine and More and other vendors throughout the United States. The focus of both Facile and Seed is to continue to promote KRONAN Swedish Punsch as a base liqueur in new and traditional cocktails.
Currently, Liquid Innovators LLC is located in Orlando, where Facile has begun promoting KRONAN to local Swedes and Swedish-Americans across the country.
“Our goal is also to make sure that Swedes in Florida and around the country know that they can get this part of Swedish history even here in the USA,” Facile said.