Danish christmas lunch and cocktails – by Henrik Petersen

By Henrik Steen Petersen

Born and raised in Denmark, we all know the long string of lunches accompanying the Christmas season. During the evening of the 24th of December we celebrate with a Christmas tree, duck and pork roast followed by risalamande and gifts. But unlike many other countries, the Danish Christmas is followed immediately by several national holidays where friends and family from all around get together for Christmas lunches and the feast of the years takes off.

A classical Christmas lunch consists of diverse smorgasbord of hot and cold dishes: an assortment of marinated herrings, fried herring, fish fillets with remoulade, warm pork or duck roasts with red cabbage, meatballs, tenderloin steaks, æbleflæsk (fried pork with apples), pork sausage with kale, liver pate, cold cuts, cheeses and risalamande. Served, of course, with an abundance of beer and aquavit.

Do we dare to mess with the classical Danish Christmas? Sune Urth, from Copenhagen Distillery, does. Here are his three suggestions for cocktails to pair with, respectively, marinated herring, duck roast and risalamande.

Marinated Herring and X-Mas Lunch Martini

 Marinated herring: Diluted salted herring subsequently marinated in vinegar/sugar brine with spices added to taste. Often served with eggs, onion and dill.


X-Mas Lunch Martini

50 ml. Dill Anise Aquavit
15 ml. Lillet Blanc
Reduced Kriek Beer (sour cherry beer reduced 10:1)
Olive tapenade

Rinse a chilled martini glass with reduced Kriek Beer and dump.
Stir the remaining ingredients over ice and strain into the glass.
Serve with a small spoonful of olive tapenade – possibly with a sprig of dill.

The X-Mas Lunch Martini skillfully combines the two main ingredients of the Danish Christmas lunch: beer and aquavit!


Duck roast with red cabbage and Yulevardier 

Duck roast with red cabbage: The duck roast is often prepared from Christmas Eve leftovers and served with red cabbage, lingonberries and orange.



30 ml. Christmas Snaps
20 ml. Campari
20 ml. Belsazar Vermouth Red

Stir all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.
No garnish.

The sweet and fat roasted duck is well complimented by the sweet vermouth, though with an added kick and bitter twist courtesy of the snaps and Campari.

Risalamande and Cherry Christmas

Risalamande: Rice pudding cooked with vanilla and tossed with whipped cream, almonds and sugar. Served cold with a warm cherry sauce.


Cherry Christmas

40 ml. Sort Amager Taffel Aquavit
40 ml. Frederiksdal New Nordic Cherry Liqueur
1 dash chocolate bitter

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a coffee glass over ice.
Garnish with an orange fan.

The tangy cheery liqueur replaces the port wine usually served with risalamande, closely followed by the potent aquavit and chocolate bitters.

Cheers, skål and Merry Christmas!

About Sune Urth

Sune Urth is a well-renowned veteran of some of Copenhagen’s best cocktail bars. After taking his rounds at several cafés and nightclubs, Sune was employed at the whisky bar Krut’s Karport. After a number of years here his journey led to the legendary, award-winning cocktail bar, Ruby. While at Ruby he developed an interest in producing alcohol, which among other things, resulted in the production of a Danish absinthe in 2011.


After Ruby, Sune came to the bar at Restaurant No. 2, where he truly had the chance to work with innovative chefs, and to develop cocktails complementing the Nordic kitchen. This also became the point at which he published an almanac on cocktails for the home brewers.

Sune is still connected to the restaurant as a consultant but is now working full-time with Copenhagen Distillery. The next project he is shaking up will be a book about the tradition and culture of aquavit.

About Copenhagen Distillery

Copenhagen Distillery was founded in 2012 when entrepreneur and business lawyer, Henrik Brinks, decided to work with his ultimate passion: whisky!

However, when done properly, it often takes a while to go from an idea to results. Along the way the business needed a cash flow and so, the first product from Copenhagen Distillery became a Dry Gin on a distillate of honey-based mead added with juniper and propolis only. The first gin arrived in stores for the spring of 2015 and has since been followed by a portfolio of aquavit, schnapps, coffee liqueurs and even an orange gin.

skaermbillede-2016-12-13-kl-15-41-27 *Picture from Copenhagen Destillery website

All of the products are developed with thoroughness, thoughtfulness, simplicity and a willingness to stray off the common path for a perfect result.

The whisky? The whisky based on a base of old Nordic grains, such as emmer and spelt, is currently aging in the distillery’s barrels. All that is left now is to wait patiently for the day it is ready for bottling.


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