by Malina Bickford, National Brand Director for Åhus Akvavit
The ritual of sharing a drink has been a part of Swedish culture since the first beers were brewed nearly 1500 years ago. While the contents of our glasses (and the vessels themselves!) have since diversified considerably, sharing a toast is as essential as ever - the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Use of the word “skål” itself has oft-debated origins. Some have claimed the word has root in the skulls of the vanquished from which Viking warriors would drink mead or ale to celebrate their conquests — either a metal-as-hell or disturbingly gruesome mental picture depending on who you ask. But etymologists have dismissed this as a misreading of old texts. It is true, however, that Vikings would drink from the horns of oxen or goats.
More likely, “skål” was inspired by elaborately decorated wood or metal bowls that were filled with beer then passed from person to person in community gatherings and celebrations, beginning in the Middle Ages. The word for bowl is “skål” in Swedish so it’s pretty easy to imagine a bunch of thirsty revelers calling for their turn with the communal vessel by simply bellowing “skål!”.
Whether it’s the Vikings or ABBA you’re trying to emulate, here’s the right way to do it:
- Raise your glass - preferably filled with Åhus Akvavit!
- Look your companions in the eye
- Say “Skål!” - pronounced skoal, and really put your chest into it
- Take a drink
- Look your companions in the eye again
- Set down your glass
And with that: skål på dig (cheers to you)!