Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stockholm Wine and Spirits Museum

It’s difficult for me not to like a city with a museum dedicated to the manufacturing, distribution, and drinking of alcohol in all of its refined beauty.

The Vin & Sprithistoriska Museet (The Historical Museum of Wines and Spirits) in Stockholm takes a look at the influence of wine, vodka and other spirits on the culture and politics of the country. The museum was founded in the 1920s by the government monopoly that distributed all alcohol in the country at the time. It is now privately owned. The manufacturing and distribution of alcohol is also in private hands with the largest company being V&S Vin & Sprit AB, which owns the Absolut brand. Attempts by the government and populous movements to control the distribution of alcohol are detailed in the museum. Thankfully, these attempts failed and the Swedes now openly enjoy their snaps (shots) in public.

Artifacts in the museum include a 500-year-old Italian wine press (left), a variety of distilling equipment, and containers and glasses through the years that were used in houses to serve their spirit of choice. My favorite part of the museum is the “scent organ,” which dispenses the scents of 55 spices used to flavor vodka and other local liqueurs, such as Swedish punsch (below).

Even though Sweden lacks the climate to produce its own wine, in the 1970s wine overtook vodka as the alcoholic beverage of choice for the Swedes, according to the museum. However, vodka remains the drink that is most associated with Sweden (Absolut please) and the museum spends a great deal of time examining its origins.

According to the museum the first distilled drink that resembled vodka was akvait (“water of life”), which was originally distilled from grapes. Later grain and then potatoes were used. This, along with improvements in the manufacturing of the product made vodka more affordable for the masses.

The museum is on the third floor of a non-descript brick building. It is not in the center of town but is easily accessible by bus or tunnelbana (subway). The cost is 50 SEK ($7.33). The cost includes an audio guide in English and takes about 45 minutes to complete.

Vin & Sprithistoriska Museet, Dalagatan 100, Vasastan, Stockholm

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