Welcome to Skåne County, home of “Planet Earth’s Favorite Vodka."
The medieval town of Åhus in Sweden is a picturesque and tranquil place, with its cobblestoned streets and quiet, chilly seaside views. Driving by the fairytale-like buildings and homes dispersed amongst the vast winter wheat fields that go on and on feels like the start to a poem. It’s a quiet, serene area, perfect for curling up under a blanket and reading a book, while also staring smack-dab into the Baltic Sea. And with its close proximity to Denmark and laid-back whimsical vibes, this countryside town is the perfect place to enjoy an unequivocally Swedish summer full of boating and relaxation.
It’s also the number one place in the world to experience the best vodka you’ve ever tasted.
Åhus is home to all production of Absolut Vodka, as well as its original distillery. So, as pristine and quiet as the town absolutely is, behind the coastal loveliness and vast fields of winter wheat, there’s a special treat: a whole lot of vodka, baby.
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Wineries are great, but let’s shake things up a bit–literally, and preferably in a cocktail mixer.
Your Vodka Journey Begins at Home
Your Absolut journey through Åhus begins with a bit of history, and I am your professor: Welcome to the Absolut Home Experience.
Stepping into the impeccably quaint Åhus Villa, you’re first met with a store, where all of your vodka-related merchandise may be purchased—we’re talking literally any cocktail-making apparatus in existence and also fun things like books or notebooks. The interior is vibrant with Absolut-blue walls and fixtures, elegant lighting and glass windowed walls, serving you an idyllic Åhus backdrop without the chilly outside temperature.
The Home itself is a delight to be inside, in general. It’s housed in an extensively renovated and quaint villa, adjacent to the Absolut distillery. The Home offers tours about Swedish history and how Absolut came to be in the world, giving guests the chance to experience how they make their vodka, and introducing the people behind it—which is the greatest part as it really humanizes the company and showcases how much they care about the people of Åhus. It’s a story that takes you through over one hundred years of vodka-making. You’ll go behind the scenes with a tour of the house, and some super flashy and fun multimedia presentations about the history and founder of Absolut, L.O. Smith.
Sweden is embodied in the very soul of the vodka made here, as Absolut uses only winter wheat grown by Swedish farmers in the Southern Sweden fields. The company supports close to 400 Swedish farmers (many of whom are featured in the tour).
The tour continues to the distillery, now unveiled for the first time to the public. The final part of the tour is a little bit of a cocktail making session, where you will learn that not all vodkas are the same.
Your Journey Continues With Food (And Drink)
Downstairs is the Restaraunt Villan, and most importantly: the bar. Immediately upon entering the bar area, you’re met with a glowing, club-like atmosphere with a classic, Swedish-countryside touch (it’s quiet). The featured cocktails (all Absolut, naturally) are equally as exquisite in taste as they are to look at.
The food featured at Restaurant Villan reflects Swedish gastronomy and tradition, just like Absolut does with its vodka. Ingredients are locally sourced, and the restaurant means to strengthen Sweden, and Skåne County, specifically, as a coveted foodie destination. From delicious soups garnished with winter wheat to plenty of vegetable options to Swedish variations of corned beef and hash dishes, the menu is startlingly delightful—especially the desserts. Sweden loves its desserts.
This dessert packs a rich chocolate punch-in-the-face I will truly never forget. That tiny strip is a fudge-like little cake, with hazelnut spread on top. And the paste next to it is… more hazelnut spread, which is actually a great thing, because this particular hazelnut spread might be straight from heaven (just kidding, it’s definitely from Sweden, but it’s VERY good).
INSIDER TIPA fun game to play while eating this dish is, “Is this hazelnut spread sparkling or is it just the plate?” (The answer is that it’s the plate but it’s still a fun game because, honestly, it’s hard to tell when it’s in front of you).
DIY Absolut (Even When You Return Home)
Absolut Home also features a cocktail class (separate from the tour) available to book here. This way, you’ll be able to take cocktail-making skills home with. The bartenders at Absolut Home are the best of the best and will give you a lesson in creating classic cocktails, as well as mixing flavors together for maximum vodka-taste. You’ll also learn a little bit of vodka history as you go along.
The area around Absolut Home isn’t too shabby, either. Drive a mile or two away from the seaside, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by woodsy fields (as wells as plenty of wheat fields). Åhus is known as the “Swedish Riviera,” due to its waterfront and marina areas. But stray away from the coastline, and you’ll be met with some stunning forest views. Dispersed here-and-there are also plenty of campsites if you’re feeling a little adventurous.
So the next time anyone asks you if you’d like to visit the forest or the ocean, you need not choose–Åhus is both and more.
There are plenty of excellent dining options in Skåne County, and with a town this tiny (only around 10,000 people), you won’t necessarily have to be too worried about massive crowds everywhere you go. In fact, walking around the neighboring (very close) town of Kristianstad, you’ll find the streets to be more-or-less empty.
A dining gem of the area is Kippers Källare restaurant, an exquisitely traditional Swedish bar and pub, which features summer-seating in an outside garden area (featuring live music, all summer long). The vibe is dark and cozy, kind of like you’re drinking inside the basement of a library, but in the coolest possible way. Its 17th-century vault-like atmosphere is extremely comfortable. The menu consists of anything from a classic Skåne goose dinner to deer-eggs with deep-fried mushroom croquettes (aka exquisitely and traditionally Swedish!). The bar (called “Harry’s Bar”) serves incredible beers (Gotland monastery beer, German Hefeweizens, and more) and classic cocktails (they’re known for serving up Kristianstad’s best Negroni drink).
Perhaps the greatest most fascinating thing about this restaurant is that there is a photo of “Charlie’s Angels” on the wall, next to a moose, and it was put there to commemorate… the Swedish band, ABBA. It’s just that they couldn’t obtain an actual photo, so they… put this here instead (this is not a joke and was not elaborated on further).
There’s also a hidden area inside the bar solely dedicated to Absolut, where they teach and train employees in style. And this place is fun as hell.
It feels like a hidden Absolut-themed disco inside of this place. There’s a cocktail-making station, used for educational purposes, tables and couches to hang out and sip vodkas in, and the whole place is decked out in Absolut-swag.
Where to Stay
Åhus Seaside Hotel is near perfect. Located by Täppetstranden in charming Åhus, with rooms facing the ocean (right on the beach), you’ll be able to stare out into the sea with a minimal but absolutely mindblowing view: a pier, one tree, and a whole lot of ocean.
The water is shallow and lovely, and the hotel has plenty of areas for walking and exercise along the sea, right behind the hotel. If you’ve ever wanted to walk through a mini-forest located directly on the beach, this is the hotel for you. The hotel also boasts free Wi-Fi and a breakfast buffet. The harbor and medieval town center are under two miles away, if you’re into a long walk (or short drive) and a brief visit to civilization. Otherwise, enjoy a solitary version of heaven at this hotel.
INSIDER TIPGet a room with a balcony or terrace–most of them have them, but there is nothing better than sitting on a terrace in one of these sea-facing rooms.
Sustainability Is Extremely Important: A Special Earth Day Announcement
Happy Earth Day! Welcome to the bonus section of this article. Absolut is dedicated to improving the planet and working towards a more sustainable society–this is truly why they are “Planet Earth’s Favorite Vodka.” The bottles are made of 40+ percent recycled glass, which also saves energy in production. Less than 1 percent of waste is sent to a landfill–85 percent of the material is recycled, and the other 14 percent is sent to a local energy plant (and the distillery itself is the most energy-efficient distillery on the planet, using C02 neutral distillation and non-GMO winter wheat).
In honor of Earth Day, they’re collecting one ton of trash from 30 spots around Los Angeles–as well as many other cities around the country (46 cities in 19 states, to be exact). If you’d like to take part in the community clean-ups, please visit their website.