Swedish style snaps

Snaps med kummin, anis och fänkål


Snaps is the drink for so many Swedish festivals. As soon as herring or crayfish appear on a table in Sweden out comes the snaps! Soon afterwards everyone will start making toasts and then singing. It’s how Swedes party.

Essentially snaps is vodka (originally brännvin) with herbs and spices added. Originally this was done to hide the poor taste of the vodka, but now the quality of Swedish vodka is amongst the best in the world. Despite this, Swedes have acquired a taste for spiced vodka and so snaps has remained very popular.

As many Swedish dishes are quite salty, snaps and beer, rather than wine, are better accompaniments. Swedes are also very fond of their traditions and so serving snaps with herring and crayfish has become something of a ritual.

Traditionally snaps is served in a tall long-stemmed 60 ml glasses. If you’ve not got any snapsglas (snaps glasses) do as I do and use shot glasses. It really doesn’t taste any different, despite what Swedes might tell you! John Duxbury



• Halve the quantities below when you make this for the first time and experiment with the herbs and spices until you find a combination that you like.
• Try to make the snaps at least a week in advance to give the flavours a chance to mellow.
• Experiment with flavourings. In Sweden the two most popular commercial snaps, O.P. Anderson and Skåne, both incorporate caraway, aniseed, and fennel.
• Others use wormwood, which produces a very bitter flavour, thyme, rosemary, honey, mint, raisins and lemon.
• Try and peel the lemon in one long spiral to make it easier to fish out of the jar later.
• Mix everything is a large jar rather than a bottle as it makes straining the mixture so much easier.


700 ml (1 bottle) vodka (or brännvin)
1 tsp   aniseeds
1 tsp   fennel seeds
1 tsp   caraway seeds
1 tsp   sugar, preferably raw cane sugar
1   unwaxed lemon, peel only


Making snaps

1. Mix everything together in a wide jar.

2. After a few hours remove the lemon peel.

3. After 3 days, strain into a sterilised bottle.*

4. Leave to mature for at least a week, then taste. If you find it too pungent, dilute with more plain vodka.

5. Serve chilled with song sheets.

*Sterilise by washing a bottle and then placing it in an oven at 120°C (240°F, gas 1, fan 120°C) for 5 minutes.

Serving suggestions

Always serve snaps cold.  It is particularly popular at kräftskivor (crayfish parties), but it also goes well with herring and Janssons frestelse (a kind of potato and fish gratin).

The GOLDEN rule

A Swedish friend assures me that the golden rule when drinking snaps is "as long as you get to ten when you count your fingers you can take one more snaps"!


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John Duxbury
Editor and Founder