Absolut (which, to everyone's big surprise, means absolute in Swedish) is a world-famous brand of Swedish vodka.

As a background, a small side note on the drinking habits of Swedes is appropriate, which are as ancient and violent as the country itself (the habits, not the Swedes, mind you), with roots in the Viking society and mead. While Swedes have water, milk or lemonade with their dinner, with the occasional beer, once they decide to actually drink, they do it to the point of total brain and liver obliteration. This is where vodka comes in handy.

Vodka was first sold legally in Stockholm in 1498, and is just another product in a wide assortment of very strong alcoholic beverages commonly referred to as "brännvin" (roughly translates to "burning wine") in Swedish. The trademark of "Absolut" was first used in 1879, by Swedish entrepreneur L.O. Smith, the very same man whose face is now on every single bottle of Absolut vodka. Absolut wasn't exported until 1979, i.e. 100 years after the founding. It is now sold in more than 125 countries.

Absolut vodka is distilled from a wheat grain called winter wheat, in Åhus, Sweden and distributed in Sweden by AB Vin & Sprit, to be sold only in special Systembolaget stores due to the Swedish alcohol monopoly. According to the Absolut Company, they manufacture 87 million bottles annually.

Absolut vodka contains 40% alcohol (except for the quite rare red bottle, with 50%) and comes in the following flavours: Regular, Peppar, Citron, Kurant and Mandrin. They are named in Swedish, and I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to find out what each tastes like. You may find good inspiration at the Everything Bartender or the Bartending Metanode. Enjoy.

Sources: http://www.absolut.com and a lifetime (albeit short so far) of being Swedish

Trivia about the Absolut Vodka experience.

In Sweden all production of spirits, that is alcohol drinks that are not beer or wine, has since 1917 been done by a monopoly known as Vin & Spritcentralen.

Anyway, V&S produced a grain spirit called "Absolut Rent Bränvin" (Absolute Pure Vodka), which was of decent quality, but didn't have a great image. In other words, it had more of cheap working class image than the yuppie one that can bring in lots of money.

In 1978 the board of directors of V&S decided to try to export this vodka, and decided to target the US market, probably because it's a big a profitable market.

To make it more marketable they settled on a bottle shaped like an old medicine bottle, and no covering label. In addition the color blue was chosen, since it has a pure and calming effect. They also used the Swedish spelling of Absolute to be able to trade mark it.

In April 1979 the first bottles of Absolut was produced in Åhus, and started selling in Boston two months later. The first year they sold 90,000 liters (10,000 cases @ 9 liters each).

Absolut soon got more popular. In 1985 it became the largest import vodka in the US, and since 1994 it's one of the top 10 international spirit brands.

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