The Aalto – Life of an Architect Holiday Cocktail

It would seem that I am getting a reputation where cocktails are involved … ironic since I don’t really drink all that much. While I enjoy drinking adult beverages, it would appear that I enjoy making them just as much as drinking them. What started as a way to entertain myself a few years ago, I have since put upon myself the yearly challenge of coming up with an appropriate holiday cocktail which I will share as a reward to the people who have put up reading my site over the preceding 11 months. I like to think of it as a virtual cocktail between you and me, shared in friendship and a mutual love of architecture … and liquor.

I didn’t really come up with this year’s cocktail on my own as I spent the last few weekends reverse engineering a cocktail I had while on my recent trip to Helsinki, Finland. As it turns out, I have a friend who lives in Helsinki, Lewis Martin, who holds the rare distinction of being one of a very small number of people who I have let author a post on this site (read that post here: “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Architecture“). My wife and I met up with Lewis one evening and he brought us to the Ateljee Bar, which resides on the top floor of the Sokos Hotel Torni. We had a lovely evening talking and drinking, and to my great delight, there was a cocktail on the menu called “The Aalto” that I ordered … which is precisely what an architect should have done.

The Aalto cocktail from the Ateljee Bar in Helsinki

This is the very same Aalto cocktail that I ordered. In order to capture this image, I had to enlist photo support from my wife – she turned the flashlight feature on her phone to help illuminate the drink. Let me tell you that this was a very light and refreshing cocktail, probably more suited for warmer climates, and I told my wife that I was convinced they had served me the alcohol-free version.

After my second drink, there was “evidence” to indicate that they did not.

menu from the Ateljee Bar in Helsinki

Sometime during my second drink, I decided that I would make this my 2018 Life of an Architect Holiday cocktail. All I had to go on to reverse engineer this drink was a ridiculously bad photo I took of the menu that listed the main ingredients.

*I also got a kick out of the fact that you could order your Aalto cocktail AND have it served to you in an original Iittala made Alvar Aalto vase for an additional €64.20 … the very same vase that I had put on the 2018 “What to get an Architect for Christmas” gift guide a few weeks earlier)

Preparing Lime Garnish Wheels

The first item I decided to tackle was the garnish – which was ridiculously simple. All that was needed was to prepare some lime wheels, add what appeared to be “Holiday” spice, and then dry them out.

The next step took a bit more time – preparing the raspberry infused vodka. If you want to skip this step, all you would do is buy pre-prepared raspberry flavored vodka – simple enough and this is exactly what I did the for the first round of experiments. The second round I decided that I wanted a bit more raspberry flavor (it can get lost in the cranberry juice that is added later if you are not careful).

Making your own fruit-infused vodka is ridiculously easy, it just requires a bit of planning and some patience.

Preparing raspberries for fruit infused vodka

I decided to not skip this step for round two and if I’m going to be making any fruit-infused vodka, I might as well make some different flavors.

Fruit Infused Vodka 02

I had to make the raspberry version since I need it for “The Aalto” but I decided that I would add just a small amount of lemon to the jar since lemon juice is a part of this recipe. It’s hard to see the lemon wheels in the above picture but they are easy enough to spot in the next image.

Fruit Infused Vodka 03

I am making three different versions altogether. Starting on the left you have blackberry/lemon, raspberry/lemon in the middle, and cherry on the far right. I used seven 1-pint (16 ounces but only filled to the 12-ounce mark) Ball mason jars (you can find them here but they can be found in your local grocery store quite easily) and not quite two 750ml bottles of vodka.

Fruit Infused Vodka 04

I used my preferred vodka – “Russian Standard” – which a friend of mine (who is actually Russian) told me that this is the only vodka Russians would drink … which was good enough for me to make the switch (although he might not approve of me adding fruit to his beloved vodka).

Once the fruit and vodka have been mixed together, simply give the jars a shake and put them in the refrigerator for a length of time between 3 and 7 days. Give them a shake every day and let time do the rest of the work. Once you pull them, stain the vodka out from the fruit and get rid of the fruit (or use it in something, maybe your oatmeal … it’ll be highly alcoholic) and keep the vodka in the fridge where it will remain good for up to 6 months although I don’t think mine will last that long.

Life of an Architect Aalto Cocktail recipe

So after many glorious attempts, I think I nailed it – the final recipe is shown above. For the final taste test, I invited my neighbor Poul Ober over to the house to confirm my attempts. Since Poul is 50% Danish, and I am 50% Norwegian, together we are 100% qualified to evaluate whether or not I have successfully recreated this cocktail named after Finland’s greatest architect.

Recreating the Aalto cocktail at home

After Poul and I had a few Aalto’s (we were nothing if not thorough in our testing) I remembered that I needed to take a picture of my final product – drinking a few of these can do that to you. I can assure you that this is a really good cocktail and if you are not careful with them, you could get yourself in trouble. All you have to do is read the recipe above to know that there are two shots of liquor in this drink and Poul and I had a discussion on how you literally, and quite possibly for the first time in history actually mean it, cannot tell that this is the case. I thought when I had my first few in Helsinki that they had given me the alcohol-free version only to realize later that they had not. The same thing is true of my perfectly recreated version here … have a great time but be responsible as you celebrate Finland’s greatest son.

Cheers to the mighty Alvar Aalto! First the man and then the drink!

Bob signature FAIA


Source: Life of an Architect