From Iceland — Food Of Iceland: Malt & Appelsín

Food Of Iceland: Malt & Appelsín

Published January 10, 2020

Food Of Iceland: Malt & Appelsín
Valur Grettisson
Photo by
Art Bicnick

You would think that preparing a simple mixed Christmas drink would be banal, but when it comes to preparing Icelanders’ favourite Christmas drink, your life and reputation just might depend on your Malt og Appelsín mixology. But first, what are Malt and Appelsín, the dual ingredients in Iceland’s traditional Jólaöl (Christmas ale)?

Malt is an old Icelandic drink that we started brewing yearly around 1915. If you can imagine a slightly sweet, non-alcoholic Guinness, then you’re close. For decades, the drink was quite expensive, which resulted in the tendency to mix it with other drinks to make it last a little bit longer.

Enter Appelsín, an Icelandic orange soda that Ölgerðin, the biggest brewery in Iceland, began manufacturing in 1955. Icelanders quickly found out that by combining these two drinks, the sweet Appelsín and heady Malt, the result was some tasty Christmas ale.

Now we get to the controversial part: How one combines these drinks is nothing less than a religious custom. Every year, it must be the same family member that takes on this great responsibility—and they better not mess it up if they want to keep their family membership. For hardcore believers, the perfect blend is 60% Malt and 40% Appelsín, while others swear by a clean 50/50 mix. Be mindful of with whom you discuss the sacred ratio, as the conversation could easily lead to banishment from Icelandic society or a good old fistfight.

There are outliers in Icelandic society when it comes to the Jólaöl. Some nonconformists preach a blend of 50% Malt and 30% Appelsín, with Coca Cola making up the difference. In the past, there were even some idiots who preferred Pepsi over Coke, but the Yule Cat hunted them all down and rid the country of such heresy.

So there you are, Malt og Appelsín: The drink that could literally ruin your reputation and status (perhaps your whole life). Enjoy.

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