There are few beverages as iconic to Icelandic culture as Maltextrakt. The closest available comparison is the Russian drink kvass, in that both are non-alcoholic beverages made from grains used in the process of making beer (note: Maltextrakt is 1% alcohol, rendering it even less powerful than the near-beer they sell in grocery stores).
This is what it looks like:
As the name suggests, Maltextrakt’s active ingredient is liquid malt extract, which gives it its molasses colouring and rich flavour. You can also probably taste traces of licorice and caramel. Not a drink that you chug on a hot day, it’s more something you would sip with beef, lamb or chocolate. It’s been billed as good for digestion since the early 20th century and one half-litre can will definitively prove why.
It cannot be emphasised enough just how Icelandic this drink is. In 2013, on the 100th anniversary of Maltextakt’s creation, Egils Brewery released a celebratory commercial that is so Icelandic you can smell sulphur and fermented shark as you watch it.
Brewed with virtually the same recipe since 1913, Maltextakt is mostly consumed around Christmas time, when it is mixed with orange soda to create Jólabland, or “Christmas mix”, but it’s actually quite nice on its own. An Icelandic classic.
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