It all starts with Greenland’s nature. Picking berries, herbs, mushrooms or even hunting ptarmigan. Take one or some of these elements, dry it, and infuse it in liquor for some time. Distill it and then let it rest again for a few more months. This slow process of creation allows the taste of Greenland’s nature to be infused in schnapps.

WHAT IS SCHNAPPS?

Schnapps is highly concentrated distilled liquor, also called bitters. Housewives and enthusiasts all over the country make schnapps, so be prepared to try some delicate flavours if you visit the home of a local for dinner.

EXPERIMENTING WITH GREENLAND

Kim Sander Pedersen, the owner and chef of Mamartut in Ilulissat, is well-respected for his schnapps-making techniques. He has experimented using everything from Greenlandic herbs, crowberry, Labrador tea, mushrooms and Greenlandic flowers, but his signature flavor is ptarmigan schnapps.

It’s a painstakingly slow process to make schnapps, and the taste is peppered by whatever is available from nature.

TRACING THE PTARMIGAN

Like any other slow food process, making schnapps is tied to many aspects of life, including culture, agriculture and the environment. It’s a painstakingly slow process to make schnapps, and the taste is peppered by whatever is available from nature.

The taste of ptarmigan schnapps is dependent on when the bird is caught. A Greenlandic hunter can catch ptarmigan during the winter and in the summer. During the summer, its plumes are a rocky grey colour like the earth, and in the winter they are as white as snow.

“The best time to hunt ptarmigan is in April. The hunters arrive at the restaurant with a full bag of frozen birds with all of the guts still inside them. I need to carefully pluck the feathers, take the skin off and then dissect it,” says Kim.

Ptarmigan schnapps

Ptarmigan schnapps is made with the gizzard of the ptarmigan, which is located at the throat. One can blow up this gizzard like a balloon and then dry the contents. All of its contents is then put into the schnapps and left to stand for five months. After this, it is distilled and left to stand another five months. Real slow food. 

The taste can vary with the seasons, but Kim’s favourite version is when the ptarmigan has eaten many crowberries, just frozen when the first frost arrived. The crowberry sweetens accordingly, and gives the schnapps flavour a softer, rounded and sweeter taste.

“Normally it is made very strong, like an essence, so then we dilute it.”

The taste can vary with the seasons, but Kim’s favourite version is when the ptarmigan has eaten many crowberries, just frozen when the first frost arrived. 

Eat well knowing that it is not only the gizzard of the ptarmigan which is used at Mamartut. The meat from the bird is turned into different types of food. 

Ptarmigan on the menu

You can try the range of schnapps at Mamartut, but you will probably be tempted by the rest of the Greenlandic-inspired menu once you take a look at it.

Eat well knowing that it is not only the gizzard of the ptarmigan which is used at Mamartut. The meat from the bird is turned into different types of food. For example, Kim likes to create ptarmigan terrine served with crowberry jam and some homemade sauerkraut. When it is the right season, he also serves ptarmigan with reindeer, so that there are two types of local flavours on one plate. 

“Guests like that”, Kim says, “and we like experimenting with different tastes of Greenland.” 

You can find more information about Mamartut on their website: http://mamartut.dk/