In a week, it is Easter and the Danes will be sitting down to Easter lunch with open-face sandwiches and, of course, they will drink snaps. Snaps is the Danish name for Aquavit and a specialty of Denmark. There is a formal procedure on how to drink snaps. It is a festive ceremony that I have grown quite fond of in my many years in Denmark.
This is how it works. No one drinks snaps without inviting others to drink with them. The first person to do this is usually the host. He raises his glass and making sure that everyone at the table can see him, he then looks into the eyes of each of the other guests sitting at the table, nods and when he is sure that he has greeted all the guests, drinks from his glass. In the meantime, all the other guests sitting at the table are making eye contact with each other and nodding to all the guests at the table. If you are a guest, not only should you look into the eyes of the host, but each of the other guests. Then they say “skol”, the Danish word for cheers. It is strictly forbidden to drink the first snaps before greeting all the people at the party.
When they drink they can “bite” the drink over by taking a sip, or they can do the bottoms up thing and drink all the snaps in the glass. No need for panic, althougth the snaps has a high alcohol pro cent, the glasses are usually extremly small, about 1 -1½ oz.
One would think that after nodding to each other and drinking their snaps that the eating could begin, but no. Now everyone must look into each others eyes again and nod. Now they can set their glasses down.
After the host says welcome to all the guests with the first snaps, anyone at the table can invite anyone at the party to drink with him as it considered impolite to drink snaps alone. It is best to take a sip of beer after drinking snaps as it is extremely strong. Beer can be drunk at any time under the meal. The first snaps is the herring snaps. Here is a simple recipe for a herring open-face sandwich.
PICKED HERRING WITH RAW ONIONS AND CAPERS
4 slices of buttered dark rye bread
1 glass picked herring
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
1-2 tbsp. capers
Cut the herring in small pieces and place on the buttered bread. Garnish with red onions rings and capers.