New Spirits Releases: White Dog, Absinthe, Grapevine and Root Beer Liqueurs
In the spirits world, you can count on a new flavored Smirnoff vodka (mango and peach) and Bacardi rum ("torched cherry") every few Happy Hours. And then there's the new stuff you actually would like to taste. Tried any good new spirits lately? Leave us your tasting notes.
Art in the Age Root hot chocolate
Organic Root Liqueur, About $45
In the 18th Century, "root tea" was an herbal remedy (wild roots and herbs including sassafras, sarsaparilla and birch bark) made by Native Americans and passed on to Colonial settlers. Over the years, it became more potent, both flavor and alcohol-wise, but eventually the alcohol disappeared and root beer soda was born. Art in the Age recently released the first post-Prohibition, sassafras-like liqueur distilled from sugar cane in homage to the original (sassafras, reportedly a carcinogen, was banned by the FDA in the 1960s; the Root liqueur spice mix includes citrus, wintergreen, and spearmint).
Buffalo Trace White Dog Whiskey, About $22 (half bottle)
"White dog" whiskeys are clear, un-aged whiskeys -- basically moonshine -- that are back in vogue as of late. Buffalo Trace's version was recently only released in the Kentucky bourbon distiller's tasting room but was recently released in limited quantities to liquor stores. Unlike vodka, un-aged whiskeys have a distinct sweet character as they are essentially distilled from beer and aren't distilled multiple times to remove subtle flavors (as with many vodkas).
Esprit de June Liqueur, About $30
This floral liqueur from the French distillers of G'Vine gin is distilled from grapevine flowers. Here, the flowers are from Ugni Blanc grapevines, France's most widely planted white wine grape (also used in Cognac), as well as buds from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Sort of like St. Germain's (elderflower liqueur) wine-drinking cousin.
Charbay Tequila Blanco, About $55
Tequila is the latest spirit from the Napa-based Charbay Winery and Distillery, a family-owned craft distillery that made its name in vodka (as well as rum, whiskey and liqueurs). Marko Karakasevic is a 13th generation distiller; his father Miles, a distiller from Yugoslavia, founded the Napa Valley winery and distillery in 1983. The 100% blue agave tequila is a result of several years of study by the Karakasevics at Tequilera Los Alambiques, producers of Trago tequila.
Green Fairy Absinthe, About $55
Green Fairy is a recently imported Czechoslovakian absinthe from a distillery dating to 1518 (absinthe production dates to the 19th century). Czech absinthes typically contain less fennel, anise and other spices than French or Swiss absinthes -- and like this one, they can also come in alarmingly bright turquoise-green hues. The kind of thing it's best not to ask how it got that way.