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Forget Mai Tai and Sex On The Beach, if you’re bored of the usual run of the mill cocktails, then take a look at this selection of unusual liqueurs to try. Whether for your next cocktail party, or to simply enjoy something new and exciting, this list of 11 unusual liquors is sure to include something new for you to try.
You might have a fairly well-stocked home bar, but if you’re looking to spice things up and really amaze your friends then you should take a look at some unusual liqueurs. Most people’s liquor cabinets are full of the usual suspects: vodka, gin, whiskey… But what about something unusual?
Why is there currently a trend for unusual liqueurs?
More than anything else, the resurgence of all things mixological has reawakened customers’ interest in drinking a perfectly prepared and precisely measured Manhattan or Old Fashioned. The craft spirits industry has exploded in recent years, with the number of distinct spirits, liqueurs, and cordials available increasing dramatically and their usage expanding to include everything from time-honored classic cocktails to daring and inventive new drinks.
The Reyes family has been producing “The Original Ancho Chile Liqueur” since the 1920s. It’s made by soaking and macerating dried poblano chilies, also known as ancho chilies, in a neutral cane spirit. Expect a strong, genuine heat as well as various spice and herbal undertones.
Ancho Reyes is an excellent replacement for tequila, mezcal, whiskey, or rum; any alcoholic beverage requiring a dark flavor with a pungent, earthy zest. It’s quite popular at bars right now, and it may be the most noticeable of all the alcohols mentioned here.
The island of Java is the birthplace of Batavia-Arrack, a spirit derived from sugarcane and fermented red rice. In general, arrack or “arak” may refer to beverages produced from fermented, distilled sugarcane, grain, fruit, or coconut flower sap made across South and Southeast Asia.
Batavia-Arrack became popular in 18th century Sweden after being brought there by the Swedish East India Company, despite its Indonesian roots. It ended up in the United States, however, it did so surprisingly. Batavia-Arrack was a frequent component of 19th-century American cocktails, particularly punches, and it’s mentioned in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 How to Mix Drinks guide.
Bonal Gentiane Quina
The wine of the same name is a French aperitif produced since 1865. It’s composed of plants found in the vicinity of the Grande Chartreuse Mountains (near Grenoble, France), such as gentian and bitter cinchona bark.
Bonal, made from French fortified wine, or mistelle, has an ABV of 16 percent. Use it in place of vermouth in mixed drinks or as a dessert wine. Expect a strong herbal flavor profile complemented by red fruits.
Carpano Antica Formula
Consider the fact that this is a catch-all for the large increase in domestically available varieties of vermouth. Milan’s Distillerie Fratelli Branca makes Carpano Antica, as well as Fernet-Branca and Punt e Mes, among other things.
Count Eduardo Branca focuses on Antica Formula and its 220-year heritage as the King of Vermouths. “It’s the most distinctive and recognizable,” he explains. “The flavor is delicately nuanced, and the vanilla scent is beautiful. Mixologists love Antica Formula because it makes cocktails smooth and adds elegance.”
The debutante is an all-natural California girl who comes in a refreshing cucumber, eau de vie, lemon peel, and aloe vera flavor profile. It may be enjoyed on its own or in a variety of cocktails, especially during the summertime. Chareau works well with herbal and fruit tastes, such as thyme, basil, or mint.
Bigallet Viriana China-China
Bigallet Viriana China-China, commonly known as “China China,” is a harsh French liqueur first manufactured in 1875. It’s created by triple distilling a neutral spirit that’s been flavored with both sweet and bitter orange peels, as well as other spices and botanicals.
Bottled at 40 proof, China-China can be consumed as a digestif, on ice or in a spritzer, or as a substitute for other bitter liqueurs used in cocktails, like vermouth and amaro.
The name means “water from the botanica” in Indonesian and refers to a form of palm wine. It’s claimed that when sailors on board the Swedish East India Company ships carried Batavia Arrack, they would dilute it with spices and sugar while at sea. It’s one of several unusual beverages brought back to the market by Haus Aplenz, a Minnesota-based importer and owner Eric Seed.
Palinka is a brandy that was first produced in the 14th century. It’s an all-natural fruit brandy that was once claimed to be a medicinal cure, and it became known as “The Water of Life” or “Aqua Vitae Retinae Hungariae” after being promoted as such.
Palinka is a limited product, with a special status of origin. It must be produced, distilled, and bottled in Hungary, and other conditions state that it contains no more than fruit and water, as well as that it has to be bottled at least 37.5 percent ABV.
Palinka is served at Satis Bistro in New Jersey as an aperitif or used in cocktails. The Gypsy Dance cocktail, for example, combines Agardi Distillery’s sour cherry Palinka with other spirits.
Raki is a popular anise-flavored alcoholic beverage in Turkey. Consider it to be Turkey’s equivalent of Ouzo. Raki is most frequently served with ice and water, usually consumed alongside meals.
When Raki is mixed equally with water, it generates an opaque, milky liquid known as “lion’s milk.” Raki is only served in this traditional manner at Ankara, a contemporary Turkish restaurant in Washington D.C., however, it may be found in other drinks as well.
Starka vodkas date back to the 15th century in Eastern Europe. Traditionally, it’s prepared by aging a rye vodka in oak wine barrels underground at a child’s birth and waiting until his or her wedding night to drink.
In 2014, four Oregon distillers worked together on a “Starka Project,” each with their own spin. Big Bottom Distilling ages Starka in Zinfandel barrels, which it previously used to finish bourbon. Starka vodkas may be used in place of vodka, rum, or whiskey in cocktails.
Absinthe has had a particularly hard time of it throughout history. It was the object of a full-blown moral panic fomented by both vintners (who opposed its growing popularity) and the temperance movement in late 19th century France when it swiftly rose in popularity as a substitute for wine and brandy because of phylloxera.
The Lanfray Affair of 1905 – in which a French laborer named Jean Lanfray murdered his pregnant wife and two children while under the influence of absinthe – provided the justification for stringent government controls over absinthe, as well as a worldwide movement to prohibit it.
A real Swiss or French-style absinthe, on the other hand, tastes much more complex, herbaceous, and mellow than expected for a beverage with such a high ABV. You’ll learn why American bartenders of the 1860s and 70s began adding a touch of “the green stuff” to just about everything they mixed, where its pungent anise and harsh wormwood components would perform the same function as aromatic bitters.
In other words, a tiny Japanese-style dasher bottle filled with absinthe is one of those items that you may initially believe is a little overrated, but which you will soon come to rely on for your personal bar.
Unusual liqueurs to test
So, if you’re looking for some unusual liqueurs to add to your home bar, these are a few great options to get started. From unique Turkish raki to Swedish batavia arrack, each of these liquors can add a new dimension to your cocktail recipes. Whether you’re looking for something new and exciting to impress your friends at your next party or just want to expand your repertoire, be sure to give these unusual spirits a try!
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