In an economy so dependent on foreign imports, more and more Americans are finding ways to create their own sustainability. From "Farm to Table" movements, to products "Made in the USA", if there is one thing we Stateside folks have, it's pride. From "Proud to Call it Home" and "Proud to be an American" to every Pride Parade around the country, we aren't shy about the things we hold dear. Over the last few years, we've seen new local distillers and distilleries creating liquors and liqueurs from products grown right in their backyards, sourcing their lands for the best and most interesting herbs, flowers, fruits, grains and cane available. So it is of no surprise that we have seen local liquor products hitting the shelves fueled by demand. Here are a few new and noteworthy products that are proud to be "Made in the USA" and make great additions to your liqueur collection.
St Elder is an elderflower liqueur sourced up and down our very own East Coast and is proudly distilled in Somerville, Massachusetts. There are no old Alpine men on bicycle stories, just American farmers growing, tending, picking and producing this lovely floral elixir of nature. Like many berry flowers, the delicate blossoms only bloom for two weeks, yet because American elderflowers grow in a large variety of areas here in the US, the season for picking these fragile beauties is extended and can be harvested most of the year. Shelf stable, consistent in flavor and color and boasting a rating of 93 points from Tasting Panel Magazine in 2013, St. Elder is handcrafted in small batches with natural North American elderflower and boasts a predominant lychee flavor on the palate with a grapefruit-like citrus finish. Capdeville, located in the warehouse districts IP Building, has a stirred and strong cocktail they call Speakeasy, featuring St. Elder, Bulleit Bourbon and Orange Blossom Water finished with an Orange Zest that is easily their most popular drink on the menu, and well worth a visit to try one. For about $18 a bottle, you can instantly be transported to a summer meadow any time of year in the comfort of your own home. Highly versatile in cocktails and easy to use at home, it can be added to sparkling water or wine for a flowery effervescent sipping beverage, with gin or vodka for a garden-style martini, paired with tequila for the most spring-centric margarita you've ever imbibed, or sipped neat or over ice as an after dinner digestif. Next time you would like a twist on the common Margarita, try this recipe:
The Great and Saintly Margarita
- 1.5 oz Reposado Tequila
- 1.5 oz St. Elder Elderflower Liqueur
- 1 oz Lime Juice (about half a lime)
- 1 oz Orange Juice
- In a mixing glass, add all ingredients with ice and shake. Strain either into a chilled cocktail glass or over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange zest or wheel.
- Don't have a jigger at home? No problem! The cap of St. Elder will measure out .25 oz if filled. So, for this recipe, use 6 capfuls of St. Elder, 6 of Reposado Tequila, 4 Lime Juice and 4 Orange Juice. Viola!
Schoolcraft's Original Wisconsin Wondermint Schnapps Liqueur, or just Wondermint for short - is the latest creation from the Wisconsinites who brought us Death's Door Gin, Vodka and White Whiskey. The inspiration for Wondermint was born from the need for "more fun" says Brian Ellison. "We are so serious about our craft spirits that we really wanted to break away in sort of irreverence to what we have been doing for the last seven years." Who doesn't enjoy a good shot? After some digging in the Wisconsin archives, they found a journal entry from the 1840's in which Henry Schoolcraft, the original Ethnographer and Cartographer of the Wisconsin Territories and discoverer of the true head waters of the Mississippi River, had written that in his travels that the people of Wisconsin made and enjoyed their own peppermint schnapps. Their distiller was on the case and found a recipe from the 1920's that they tested, loved and replicated. Sourced in part from their local peppermint bounty (Wisconsin is number five in mint oil production nationwide), Wondermint is a peppermint base combined with almond that leaves a nice nuttiness and imparts a bit of oil on the palate, rose water for a floral nose and lightness, and wormwood for a bit of herbal depth that leaves your breath fresh, minty and utterly "kissable." Retailing at about $20, Wondermint is potent, flavorful and handcrafted. If you are out and about, the crew at Bar Tonique on Rampart are mixing up some inventive twists on the typical minted cocktail that will reshape your preconceptions of schnapps in the most delightful way. Wondermint could be easily subbed in your next Mojito, Grasshopper or try this summertime recipe:
Summer Wonder Lemonade
- 1.5 oz Wondermint Liqueur
- 4 oz Lemonade
- Add Wondermint then Lemonade to a glass with ice, (yeah, it's that easy, promise). Garnish with a lemon wedge to adjust tartness if desired.
Toulouse Red absinthe rouge is made right here in New Orleans. Jedd Haas, founder of Atelier Vie, wanted to create a product that was a nod to New Orleans rich history in spirits and cocktail culture. They've created a range of products including Louisiana Rice Whiskey, Gins, cane spirit based 125 proof infusion grade vodka and the true tribute to our fair city, Absinthe in both (naturally) tradition green and a completely original version, Toulouse Red. Pot distilled from US Cane Spirits and naturally colored with hibiscus flowers and flavored with herbs such as anise, fennel and grand wormwood. If you enjoyed those Good & Plenty candies when you were a kid, this is the much more adult version. The Toulouse Green has much the same formulation of base herbs, however it is slightly more vegetal than sweet, almost akin to Chartreuse in that respect, and receives its green color naturally from a second infusion of green herbs such as lemon balm. Retailing at about $60 a bottle, both are available at stores that specialize in local products like Rouses and Whole Foods as well as specialty shops such as Keife & Co on Howard Ave. Barkeeps around the area, such as Cole Newton at 12 Mile Limit in Mid-City and Steven Joseph at Winston's on Old Metairie Road, are creating playful drinks that challenge our notions of what a "pink drink" should taste like. For a colorful twist on a classic, try this recipe:
Death in the Afternoon
- 1.5 oz Toulouse Red Absinthe Rouge
- 4 oz chilled Champagne (brut works great here)
- To a Champagne flute, add Toulouse Red and then, holding glass at a slight angle, top with dry sparking wine. Garnish with a lemon twist if desired for an aromatic bright acidity.
To keep your collection up to date and growing, try adding a new liqueur each month and remember to support your local products and producers!