Tales of the Cocktail, a 5-day international drinks festival held annually in New Orleans. While I was there, I had the opportunity to sample dozens of new products and recipes (yes, it was something of an endurance event!). Now that I'm home and the haze has lifted, I'd like to share my findings. Here are 4 recently, or soon-to-be, released spirits that really stood out for me. Note: I've tried to represent a bit of a range, both in style of spirit and in product availability. Some of these bottles have already achieved multi-state U.S. distribution. Others I'm including as a kind of a "Coming Attractions" style preview. Like indie films, new liquor releases often need time to achieve nationwide distribution: many of these labels will be making their way into new markets over the coming months.
Cocchi Americano (Aperitif) Price: $17-22/750 ml Notes: Old-timey cocktail geeks and lovers of Lillet Blanc are in for a treat here. While this wine-based aperitif has been in production in the city of Asti in the Piedmont region of Italy since 1891, it wasn't until this past spring that it finally found wide distribution in the U.S. Light and delicate and orange-y in flavor, Cocchi Americano also has an edge of bright bitterness that some say makes it a dead ringer for the long-lost quinine-tinged aperitif, Kina Lillet. Ways to Enjoy: On ice with a splash of soda and a twist of orange, or subbed-in for Kina Lillet in old classics such as the Vesper Martini or the Corpse Reviver #2. Availability: U.S. distribution launched in Spring 2010. Now available in over 20 states.
Van Gogh Dutch Caramel (Flavored Vodka) Price: $25-30/750 ml Notes: A recent addition to Van Gogh's extensive portfolio of over 21 naturally flavored vodkas, which are made in small batches in Schiedam, Holland. Rich and buttery with vanilla and coffee accents, but without the cloying sweetness or viscosity often found in liqueurs, Dutch Caramel vodka makes a nice alternative to (or, if you're like me, accompaniment to) dessert. Other after-dinner vodka possibilities: Double Espresso or Dutch Chocolate. Ways to Enjoy: Sipped the rocks, poured over vanilla ice cream, or mixed in a cocktail such as the Caramel Appel Martini, a boozy take on the summer fairground classic featuring Dutch Caramel vodka and apple schnapps. Availability: A 2009 release. Now available nationwide.
Esprit de June (Liqueur) Price: $27-33/750 ml Notes: Fans of G'vine grape-spirit gin and St. Germain elderflower liqueur, this one's for you. This vine-blossom liqueur is produced by the same French distillery as G'vine, using many of the same wine-making principles. The result is a delicate cordial with flavors of flower and fruit. A minimum of sugar is added to the distillate, keeping things light and bright. Ways to Enjoy: On the rocks or mixed in a cocktail. I sampled a fizz made with June, lemon juice, simple syrup, and club soda and found it incredibly refreshing on a hot day. Availability: Launched in NY, NJ, and CT, June 2010, with national distribution rolling out over the next 6 months.
Excellia Reposado (Tequila) Price: $60-65/750 ml (blanco and añejo versions will also be available at $55 and $75 respectively) Notes: Another new product from the makers of G'vine vine flower-infused gin. This smooth new spirit combines Mexican tequila- and French wine-making traditions, taking a blue agave spirit and aging it in Grand Cru Sauternes wine casks and Cognac barrels. The result is a soft, grape-influenced liquor without bite or burn. It's mellow enough to coax even the wariest tequila drinker back into the fold. Ways to Enjoy: Sipped neat or, if you're feeling extravagant, mixed in a Margarita. Availability: Slated to launch in NY, NJ, and CT in August 2010, with national distribution rolling out over the next 6 months. Have you tried any of these new spirits? Do you have any new discoveries of your own you'd recommend? Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturers did give us the products for testing and review purposes. Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC’s Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry. Related: Best Bargain Booze: 7 Top Picks from Bar Experts (Top image: Nora Maynard)