It seems more boutique liquors and liqueurs are being introduced this summer than ever before. This part-time bartender is rejoicing at all these new mixing opportunities! I've particularly been impressed by the high quality and interesting flavors.
First, Absinthe has finally been legalized in the USA, and I had the pleasure to sample Lucid - which claims to be the first legalized brand - at my favorite neighborhood wine store, Mr. Wright. I've tried Absinthe twice, but this was the first time I had it prepared properly: no burning of the sugar cube, and diluted with ice cold water. (The Lucid website has a nice instructional video). Lucid strongly reminded me of the popular Provençal drink, Ricard, with its predominant anise flavor. Lucid is greener in the bottle than Ricard's chartreuse color, but both turned the same cloudy yellowish-white when mixed with water. It's fun to prepare, especially if you've got one of the gorgeous glass fountains and ornate absinthe spoons. I'm inclined to believe that most people drink Absinthe simply for the promise of hallucinations, very rarely for the taste. However, I've never felt anything more exciting than tipsy while drinking the stuff, so please sample with curiosity as to its taste... and if you like it, give Ricard a go!
Interesting drink #2 is the liqueur, St. Germain. Made from wild elderflower blossoms harvested by hand only a few days of the year, this is a really fun with a very nice kind of sweetness that kicks up inexpensive prosecco a notch. To my tongue, it tastes quite a bit of lychee, with perhaps a bit of very ripe pear - the type that is granular and sugary when you bite into it. It's packaged in a beautiful beaux-arts style bottle, making me feel pretty and girly whenever I use it... much like how Paris makes me feel when I visit! Store it in the freezer alongside your vodka for an optimal drinking experience.
Finally, as my post on mojitos revealed, I am a big fan of dark rum. Only in the past few weeks have I been exposed to Brazil's version of rum, Cachaça, a brilliantly delicious light-colored liquor. According to Wikipedia, "Cachaça differs from rum in that it is made from sugarcane juice while rum is made from either molasses or sugarcane juice then aged in oak barrels." Down at the Chelsea Wine Vault the other day, a nice representative from Leblon made me fantastic Caipirinhas (apparently Brazil's national cocktail), and helped me discover that a light sugar cane liquor could taste just as flavorful and have as much depth as a dark rum. My favorite was based off of smashed ripe strawberries, muddled in a mixing glass with mint, lime, and a bit of sugar. The Cachaça was added, the the drink shook. Served over ice. It was even better than a Pimms cocktail on a summer day!