So what kind of twists and turns are cocktails enduring in this renaissance? First, bartenders are taking classic cocktails and riffing on them by using funky and interesting spirits. From there, they are coming up with recipes based on the flavor profiles of these “funky” spirits, making an entirely new collection of cocktails for all kinds of drinkers to enjoy.
Getting your hands on any of these unique spirits will definitely be a step in the right direction if you are trying to amp up your bar at home. From spirits infused with flowers to liquor that tastes like drinking an actual piece of meat, there are a multitude of spirits available on the market today that will seriously liven your cocktail drinking experiences.
Here is my collection of funky spirits that I have come across lately. Some are good, some are great and some are just plain kooky. Consider this an important lesson in what should be your constant spirit education!
Have any spirits in your repertoire that are truly funky? Let us know what they are in the comments section!
Photo courtesy of shutterstock
Dragon Bleu Vodka-Penja Pepper
Dragon Bleu Vodka is a fairly new higher-end vodka brand that has four expressions: Original 80 proof, Rose Blossom, White Ginger and Penja Pepper. Of the three flavored bottles, I find the Penja Pepper to be by far the funkiest. It is infused with you guessed it, penja peppers, which are a bit spicy but not like the typical jalapeno or habanero pepper. They also have a hint of sweetness that balances out the vodka, making for a really great sipping vodka and one that’s even better for a Bloody Mary.
Bakon Vodka is infused with bacon, so right there you have something that is definitely out of the ordinary. Some people tend to be a little turned off by bacon vodka, but when it comes to spirits and cocktails I find you just need to leave all inhibitions at the door, try new things and experiment. Put the doubt aside and try this bacon-y marvel. It is also great in a Bloody Mary, but can be used as an interesting base spirit for some really interesting martinis as well.
Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka
The Pinnacle Vodka line is pretty extravagant and surprisingly not as much of a sugar bomb as most people would assume. When it comes to flavored vodkas, I tend to tread very carefully since they usually end up tasting like drinking 20 packets of sugar. This is really isn’t the case with Pinnacle. The vodka itself is fairly smooth and the flavor is pretty spot-on. The Whipped Cream expression is best as a shot, but with some creativity can also make for an interesting cocktail.
Van Gogh PB & J Vodka
Van Gogh has a really amazing line of flavored vodkas and the PB & J seemed at first like a bit of a stretch for them. I was a bit skeptical about the vodka myself, worried that it would be overly sweet and generally unappetizing. I was pleasantly surprised. The flavor of peanut butter isn’t really all that present, it is more in the initial smell than anywhere else. For the most part, the vodka tastes like raspberries, but only subtly. I like this vodka on the rocks with a splash of ginger ale.
While the cocktail you order with bitters may only have a dash or two at the most in it, bitters are in fact very alcoholic and therefore are a spirited part of this funky spirits collection. There are many different but familiar brands of bitters available, most notably are The Bitter Truth, Peychaud’s and Angostura. However, a brand that I came across a few months ago called The Bitter End has a line of bitters that truly blew me away. Flavors like Memphis Barbeque Bitters, Chesapeake Bay Bitters and Mexican Mole Bitters are incredible and have the ability to transport you to an entirely different place with just a drop of concentrated power.
Jim Beam-Red Stag Black Cherry Bourbon
Traditionally, I am a brown spirit purist. I like them to be untouched by outside flavors other than those which naturally occur during aging. I think that most brown spirit drinkers would agree with me on that. At the same time, curiosity did take hold of me when Jim Beam came out with three new expressions: Red Stag Honey Tea, Black Cherry and Spiced with Cinnamon. The Black Cherry intrigued me the most, seeing as cinnamon and honey tea are common flavors associated with bourbon. The Black Cherry is an excellent addition to the Jim Beam label, it still has the signature flavor of the original Jim Beam and the black cherry flavor adds some smoothness and warmth to balance everything out.
Becherovka is an herbal Czech liquor that I came across last year at an event. The flavor can only be described as bizarre, it is sweet but not in a sugary way. It has a very concentrated herbaceous flavor and can be most closely compared with the flavor profile of Absinthe, without the licorice. While it is best served very cold and on the rocks, it can be enjoyed in a variety of mixed cocktails as well.
Okay so you can’t exactly buy this pre-made in stores, but you can make it yourself at home. Just as easy as going into the store and paying for it, possibly even easier! All you need is 10 oz of bourbon and 2 oz of rendered bacon fat. Combine and then freeze for several hours. During the freezing time, the fat will solidify and separate from the liquid, leaving you with a really bacon-y bourbon with no solids floating around. Once it is completely solid, double strain the bourbon and voila! Bacon Bourbon, made in the comfort of your own home. Bacon Bourbon is the star of the Benton’s Old Fashioned at acclaimed cocktail bar PDT in New York City, so it’s definitely worth mixing up and trying for yourself.