Wednesday, 9 January 2008

New Drinks for 2008 - Long Lost Spirits

Eric Seed has been likened to "the Indiana Jones of lost spirits" for hunting down rare and obscure bottlings from around the world and introducing them to America, which in turn is spurring a revival of all-but-forgotten drinks. I love this idea and hope it takes off.

He has reintroduced the Allspice Liqueur via Haus and has already been responsible for importing two other formerly lost ingredients: Crème de Violette from Austria and Batavia Arrack distilled on the Isle of Java. Seed has also unearthed various European eaux-de-vie and liqueurs, including apricot, pear, and walnut.

St Elizabeth Allspice Liqueur is made with Allspice berries which have for generations been prized for their exceptional tastes of clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg and a pepper note that dazzles the palate. The Allspice liqueur is known in classic cocktails as "Pimento Dram," and brings together the fine pot still rum and allspice berries of Jamaica.

Batavia Arrack was used before the age of cocktails when punch was the celebrated drink, and no spirit was more celebrated and sought for punch than Batavia Arrack. Batavia Arrack comes only from the Island of Java. It is distilled from sugar cane and fermented red rice, using Chinese pot stills with characteristic teak vats. The trade of Batavia Arrack dates as far back as the early 17th century, when Dutch colonialists of the Dutch East India Company found this alluring complement to the spice trade that brought them East, and soon found its passage with these voyageurs to Amsterdam and onward to growing demand in London and old New York. More so than rums, gins or other spirits, the Batavia Arrack had then as now the extraordinary effect of elevating the aromatics of the spices and citrus notes. While historical circumstance eventually curtailed the availability and affordability of Batavia Arrack, it remains a highly sought ingredient for boutique chocolatiers and pastry chefs.

Eric Seed's Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette is made from the Queen Charlotte and March violets growing as wild flowers in the Alps. Elegant in its simplicity, this authentic Crème de Violette captures their fragrance, vibrant colours, and taste. Crème de Violette is used in classic cocktails such as the Blue Moon or Aviation, or as an ingredient in continental cuisine. It's also a fragrant alternative when mixed with Champagne to the Kir Royale.

He also imports Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur. Zirbenz draws its flavour and natural red colour from the freshly picked fruit of the Arolla Stone Pine grown in the Austrian Alps. With a taste and nose instantly familiar, Zirbenz is very smooth, slightly sweet, and has a crisp pine floral finish. Generations of mountaineers practised in the art of harvest work with Josef Hofer to create this artisanal liqueur. It can be drunk as an after-dinner beverage, or as the highlight to a mixer.

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