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Curious & Unfiltered

Cachaça For The Uninitiated

Cachaça For The Uninitiated

For those keen to explore interesting, distinctive, and lesser-known spirits, there's perhaps no better place to start than cachaça.

A glance at most American cocktail menus or home bar carts wouldn't reveal this fact: cachaça is the third most popular spirit in the world. It's Brazil's national spirit, and it's beloved in Europe, too.

Ever curious, we had to ask, what does the international community know that most Americans don't? 

The simplest way to describe cachaça is to compare it to rum, because it's also made from sugarcane. But where the rum most Americans are familiar with is made from the molasses derived from sugarcane, cachaça is actually made from the fermented sugarcane itself. This means it's a rum more similar in taste to rhum agricole than to the typical Caribbean rums that are called to mind for most Americans. (It's also lower in sugar than most rums.)

Three aspects of cachaça production set it apart.

First, it's only distilled once, so its flavor profile is more raw and vegetal, closer-to-the-source. You'll taste the nuances from the aromas present in the sugarcane, those in the fermentation process, and the flavors that come through the initial (and only) distillation. 

Second, like wine, cachaça production is tied to the annual growing season. Each batch of a single-sourced cachaça (this means it is made from the sugarcane of one particular estate, or terroir) will exhibit the differences reflected by yearly variances in climate, sugarcane growth, and harvest. Each season's batches are then a naturally limited run.

Finally, cachaça is the only spirit in the world that uses a huge diversity of native woods -- more than 40 -- in its barrel aging process. About 60% of the aroma of an aged spirit comes from the wood in which it is aged, so the many varieties of these woods enhance different characteristics in the spirit, delivering incredibly nuanced and distinctive expressions. 

One of the cachaça brands we're excited about is Avuá. Its single-sourced cachaça is aged in seven different types of wood, for a gorgeous variety of expressions, each one wholly unique.  

Pete, Co-Founder of Avuá, gave us the low-down on how a person new to cachaça might think about what the spirit is like, based on what they typically enjoy, and which of the cachaças in the Avuá range might fit the bill.

For those seeking a premium sipping rum experience: Avuá Amburana Cachaça is aged in Amburana wood, found only in the forests of Latin America. Resting in this indigenous wood produces a stunning mix of warm and savory notes on the nose and palate that provides a truly unique taste experience.

For the Scotch drinker: Avuá Bálsamo Cachaça is hand-crafted and aged up to two years in bálsamo wood casks, a high density, burgundy colored hardwood native to South and Central America. These tall trees with a fine grain impart a herbaceous aroma with a flavor that hints at minerality, citrus and bitterness. Try it on the rocks, neat, or in a cocktail showcasing its incredible flavor.

For the Bourbon fan: Avuá Tapinhoã Cachaça is aged in tapinhoã wood, an extremely rare hardwood found in parts of South America. The spirit is aged up to two years in a recommissoned barrel that was first used decades ago by the distiller's father. This wood imparts flavors of toasted coconut, fresh honeycomb, and caramel and soft, sweet notes. Try it on the rocks, neat, or in a cocktail to showcase its incredible flavor.

For the gin or vodka lover: Avuá Prata Cachaça is unaged, rested in stainless steel casks before being hand bottled at 84 proof. The result is a lush and crisp spirit with subtle floral notes perfect for exciting new cocktails, or the ever-classic Caipirinha.

For those who prefer cognac: Avuá Oak Cachaça, following Brazilian tradition, is aged for up to 2 years in French Oak, or carvalho, previously used to age white wine. Carvalho, the most common wood used for cachaça-aging in Brazil, imparts notes of vanilla and butterscotch. Oak-aged cachaça finishes dry with a slight bitterness that has many layers for an exquisite sipping spirit. It is also the perfect base for stirred cocktails and tropical cocktails like the Mai Tai or Planter's Punch.

For the exclusive, will-never-happen-again experience: Avuá Copan, a limited edition, high-end cachaça created in partnership with Craig Schoettler, Executive Beverage Director of MGM Resorts (and formerly of Alinea). Craig started with Avuá Cachaça aged in the very rare tapinhoã wood, then rested it in Hardy Cognac barrels for more than six months. The unique combination of the rare native wood and cognac finish produces a delightful and complex aroma and flavor profile that is unlike anything else. This is best sipped neat or with a large ice cube. Avua Cachaça Copan Limited Edition may be reserved now.

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Spirits that Embody Low Key, Good Vibes

Heading to the lake?  Just back from the beach?  Summer barbecue coming up? Enjoy watching the dragonflies buzzing around the back garden with a drink in hand?

We've put together a collection of new spirits that are perfect for all of these moments.  They're not in-your-face, shout-about-it bottles. They don't have to be.  Instead, they're the quiet, confident, top-quality companions that are the perfect accompaniment to the way you already enjoy spending your time.

 A gin for moments of connection and camaraderie. Southern hospitality in a bottle. No corner-cutting here, each batch is hand-crafted, with many of the botanicals locally sourced and always processed by hand.
A single malt from one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, located 208 steps from the sea. Balanced and complex, an entirely new and exceptional spirit from the house that brings you their flagship 14 year. It's a winner.
A no-nonsense bottle of vodka from St. George Spirits, often acknowledged as the spirits house that kicked off the craft spirits movement.  This vodka is the perfect utility player: clean and pure, with mild fruity & floral flavors.
Accept no substitutes. This maraschino liqueur bests all the rest. It's a true classic, from the Italian masters. Invest in a bottle helps unlock that magic something that keeps people sipping -- whether that's in classic cocktails or the more experimental.
This reposado will make you reconsider what you know of tequila. It ages longer than the typical reposado, which gives it the sweet and complex agave-forward flavor its known for. From a fifth generation Jalisco family, and the very well-respected La Alteña Distillery.
Cult favorite The Real McCoy rums come from legendary Foursquare Distillery, in Barbados. The limited edition 14 year was parallel aged in both ex-Madeira and American oak bourbon barrels. Only 6000 of these were ever made - we're lucky to be able to offer a few of them to you!
Corsair is known for its playful and experimental approach to American whiskey. This is a particularly distinctive bottle that whiskey enthusiasts are keen to get their hands on. A chocolatey, espresso-y, rich and smokey experience.
Take me away to Rio. Avua is helping reinvent cachaça, one expression at a time. This sugarcane-based Brazilian "rum" is aged up to two years in carvahlo barrels (French oak, previously used to white wine) that imbue it with its signature vanilla and butterscotch notes. 
This distinctive amaro is a sure sign that you know what's up behind the counter. It has an intensely bitter and herbaceous flavor, sharp and minty. For as popular as amaros are, this is one style that's still a bit of a best-kept secret. It's also one of the (numerous) reasons we love the Italians.
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A Great Cocktail Gin & Simple Ways to Showcase It

Every bar cart needs a perfect cocktail making gin, a low-key approachable spirit to mix and match with whatever is on hand. Currently, we're loving Bulrush Gin.

Bulrush was created to be warm, welcoming, delicious, and versatile. The spirit is unabashedly made for cocktails. It's juniper-forward (yet somehow manages to please even those who aren't already all in for gin) and was one of Beverage Testing Institute's highest rated gins in 2019. The bottle hails from Lowcountry, South Carolina, and it's perfect for an afternoon cocktail. A drink to be enjoyed on a front porch swing. On the backyard patio. As a pre-dinner refresher. As a post-swimming hole thirst quencher.

Here are a few relaxed and classic cocktails we'd recommend enjoying with Bulrush Gin.

Spanish Gin Tonic

2 oz Bulrush Gin
4 oz Premium Tonic

 

Fill a large wine glass with ice, add gin, add tonic. Your choice of fresh garnish, but try out a cinnamon stick (trust us).

Classic Martini

2.5 oz Bulrush Gin
1 oz Vermouth

 

Pour gin and vermouth into a shaker filled partway with ice. Stir gently with a long-handled cocktail spoon for at least 30 seconds. Strain liquid into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or olives.

 

 

 

 

 

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Green Chile Vodka & Other Inspired Bottles: A Chat with Lance Winters, Master Distiller at St. George Spirits

Green Chile Vodka & Other Inspired Bottles: A Chat with Lance Winters, Master Distiller at St. George Spirits

A vodka for those in-the-know, St. George Green Chile Vodka is the perfect summer bottle - bringing some heat that amps up the refreshment of cocktails whether for brunch, for a bit of day drinking, or for kicking off a night of grilling out.

So far, Curiada Insiders have been enjoying this spicy-in-a-good-way spirit in all sorts of ways:

  • As an augment to the kick of ginger in a Moscow Mule
  • Adding some verve to the spice of a Bloody Mary
  • Classic style, yes, even in a martini

With unanimous five star ratings amongst our buyers, we cannot stop recommending it as the perfect bottle to switch up your bar cart, or gift to spirits-adventurous family and friends. 

In true Curiada fashion, we’re featuring St. George Green Chile Vodka as part of our commitment to supporting outstanding distiller-entrepreneurs. And there's more!  We've also just brought on their glorious Botanivore Gin and their excellent All Purpose Vodka (does what it says on the tin, which is what we love about it).

St. George Spirits is a special distillery, founded in 1982 in Alameda, CA. Founder Jörg Rupf is credited with kicking off the craft spirits movement, and Master Distiller Lance Winters has been at the helm of the still since 1996. 

Curiada recently had the opportunity to ask Lance a few questions:

Curiada: It's probably not an exaggeration to say that you are a world-renowned craftsman. You've been nominated for a James Beard award at least half a dozen times and you must have tasted literally thousands of really amazing spirits over the course of your career. Tell us, how can a regular person know if they're drinking a good spirit?

Lance: Every single one of us has a palate that is the product of millions of years of evolution. You don't need to train as a master somm[elier] to know what's good and what's not. It's helpful to have someone in the know curate a selection of great quality spirits to help establish a baseline. After that, your eyes are wide open.

Curiada: When did you know you wanted to begin distilling spirits?

Lance: An old high school friend gave me a bottle of Lagavulin. It was the first spirit that I'd ever tasted that made me think about what I was drinking. It wasn't challenging, but it had layers to explore, and a story to tell. I started reading about how whiskey was made, and I was hooked.

Curiada: What do you wish people understood about distilling?

Lance: I wish people understood everything about distillation. The more people know, the better equipped they are to sniff out marketing BS and appreciate the things that are truly important.

Curiada: How do you personally choose a drink?

Lance: The way I choose a drink varies with my mood, sometimes with the weather, and by where I am. For brunch, a Bloody Mary with our Green Chile Vodka is where it’s at. On cooler evenings I'm more likely to go for a spirit-forward, whiskey-based drink. And if I'm having oysters, I'm going to have a Terroir Gin martini.

Curiada: What distillers out there do you admire and why?

Lance: I have a deep admiration for Todd Leopold [of Leopold Bros.]. He's talented, and is built from integrity from the ground up. The distillers at Gracias a Dios distillery in Oaxaca are incredible as well. They make single varietal expressions of mezcal that illustrate the beauty and potential diversity of their native spirit.

 
Image credit: Andria Lo
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Pisco: Bringing The Wide World Back Home

Pisco: Bringing The Wide World Back Home
by Eric DiSanto, Curiada Correspondent-at-Large

When I think of Peru I think of hot sandy beaches and surfing long left hand breaks.  I think of the attitudinally punishing, something-out-of-a-movie, otherworldly breath-taking mountains.  I think of purple, red and other exotic, rainbow-colored potato varieties and of the freshest, tastiest ceviche that by my estimation could possibly exist in the world. I picture dreadlocked alpacas —the chillest of the llama breeds— and corridors of tables and walls covered with the colorful and intricately designed textiles their crazy-soft fur is painstakingly crafted into.  It’s a wonderful country with a rich and vibrant culture deeply connected to its ancient past.

Reminiscing about Peru, it’s hard to not also think of Pisco. It’s everywhere. Often served in cocktail form, the classic Pisco Sour can be found at every local watering hole and is the pride of amateur and professional bartenders alike.  Lunch time cocktail, Pisco Sour.  Happy hour drink, Pisco Sour.  You get the picture.  It’s a great cocktail that can be sipped, or sipped quickly, and pairs nicely I found, with a hot evening by the sea, or a cool starlit night in the mountains.

For those not in the know, Pisco, Peru’s national beverage, is a brandy.  Often compared to the Italian Grappa, Pisco, too, is a grape based spirit, however where Grappa is crafted with the post-harvest detritus of wine-making: grape skins, seeds, and stalks, Pisco grapes are grown specifically for making this clear, light, delicious spirit. The grapes for Pisco are juiced and the pomace discarded before then fermenting somewhere within the five Pisco producing regions of Peru. It then rests a minimum of three months. The end result is a delicately balanced, high proof spirit with generally bright, and citrusy flavor profiles.  Brandy’s “South American cousin” as it has been dubbed.

While I won’t pretend to have developed an expertly nuanced palate during my Peruvian tenure, it doesn’t take a Pisco aficionado to notice the sly smile-inducing quality in a bottle of Barsol’s Supremo Mosto Verde Italia.  This particular spirit comes from Ica, the small desert city five minutes by tuk-tuk from the Huacachina Oasis (literally an oasis, look it up).  “Mosto Verde Italia” moniker tells us that it is made from aromatic Italia grapes which haven’t been fully fermented, giving the spirit a touch of sweetness.  It’s one of the smoothest, subtly fruity, not-too-much-not-too-little spirits I’ve had in some time, and it does a good job at resurrecting the nostalgia of my year in South America cut short by, well…

As it doesn’t look like exploration via travel will be on the table anytime soon, I think we owe it to ourselves to bring the some of that big wide world back home when we can.  After all, there is a lot to learn and experience from a country that was home to the oldest civilization in the Americas.

If grappa is a little bite-heavy for you, if you’re looking to expand your worldly alcohol repertoire, if you’re a Pisco connoisseur and need to bolster your home collection, if you’re having a six-foot radius porch gathering next weekend and want to mix it up a little, whatever the case, this bottle should make it to your home-bar.  It really is top-shelf.

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An afternoon with the Jalisco crew

An afternoon with the Jalisco crew

Joey, one of our co-founders, recently joined the virtual Tequila Fortaleza tour via Zoom.

It’s what you wish every work call could be. Starting with a margarita, you spend 60 minutes with about 100 others learning about Fortaleza Tequila from the friendliest people on Zoom. It’s not a Hollywood production, it’s six enthusiastic people (and a yellow lab) sharing their passion with you. Be warned, some of the viewers are seriously smart tequila drinkers - you’ll learn just as much from their intelligent questions as you do from the well-done presentation and team at Fortaleza. All in all, it’s the perfect amount of time and information, you’ll be happy you learned something new and got to know the people behind this iconic tequila, and even more - you’ll be planning a trip to see it in person as soon as you can.

There's another tour taking place Saturday, July 25, at 2pm EST.  Register here.

 

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Taking it From Day to Night

Forget what you know about all those other coffee liqueurs.  Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur is the real deal.

It packs a caffeinated punch, and delivers exceptionally tasty, cut-above-the-rest flavor.

Ten times the caffeine and half the sugar of what you're used to.

Which makes it an entirely different liqueur.

Dress it up or dress it down, whichever way you like it.

p.s. it's also already one of our bestsellers, despite launching just last week

From Day.



DALGONA DOUBLE COFFEE
2 tbsp instant coffee or espresso
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp hot water
3 tbsp Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
milk of your choice

1. Whip the sugar, water and instant coffee or espresso with an electric mixer - it will start smooth and shiny, then thicken, become foamy, and hold its shape
2. Add the Mr. Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur to a glass with ice and milk
3. Pour the whipped coffee over the milk

recipe modified from Bustle

 

 

 

 To Night. 

ESPRESSO MARTINI
2 parts Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
1 part espresso

1. Combine ingredients in a shaker
2. Give it a hard shake
3. Strain into a coupe

Drinkware recommendation: an Urban Bar Crystal Coupe from our friends at KegWorks.

Recipe courtesy of Mr Black
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Experience Something New

Experience Something New

There's magic to be found when tooling around a new city, region, or island. 

But far away vacations seem, well, far away right now. 

Here's one way to scratch the itch: get experimental with a new spirit that you've never tasted beforefrom a far away place.

And we have just the bottle.

Roots mastic mastiha liqueur on backdrop of pine needles & sky

Roots Mastic Liqueur

Very similar to its appearance, the taste of this liquor is clean and crisp. It has an elegant aroma that is soft and refreshing. The taste is undeniably clean with subtle hints of lavender, coconut and finally a minty freshness that lingers on the palate with a nutty finish.

 

Sip this spirit for a taste of island life, the Greek way. Here's one (delicious) way we recommend trying it:

Here are a few words from Nikolas Smyrlakis, Finest Roots founder, which we hope will help you further enjoy the authenticity, depth, and character of this exceptional liqueur:

This is what Roots is about: craft liqueurs with true heritage, 100% natural ingredients from unique terroirs with an amazing history. We hope that when you enjoy Roots in a small digestive shot or in a nice light long drink, the distinctive flavors will take you back to some of your own memories and stories, and you will connect your roots with our Roots.

Let us know how you like it!

 
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Midsummer Sipping Suggestions

It's mid-summer, so we asked a few Curiada Insiders what they're sipping or stirring right about now.

Here's what they had to say:

Ali F. IL "I'm out in Denver, sipping All Points West Grain and Malt Whiskey with some friends. It's so damn good, I wish I'd ordered more bottles of it."

Jeff K. PA "I've been slowly sipping on Chinaco Anejo Tequila. We break it out on the weekends with family and friends."

Michelle C. NJ "I've been making recipes with Haku Japanese Vodka. On a warm day I mix Haku with simple syrup, grapefruit juice, soda water and fresh mint... After work with my parents I've been making classic vodka martinis garnished with an olive."

Owen S. MA "In my backyard in Central New York, an old friend and I caught up about life, work, and the world today while sipping on Gosling's Family Reserve Old Rum, I pour a little Q Ginger Beer in mine, Gosling's Ginger Beer is great too. Cheers!"

Danielle C. NY "I was looking for a unique gin and came across, Ransom Old Tom Gin, it's perfect. Ordering was easy too!"

Kelsey S. AK "We mix Crop Organic Harvest Earth Vodka with soda water, add in a healthy amount of cucumber slices and enjoy on our balcony. It's a super refreshing summer drink!"

Eric D. NY "I've been sipping the Izalco all week, it's perfect on these hot summer nights." 

Tyler K. NY "I'm sipping Mezcal Vago Cuixe neat."

Staff Picks: These are real staff picks, not a we-want-to-sell-this-bottle-because-we-make-a lot-of-money-selling-it staff pick (trust us, we definitely do not). Martell Cognac Blue Swift & Monkey 47 & Bourbon Barreled Big Gin - check 'em out.

 

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A New Way to Be a (Virtual) Regular

A New Way to Be a (Virtual) Regular

By Eric DiSanto, Curiada (Virtual) Correspondent-at-Large

For many of us, there will be no ponying up to a bar-top to share a fizzy, flat, fruity, creative or classic cocktail with friends or strangers alike anytime soon.  While our rented pint glasses and tumblers collect dust by the well-worn barstools we’ve all come to know and favor, the next best thing has got to be the Dealer’s Choice Virtual Happy Hour with Amanda Sasser.

Tucked away in the cozy and comfortable confines of my own personal dive bar (basement), Amanda lead a brief yet insightful cocktail how-to crash course; this week’s elixir was a Whiskey Sour. 

For the Whiskey Sour Her Way, Amanda used Old 49 California Whiskey, Buttermilk No. 3 Syrup Mixer, and Whiskey Barrel Bitters; we went the classic route and added egg white, too. 

Well- versed in her knowledge of spirits, she was happy to offer suggestions regarding replacements and substitutions to make the drink accessible and enjoyable for everyone.  “Hopefully,” she says, “by learning more about the ingredients and their qualities, and the preparation and execution of actually making the cocktail, we will be able to find a new appreciation for the drinks we have come to know and love over the years.”

We were about a dozen, cameras on and sound unmuted, and it really did feel like ours was a group just getting together for a happy-hour cocktail after work.

It was a good time. 

After the 30-ish minute creation and enjoyment of our Whiskey Sours we all stuck around and talked about new, hard-to-find, favorite, and just plain cool bottles of spirits we’ve come across or are looking for.  We reminisced about favorite cocktails we’ve enjoyed, and bars we miss chilling at. 

If you’re nostalgic for a well-made drink in that hanging-around atmosphere, looking to expand your knowledge on what we use and why we make cocktails the way we do, or even just trying to break up your 5-9, you should swing by next week!

Amanda in real life: Though limited by everyone’s favorite pandemic, Amanda is still behind the stick at a Sunday night pop-up in the Valley at Buvette.  Mask on, she builds a couple featured cocktails for the evening that you can enjoy while sitting on the patio. If you’re out in L.A. stop by; I intend to next time I’m on the left coast.

If you'd like to join the July 22 session (featuring gin! Though you can sub tequila or vodka, too!), RSVP here and we'll send through the details!

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