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Curious & Unfiltered

Ten Spirits for Sweater Season

When the weather turns we usually stop sipping on spritzes and lean more toward the warm-me-up spirits.

Below are a few we'd recommend for moments that are distinct to this time of year: when we're not yet in the thick of fall, but summer is more or less well and done.

After a brisk evening walk, when you shivered just a little bit on the way home:

 
An excellent sipping bourbon that delivers big warmth Amaro for flavors both relaxing, and complex

 

When lighting a fire after dark for the aroma of wood-smoke as much as for the heat:

 
An abundance of smoky aroma and flavor Big spicy rye flavor that's the perfect accompaniment to campfire

 

To wrap your fingers around something warm while sitting outside on a leisurely, blustery day:

 
Pour a little into your coffee to amp it up all around
Make a gin hot toddy with honey, hot water, a cinnamon stick, and in this case, orange instead of lemon, which will complement the botanicals.

 

For something new, surprising, and delicious to share while watching the game with friends:

Warms while sipping, but stellar in mixed drinks, too A micro-distillery with an award-winning whiskey, for those in the know

 

For mixing unique cocktails on a bright, autumn-esque day:

 
Peppery flavor and a gorgeous hue makes this a terrific bottle to have on hand for shoulder season This vodka's chile flavor brings heat to both the palate and the body
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Local to Somewhere, a New Collection

Local to Somewhere, a New Collection

We got to do one of our favorite things this week: launch a new collection!  That means we spent the last few weeks learning all about these fascinating bottles and the entrepreneurial teams behind them.

This collection is called Local to Somewhere because each of these spirits (in addition to being great-tasting and of excellent quality) has a unique way of evoking the place in which it's made. Whether that's the location itself, its geography, history, the ingredients it uses or its production method, it's fascinating to see how the where informs the what, the how, and the why. 

We've got a modern interpretation of Aquavit, a spirit of Scandinavian origin that is quickly gaining popularity in the US.  We've got vodka from Siberia, an Irish whiskey that sets the Irish whiskey standard, and an amaro from the hills of Friuli, Italy, crafted by one of the only remaining grappa distilleries in the country. We've got a lovely tequila añejo from a Jalisco distillery that's been producing tequila for more than 80 years, a Scotch that's an extremely drinkable blend of different peaty Scotches, and a Pink Pepper gin which is an innovation on a Mid-Atlantic style of gin from the best micro-distillery in Newark, NJ.

We also have a bottle of bourbon from a very special place in Upstate New York, the grain-to-glass Black Button Distilling, our featured artisan of the month. This four-grain straight bourbon is made from rye, wheat, corn, and barley, all of which is grown locally at a nearby farm in the Finger Lakes region. Black Button Distillery has a deep commitment to living local. You can read more about that in our featured artisan profile

We hope when you have a moment you'll explore and discover what's unique and uniquely local about each of these bottles. And that next time you take a sip from one of them, right after thinking, "Damn, that's good," we hope you'll be reminded of the specific ways in which where this spirit comes from has shaped why it exists, how its made, and what it is.

Explore the full collection.

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Spirits that take you places

Spirits that take you places

Spirits, more so than most things, are often inextricably linked to a specific place. While travel likely isn't in the cards at the moment, we think you might enjoying taking a closer look at some of the locales that are so central to the identify and creation of several of the spirits in our Local to Somewhere collection.

Take a quick video tour of the La Alteña Distillery, home of Tequila Tapatio and El Tesoro.

Learn all about the history of the single pot still whiskey in this fantastic exploration of Midleton Distillery and the distinctively Irish whiskeys it produces. Among them is Redbreast, considered the standard by which all other Irish whiskeys are judged.

 Get the insider's view of the distilling process at Black Button Distilling in Rochester, New York. Wait until the end where the founder specifically discusses the process of distilling their Four Grain Straight Bourbon.

Journey to the hills of Friuli, Italy and soak in the beauty of the Nonino family distillery. Learn all about the single-origin grappa that is the foundation for Amaro Nonino Quintessentia.

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A Closer Look at Avuá Copan Limited Edition Cachaça

A Closer Look at Avuá Copan Limited Edition Cachaça

Avuá Cachaça has been well regarded by spirits critics and enthusiasts since launching in 2013.

On a mission to challenge the perception of cachaça as a caipirinha-only spirit, co-founder Pete Nevenglosky and the team at Avuá have been releasing hit after hit on the cachaça scene.

In Cachaça For The Uninitiated, we shared that cachaça is the third most popular spirit in the world. We also shared that the Avuá team has been working on an exclusive, small-batch, limited edition bottle in collaboration with Craig Schoettler of MGM Resorts (formerly of Alinea, and head mixologist at the seminal cocktail lounge, The Aviary), and the venerable makers of Hardy Cognac. 

We had the opportunity to ask Pete about Avuá Copan Limited Edition Cachaça:

Curiada: You’ve been at this for 8 years, what made you decide to work on a super-premium cachaça? 

Pete: As a spirit lover, I was amazed by the breadth and diversity of the category immediately. 500 years of history and over 4,000 documented producers yields an incredible array of products that most Americans are totally unfamiliar with. It has been a great honor to share some of the unique wood aging traditions of native wood aged cachaça here in the US.

Curiada: Copan Cachaça is aged in tapinhoā barrels and then finished in Hardy cognac casks for nine months. How do you know when it’s ready? 

Pete: This was a collaborative process between Craig at MGM and Katia our master distiller.  We really trust their palettes on these things so we tasted along the way every month and when we hit the right amount of cognac barrel influence, it was ready!

Curiada: What does the name Copan mean? 

Pete: Our new special aged series is named after works by the famous architect Oscar Niemeyer who inspired our packaging as well.  
Edifício Copan, known in English as Copan Building, is one of the most important and memorable buildings in São Paulo. Located at Avenida Ipiranga number 200, it was open to the public in 1966, and it’s one of the symbols of the modern Brazilian architecture

The project was first started by Oscar Niemeyer back in 1951, as a way of celebrating 400 years of São Paulo. But the plan was only launched a couple of years later, in 1957. By the time construction was over, only the outside area had followed the design guidelines of Oscar Niemeyer. Everything else was designed by Carlos Lemos who later took over the project.

Curiada: Only 600 bottles of this exist, there won't be any more. What should enthusiasts and cachaça newcomers expect of the taste?  

Pete: It is probably the most elegant cachaça we've ever made - there are unique elements of the Tapinhoā aging here with the toasted coconut and pine notes that is then rounded out by the layer of french oak and cognac influence.  A beautiful sipper for a lover of aged spirits.  

Curiada: When you’re not enjoying  cachaça what's your go-to spirit? 

Pete: I love to sip on some amaro at the end of a night - complex and relaxing!

Bottles of Avuá Copan Limited Edition Cachaça may be reserved now on Curiada.com


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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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