Cocktails get creative with new flavours

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I’m buying into the weatherpeople’s projection of much more summer ahead, hence this lineup of newly arrived clear spirits—to sip as they pour out of the bottle, or mixed into a cocktail or five.

Absolut, the Swedish vodka people, have added yet another flavoured version to their lengthy line. This one is called Gräpevine (with an umlaut!), and it’s a blend of white grape, dragon fruit, and papaya coddled into a distinctively flavoured vodka that’s best for cocktails—too strong, I think, for solo sipping or shots. I haven’t seen it at my nearby LDB store yet, but the prices of the others are in the vicinity of $25, so I imagine this newcomer will follow suit. Pretty bottle.

It’s heady and musty (as in grape must), isn’t sweet, and carries the typical Absolut bite. While it’s nice to have new flavours available, I do wish they’d bring back the spicy Peppar, which made the best bloody caesars.

The producers offer a cocktail recipe for it. The Absolut Wednesday Cocktail goes like this:

3 lime wedges
3 kiwi slices
1 oz Absolut Gräpevine
1 tsp fine white sugar
(or 1/2 oz simple syrup)
Soda water

Muddle lime and kiwi slices in a rocks glass, pour in Absolut Gräpevine, add sugar or syrup; stir well. Add ice, top with soda, and stir. Garnish with a slice of cucumber.

For those of you keeping score, Absolut also produces Wild Tea, Berri Açaí, Mango, Pears, Ruby Red, Apeach, Raspberri, Vanilia, Mandrin, Kurant, Citron, Orient Apple, and plain vodkas (not all of which are available in B.C.), plus the aforementioned, lamented-by-me Peppar.

Distilleria Bottega Sambuca d’Anice Stellato
($29.99 per 700-millilitre bottle)
Sambuca isn’t traditionally a warm-weather sipper, but this class-act, fiery, end-of-the-meal sambuca is a heady, sweet treat with a nice floral edge. For all that gentle fire, it’s mellow and rich, especially when you add the mosca (coffee bean) to the shot glass. Another very pretty bottle; worth the outlay, ’cause it’s delish.

Bodega Capel Pisco Reserve
($27.99)
Pisco is the spirit of Chile and Peru. Peru claims the exclusive right to the name, but major markets, including Canada, allow the Chilean producers to use it too. This is a double-distilled grape alcohol from the Elqui Valley in Chile; it copped 93 points from the Wine Enthusiast. It’s produced from 30 percent Muscat and 70 percent Pedro Jimenez and Torrontes grapes, and is aged in American wood. On its own it tastes yeasty and a little oily, but it makes a nice, summery mixed drink that packs a wallop. If you sip it solo, the producers point to fruitiness with a touch of smoke, and some herbaceous and vanilla notes on the smooth finish.

The quintessential cocktail (in fact, the only cocktail I know of that’s made with the spirit) is the Pisco Sour. Here’s one way:

8 parts Pisco
4 parts lime juice
3 parts simple syrup
1 egg white
1 dash bitters

Shake hard or blend all ingredients except bitters in a mixer with ice, then strain into a glass. Shake bitters on top of the foam of the finished drink.

Ed Phillips & Sons Prairie Organic Vodka
($35.99)
One of the many American vodkas produced from corn, this is the one for vodka drinkers who want it clean and neutral. This one whistles—no aftertaste, no palate intrusions of any kind, just the real, clear deal. While flavoured vodkas have their own particular use (and charm), at the end of the day, I like mine as clear as possible, and this one surely fits the bill. The price puts it in the middle of the lineup, while the taste (or deliberate lack of it!) puts it near the top of the pile. And if you’re given to clear, clean cocktails—like the ubiquitous vodka martini, or the Gibson or the gimlet—this is your main ingredient.

Okanagan Spirits Gin
($39.95 at Okanagan Spirits locations in Kelowna and Vernon, or direct from the Okanagan Spirits website)
The bottle has some sticky stuff around the closure that’s a pain to get off, and an artificial cork that has a tendency to break, so you may need a corkscrew to get it out, but it’s superclean—no sugar or artificial flavours added. This is a delicious sipping gin that takes its place comfortably beside assertive brands like Hendrick’s; it has a gentle botanical bite and loves a classic G & T. Or, if it’s been a while for your palate, try the classic summertime gin cocktail, the Tom Collins, which dates back to the years before 1900.

1.5 parts gin
0.75 part fresh lemon juice
Simple syrup to suit

Shake all ingredients well in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Pour into a highball glass with fresh ice and top with soda. Garnish with slices of lemon and orange and serve. Or have your favourite bartender make you a cocktail the colour of antifreeze with a weird name. Best is iced and shot, crisp and clean.

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hammer
The sambuca bottle looks like a shampoo bottle.
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Rating: -3
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