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Exploring the spirit world

There have been a lot of new spirits and trends floating around the market, partly due to the cocktail renaissance, which has bartenders and consumers alike looking for the next new thing; and partly because new doors have opened in global commerce. For example, Harvey Wallbanger is back; or rather the key ingredient—Galliano L’Autentico. The Italian herbal liqueur, based on the original 1896 formula that includes juniper, anise and yarrow, was recently launched here by Lucas Bols USA. It’s the latest creative arrow in the quiver of bartenders searching for new, assertive mixers. galliano collins

Many of the classics have been getting modern twists, including the venerable Gin & Tonic. Taking that one step further is the newly opened Bar Basque in New York, which features a whole section of G&T’s. There are six variations mixed with different gins—from Beefeater, Bombay and DH Krahn to Floraison, Junipero and No. 209—with different tonic waters and spiked with ingredient combos such as rosemary & chile and cantaloupe & grapefruit ($12 to $13).

The Tiki bar trend and rise of “Ronerias,” establishments solely dedicated to rum, reflect that category’s new respectability. Rum is experiencing a transition, akin to tequila’s evolution, from ubiquitous mixer to sophisticated sipper. Each producing island and country has a unique style. Many rums are made from molasses, for example, but Ron Botran from Guatemala is made from “sugarcane honey.” Botran rums are also aged in a solera barrel system, similar to that used to make Sherry.

New to the U.S. market is Botran Solera 1893, a blend of five- to 18-year-old rums; and Botran Reserva, blended from rums aged five to 14 years. Another unusual rum just launched here is Banks 5-Island Rum, which as the name indicates, is a blend of more than 20 rums from five countries—Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados and Java in Indonesia. 

Single-malt aficionados may be surprised to learn that not all “Scotch” hails from Scotland. The Japanese, perhaps the biggest and most fervent fans of the peaty whisky, have been distilling their own version since the early 20th century, producing both blended and single-malt varieties. Most follow the Scottish model, using pot stills and barrel aging. Leading producers include Suntory and Nikka. Lately, Japanese whiskies have been garnering accolades and admirers in the West–as have, surprisingly, whiskies from India. Malt whiskies from Indian producer Amrut are made from malted barley grown in the Himalayas; some expressions are even peated, just like Scotch.

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