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15 must-try spirits, liqueurs and canned cocktails (as seen at Bar Convent Brooklyn 2021)
// By Jared Ranahan
Photo courtesy of Shedrick Pelt
Launched in 2018 as a stateside sibling of the iconic Bar Convent Berlin, Bar Convent Brooklyn's fourth birthday was a roaring success this year, drawing over 130 exhibitors to Greenpoint. From fiery rums to refreshing canned cocktails, the following spirits, liqueurs and ready-to-drinks (RTDs) showcase some of the finest selections up for grabs at this year's conference – also available for you to enjoy at home.
Photo courtesy of Novo Fogo
For any newfound rum aficionados out there, Novo Fogo is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the wider world of sugarcane distillate. While conventional rums are crafted from molasses, Novo Fogo and its fellow cachaças – a category of liquor that can only be made in Brazil – are made of pressed sugarcane, a variation that imparts the liquid with a floral and funky flavor.
Novo Fogo can be enjoyed on ice or served in a caipirinha – the national cocktail of Brazil – and the brand has also recently dipped its toes into the budding RTD industry, rolling out a refreshing cachaça-laden twist on the old fashioned.
Food Culture: A journey to the jungle capital of cachaça – Brazil's national spirit
Photo courtesy of Yellow Rose Distilling
Yellow Rose Whiskey
After roughly 200 years of existence, the fourth-largest city in the United States finally welcomed its first legal whiskey distillery in the form of Yellow Rose. Since its grand debut in 2012, the company has earned both local and nationwide acclaim for its Outlaw Bourbon, a spicy spirit that’s produced and aged in the heart of Houston.
A wholly Texan enterprise, all of the grain used in production is sourced right from the Lone Star State, marking the very beginning of a process that takes place right in the state from farm to bottle.
Photo courtesy of Coconut Cartel
Coconut Cartel Rum
In search of a rich and complex rum with an ultra-refreshing edge? Look no further than Coconut Cartel, a Miami-based operation with a notable Central American flair. First dreamed up in 2013 by sibling team Dani and Mike Zig, the company’s flagship Coconut Cartel Special begins life as 12-year Guatemalan rum, which is then proofed down with fresh coconut water, imparting a natural flavor and smoothness that’s tough to accomplish otherwise.
Whether it’s enjoyed on ice or as part of a Cuba libre, Coconut Cartel serves as the perfect antidote to a hot summer’s day.
Photo courtesy of Destilería y Bodega Abasolo
Nixta Licor de Elote
Crafted roughly 90 minutes northwest of Mexico City in the town of Jilotepec, the velvety Nixta celebrates a technique that’s been integral to Mesoamerican society for thousands of years – nixtamalization, to be precise.
During the process, fresh cacahuazintle corn is combined with quicklime and set aside for 12 hours, after which the tender grain is milled, turned to wort, fermented and ultimately distilled. The result? A smooth and sweet liqueur that’s perfect for adding some maize notes to your favorite cocktail.
Photo courtesy of Diplomático Rum
Fresh Andean spring water and locally-grown sugarcane come together to create Diplomático, a rum that’s taken the world by storm since its debut in the late 1950s. First-time imbibers should be sure to spring for a bottle from the Tradition Range, a line that includes classic selections like the Reserva Exclusiva – a blended distillate that works particularly well in a rum old fashioned – or the Planas, a white rum that’s perfect for mixing.
For seasoned rum aficionados, the Single Vintage serves as one of the company’s most esteemed products, aged for 12 years in whiskey and bourbon casks before being finished in Oloroso sherry barrels.
Photo courtesy of Siponey
Amidst the contemporary ready-to-drink cocktail boom that’s swept the nation since 2020, Siponey offers the perfect product for the conservation-driven consumer. Each individual ingredient is chosen with the planet in mind, with wildflower honey, fresh lemons and rye whiskey all sourced from within New York State to keep the company’s carbon footprint at its lowest.
In addition to keeping the planet healthy, Siponey is also a major proponent for saving the bees, with proceeds from their clothing sales going to apiaries across the state.
Photo courtesy of Scapegrace Distillery
Scapegrace Black Gin
Saffron and pineapple are plentiful on the palate with Scapegrace, but this bold and jet-black gin is best known for one quality in particular – namely, its chameleon-like penchant for changing color upon mixing. Once it makes contact with citrus or tonic water, the inky spirit takes on a lavender hue, resulting in a final product that’s certain to wow any first-time imbibers.
While the spirit may be most impressive in a simple G&T, it’s also perfectly palatable all on its own.
Photo courtesy of Social Hour Cocktails
Social Hour Cocktails
While bartenders have historically practiced their trade in taverns, speakeasies and other walled establishments, their expertise also translates quite well within the world of RTDs – a quality best expressed by Brooklyn-based company Social Hour.
Founded by master mixologists Julie Reiner and Tom Macy, Social Hour’s canned creations range from the classic gin & tonic to the Prizefighter, a Collins infused with peach and fernet. With six distinct flavors up for grabs, Social Hour is the ultimate crowd pleaser for backyard barbecues across the nation.
Photo courtesy of Maison Ferrand
A veritable triple-threat within the spirits industry, the Alexander Gabriel-led Maison Ferrand has earned widespread acclaim for its cognac, gin and Plantation Rum, with a wealth of different sugarcane distillates up for grabs. Rums span all walks of life at Plantation – the Isle of Fiji expression offers fruit notes reminiscent of the terroir of Melanesia, while the Xaymaca Special Dry is a particularly fiery selection that serves as an ode to 19th-century Jamaican rum production.
For the budding mixologist, be sure to pick up a bottle of 3 Stars white rum to experiment with.
Photo courtesy of Galdones Photography
What do the Tom Collins, Aviation and French 75 all have in common? All three of these acclaimed cocktails feature a healthy dose of gin, and when it comes to mixology, Fords is second to none. The spirit was engineered to perform particularly well in cocktails, created at the behest of spirits expert Simon Ford and Master Distiller Charles Maxwell of Thames Distilling fame.
This ultra-aromatic concoction works particularly well in a martini or sling, but if you’re looking for a more powerful punch, spring for a bottle of Officers’ Reserve, an over-proof expression that’s rested in Oloroso sherry barrels before bottling.
Photo courtesy of Tanteo Tequila
There are a lot of tequilas to rifle through during a trip to the local liquor store, but when it comes to sustainability and ethical business practices, few agave distillates can compare to Tanteo. At the Jalisco-based distillery, the bulk of their energy is produced using solar panels, and zero-waste production is a top priority during day-to-day operations.
Of course, a distillery is only as good as its spirit, and fortunately, Tanteo Tequila is top-notch, with a wealth of super-spicy spirits up for grabs.
Photo courtesy of Antique Pelinkovac
Though not quite as pervasive in the United States as Scotch whisky or Italian amaro, pelinkovac is a particularly intriguing liqueur that’s certainly worth sampling. While this wormwood-heavy concoction is enjoyed all throughout the Balkans, Antique offers a distinctly Croatian spin on the spirit, first created back in 1862 by Franjo Pokorny to aid in digestion.
Antique performs beautifully in a cocktail, but for best results, enjoy the spirit with nothing more than an ice cube and a slice of orange.
Photo courtesy of Round Turn Distilling
The Pine Tree State is best known for its stunning natural beauty and incredible lobster rolls, but Maine also has a pretty spectacular spirits scene, with Bimini Gin serving as one of its most promising selections. Parent company Round Turn Distilling forgoes traditional gin recipes for a more modern product, using natural botanicals like grapefruit and hops and employing state-of-the-art distillation methods to process the juniper, resulting in a final distillate that’s light, floral and lacking in any harsh pine notes.
In addition to their flagship gin, Bimini also offers overproof, barrel-aged and coconut oil fat washed variants.
Photo courtesy of Sentir Mezcal
While mezcal and its rich smoky flavor have taken the United States by storm over recent years, there are a lot more agave varieties to sample than simply Espadín. For a deep dive into the world of agave, Sentir offers a treasure trove of different expressions to explore, ranging from the abundantly earthy Tepeztate to the aromatic Tobalá.
Sentir’s Classic Edition is comprised of five distinct varieties of unaged spirit, while fans of añejo and reposado can spring for a bottle from the Old and Reposed collection.
Photo courtesy of Italicus
Calabrian bergamot, Sicilians citrons and a wealth of Mediterranean botanicals come together to form Italicus, a sweet aperitivo that’s just as fragrant as it is refreshing. The spirit belongs to the rosolio family, serving as a contemporary iteration of a historic liqueur that’s been produced across Italy since the 15th century.
While citrus fruit is the most important ingredient to crafting a true rosolio, the spirit also undergoes a lengthy maceration process that involves lavender, chamomile and other sweet-smelling ingredients for maximum palatability.