Why you should care
Because aren’t we all tired of hearing about craft beer?
Oh, drinking. If there’s anything that can bring people together in joy, celebration and sorrow, it’s the mighty spirit. And over the years we have clinked our glasses with all manner of wines, spirits and craft beers.
But listen up, boozehounds: Around the world, distillers have been crafting new beverages with everything from sweet potatoes to rooftop-farmed honey, Amazonian wheat and American pickles. And they’ve been creating imbibing experiences that range from somersaulting your eyes back into your head to drinking Christmas in a glass. Some old spirits (gin, anyone?) are being ressurrected in curious locations or finding their way from eastern Europe into your fancy bar cocktails.
From Latvia to Ireland, Bolivia to England, Australia to the U.S., here are some of the surprising spirits tickling our taste buds.
Ireland remains a country of staunch porter and whiskey drinkers, but a very traditional tipple is back in fashion. And this isn’t your grandmother’s gin. The juniper berry–infused spirit is now being hand-crafted throughout the Emerald Isle and is seeing huge demand in both rural pubs and Dublin’s finest cocktail bars. Why gin, and why now? It comes down to the law.
Here’s the Bolivian drinking story you haven’t heard: A young crop of distillers is using unusual ingredients (e.g., Amazonian tree bark) to make spirits for locally obsessed drinkers. For starters, 1825 Vodka is made from nearby glaciers and Amazonian wheat, and Killa Andean Moonshine has proudly created the country’s first whiskey. So what’s the secret to great Bolivian booze? The altitude.
Toffee Apple and Pink Marshmallow are just two of the sickly sweet moonshines now being bottled in the U.K. by the the Sweet Potato Spirit Company. The base? You guessed it: sweet potatoes. And we’ll tell you a secret: The sweetness of the spirits has nothing to do with the sweet potatoes. All that candied yam, marshmallow, toffee apple and spicy chocolate flavor is added to the small-batch spirits distilled in copper stills. The question is: Just how much of a sweet tooth do you have?
There’s nothing quite like biting into a cold, crisp dill pickle fresh out of the jar. And there’s also nothing like supping a sour, dill-infused liquor. Yes, pickle-flavored vodka such as Chilled Dills. It may sound terrible, but it’s actually refreshingly delicious and convenient — saving you from keeping jars of pickle juice in your fridge for DIY pickleback. Starting with a Bloody Mary, the cocktail opportunities are endless. Pickletini, anyone?
Just holding the strange bottle of Riga Black Balsam — it looks like a ceramic wizard’s flacon — you know that this isn’t just any spirit. Because it isn’t. This dark, dense liqueur is intensely bitter and complex. While East Europeans have long known about the explosive herbal Latvian liqueur first crafted in 1752, it’s now making a push for the U.S. market. Your fancy cocktail is about to get a shake-up. Chances are it’s a taste you’ll never forget — for better or worse.
Listen up, craft beer snobs in the southwest: Craft mead is what’s really buzzing up the neighborhood. And it’s not just any honey wine — we’re talking Pirates Blood, a hot chili–infused mead that’s smoky, fiery and sweet and a hoppy, sparkling mead that pays homage to both beer and champagne. Wild Blossom Meadery is striving to be super-local, starting with honey from nearby locales, including a hive on the roof of the Marriott.
Have a special event — like a birthday or anniversary — to celebrate? A one-of-a-kind experience in South Australia lets you commemorate it with booze. And that can mean very old booze, like a 110-year-old deep red and viscous port sampled by our writer (she says it tastes like fruitcake and butterscotch). The biggest library of fortified wines in the world, Seppeltsfield has faithfully created a new fortified wine each year since 1878.
More Surprising Spirits
- Booze and Vermin, Together at Last: Laos locals say it could help you in the sack or with your aching back.
- This Chilean Drink Will Knock You Off Your Feet: You’ll need your earthquake legs after a few of these superstrong drinks.
- The Fiery Jungle Drink Brazilians Can’t Get Enough Of: Made from a neon-green-and-pink spiky flowering herb, this liquor numbs the drinker’s mouth.
- The Potent Prague Wine That Keeps Fermenting in Your Stomach: The fun part is that you’ll never know how drunk you’ll get on this boozy juice.
- The Surreal Colombian Aphrodisiac Experience: This bizarre Colombian drink can turn you on, make you hard and even get you pregnant.