Spirit Review and Cocktail: Spirits of French Lick Aquavit and the Bullshot
Lots of regional spirits have tried to break through internationally over the last decade,
with varying degrees of success. In order to be successful, you need a good story, a bunch of recipes ready to go at launch, or some enthusiastic bartenders who are willing to create their own recipes for you. As much fun as a Caipirinha is, no one has managed to make cachaça a thing beyond that singular cocktail.
Half a world away, the Scandinavian spirit aquavit (translation: water of life) also keeps trying to have its breakout moment. Aquavit is a simple grain or potato-based spirit with the addition of botanicals such as caraway, coriander, dill, cumin, black pepper, citrus, or fennel. It does have some advantages over cachaça; a bolder spicier taste profile, the ability (or the need, depending on your palate) of doing a shot of it to wash down Scandinavian fare like pickled herring or strong cheeses, and being a cold weather warmer. Couple that with the large number of Scandinavian descendants across the Midwest, and it has a chance at market share. Aquavit still struggles to find a good cocktail pairing, but it at least has the opportunity to be swapped in for a botanical gin or vodka for enterprising bartenders.
Aquavit will always be a niche spirit, but is it appearing in the lineup of a few American craft distilleries. We recently had the chance to taste the aquavit from Spirits of French Lick, a Southern Indiana winery/distiller. We don’t how well it will sell in the heartland, but it is a worthy endeavor and we hope to see it succeed.
The label promised ten different botanicals, and the mix is certainly dominated by caraway. The taste reminds one, unsurprisingly, of rye bread, with additional notes of walnut and lemon zest. I struggled to find the promised coriander beyond everything else, but that is nitpicking. The caraway lingers for a long time, and since I tasted this for the first time after a hearty lunch, I can attest to its palate cleansing properties. It packs a punch at 46% ABV.
If you are of a mind to do shots of aquavit, you won’t be disappointed by this one. If you are looking for perhaps a more practical and nuanced use of this bottle, just think of cocktails where spicy notes are welcome. A Bloody Mary, the Bullshot (a cocktail that deserves a revival and whose recipe is below) or any other cocktail where a vegetable makes an appearance. We would welcome this in a Gimlet or simply with tonic.
Spirit: Spirits of French Lick Aquavit
From: French Lick, Indiana
Rating: 91 pts
Recipe: Bullshot Cocktail
1 ½ ounce vodka or aquavit
3 ounces good quality beef bouillon
Dash of lemon juice
2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Tabasco
Black pepper, fresh ground
Celery Salt (optional)
Put all ingredients except pepper in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass filled with ice, top with fresh ground pepper and garnish with a lemon wedge.