Though many distilleries both large and small have been producing an array of innovative spirits, there are a handful that have truly pushed the envelope. These brands are experimenting with exotic ingredients and unusual combinations, which has led to the creation of whole new categories of liquor. Here are a few unique bottlings to look for.
New York’s Comb Spirits makes a range of traditional products from orange-blossom honey, but it’s this elixir (pictured above) that’s really out there. It’s distilled just once and retains a lot of honey flavor with none of its sweetness. It works well in place of white rum, cachaça or blanco tequila, but distiller Ed Tiedge loves it in a Whiskey Sour.
While cooking up a “Texas knockoff of bananas Foster,” Balcones Distillery founder Chip Tate decided that the dessert’s ingredients—figs, honey and turbinado sugar—would be great distilled and barrel-aged. The result, which Tate likes to drink neat, has fruity and slightly smoky notes.
As any candy aficionado can tell you, the base of chocolate is seeds from the cacao plant, but normally the surrounding fruit is discarded. This floral creation is made by distilling and fermenting that former byproduct and is set to be released in November. It contains caffeine and theobromine, the same chemicals that give chocolate its mood-enhancing boost, and makes a tasty Margarita or Mojito.
Sorgrhum White ($29) and Dark ($40):
People have been turning sorghum sap into a molasses-like syrup for centuries. Stuart Hobson of Heartland Distillers and homebrewer Matt Colglazier recently decided to make a spirit using sorghum syrup from Indiana Amish farms. Though the production process resembles that of rum, the alcohol tastes more similar to tequila or mezcal. It is currently available only in Indiana, but it should have expanded distribution soon. Try it in tropical classics the Piña Colada and Daiquiri.
Spodee ($9 for 500 mL):
During the Depression, folks, according to legend, would mix wine with herbs, spices and a bit of moonshine. The concoction, called spodee, is now being bottled commercially. But the modern version has an added feature: chocolate. It makes an intriguing Manhattan (use Spodee instead of vermouth) or can be enjoyed with cola, orange juice or tonic water.