No one would blame you if you’d never heard of the Patagonian spirit Träkál, which has, until recently, only been available in select states since its stateside launch in fall 2017. But what exactly is Träkál? The brainchild of spirits expert Sebastian Gomez, it’s a pear-and-crabapple liquor infused with locally grown herbs and berries.
“I thought, Why isn’t someone making a spirit for Patagonia? It was an idea I couldn’t shake” says Gomez. “I decided I wanted to make the best spirit I could with local ingredients, which means I had to invent and discover a lot.”
After years of trial and error, Gomez created Träkál, which tastes like a mixture of gin and brandy. The idea behind the flavor, says Gomez, was to make a spirit that evoked the Andean Forest that surrounds the distillery. It’s slightly sweet and very herbaceous, with notes of cooling fennel and ripe red berries. There’s also something about it that’s hard to pinpoint, probably because all seven of the botanicals used in Träkál prove native to Patagonia and don’t have a mirror product in the States. In the end, the liquor proved unique enough that the FDA gave it its own category and dubbed it a “spirit distilled from apples and pears.”
“I love how diverse it is,” says bar maven Alexis Osborne, at Smōk in Denver, who was one of the first to use Träkál in cocktails. “You can do so many unique things with it, but it’s still recognizable and works for any season.”
Osborne has mixed it with fig puree, berries, herbs and spices. She says you can play up all of the aspects of Träkál and create endless pairing options. She even offers a Träkál beer slushie called the Medieval Mastermind, which is made with New Belgium dry-hopped kettle sour ale, lemon, guava and Contratto bianco vermouth. She also makes the Kal It Magic, a buoyant Träkál cocktail laced with bright-purple butterfly-pea-flower tea.
“Träkál is a bartender’s [ultimate] dream,” says Joshua Sevy, the owner and bartender at Denver’s Tatarian. “It sits in a flavor profile that’s easy and fun. It plays well in Tiki cocktails, as well as a stirred booze-forward cocktail.”
The vision for Träkál came about when Gomez worked for Diageo. He decided that if Mexico could have tequila and Peru could have pisco, why couldn’t Patagonia have its own spirit? So, the native Argentinian sold everything he owned, moved to Patagonia and started experimenting with making his own still. He sourced all produce and labor from locals and created a product that tasted good as well as supported the people and place. The idea, he says, was to bring the distillery to the ingredients, instead of the other way around.
“I wanted something real that I could put my name to and realized I wanted to make booze,” says Gomez, who had been working in the business and financial realm for a long time. “But it’s not about me, it’s about the place. All I do is put it in a bottle.”
Gomez sources crabapples and pears, which grow wild in Patagonia. The botanicals are picked by the natives and include leaves from certain trees, minty herbs and berries. With those he creates an essential oil—an idea his mother had as a way to achieve consistent flavor all season long. It took about three years of experimenting before he perfected his product.
When Gomez was ready to take Träkál out of Chile and to the United States, he enlisted his friend and business partner, Ben Long, to help him. They decided on Denver, a city that mimicked the environmentally friendly, outdoor lifestyle of Patagonia, enough that Long dubbed Colorado the Patagonia of the North. So he moved to the Mile High City and started bringing Träkál to various local bars.
“Träkál is like nothing out there. I’m grateful to have been able to be one of the early adopters of the brand,” says Sevy. “Träkál will always sit on my shelf and be an ace in the hole for us.”
As of early 2021, Träkál is widely available across the U.S. and Canada (as well as Chile, of course), and has plans to expand its reach within Europe. If the spirit remains as popular in new markets as it is in Colorado and Chile, Gomez can expect it to become a staple export of Patagonia.
This deep, earthy and herbaceous cocktail works at exemplifying the forest Träkál is made in. “It has a delicate, floral sweetness that’s balanced by a bright bitter spark,” says creator Daryl Pryor of the clandestine cocktail den B&GC of Sage Restaurant Group in Denver.
Kal It Magic
Träkál is the star of this cocktail created by Osborne, though on first sip you might think your having a tipple made with gin. The slight heat plays well with the herbaceous liquor, and overall this bright cocktail proves light, floral and easy to drink.
The Notro is a type of red-flowering tree in Patagonia (also called the fire bush), which fits into The Tatarian’s tree theme. This drink created by Sevy, however, doesn’t taste woody at all. Instead, it’s bright, fresh, herbal and fruity all at the same time, like an elevated Cosmopolitan that no one would hesitate to order in public. It also offers a pleasing pink hue, making it a must for colorful cocktail parties.