Exotics 101

Exotics 101 at Proof66.com

What are Exotics?

At Proof66, we place a number of liquor categories that are specific to region or reputation in the "exotics" category. This is not to mean that they use weird techniques (although some do) or weird flavors (though some do) but rather that they are specialized cases of specific kinds of liquor.

What is absinthe?

Absinthe, like gin - and despite its notoriety - is little more than a flavored vodka. It's dominant characteristic is anise (black licorice) and grand wormwood (at one time erroneously thought to cause hallucinations and poisonings). It is the only spirit ever banned specifically by name but that ban has recently been lifted. There are many learned histories of this spirit that demonstrate both the science and the false science behind absinthe. Today, it is enjoying a surge in popularity. It comes in at a very high proof and is almost always diluted with icy cold water (creating the cloudy loush) and often sweetened with sugar. It can be made anywhere but is most well-known in France and Switzerland though many American craft-distillers have taken up the production.

What is aquavit?

Aquavit, like gin, is little more than a specifically flavored vodka. Where gin is defined as juniper being the dominant characteristic, with aquavit it is caraway. (This is a relatively recent development that adds some welcome strictures to what is and is not aquavit.) It is most commonly associated with Scandinavia and Denmark, for whom the drink is native and popular but it can be made anywhere. It is most often drunk straight from the freezer but can add interesting dimensions to cocktails that normally call for gin or vodka.

What is cachaca?

Cachaca is known as Brazilian rum. It must be made in Brazil and it must be made not from molasses (as is the case with many rums) but from the unrefined juice of pressed sugar cane. Historically, it is considered a peasant drink but lately has enjoyed a surge in popularity acquiring many accolades for sophistication and drinkability. It can be bottled straight and clear or aged in different wood barrels, where it will acquire color and added complexity. It is known most popularly for the Brazilian drink caipirinha, which is a mixture of muddled lime, sugar, and cachaca. Occasionally, other fruits are added as well. While many people will make a caipirinha with rum or even vodka, never admit that fact to a Brazilian.

What is mezcal?

While tequila is the most popular type of mezcal around - often making people believe there is no other agave-based spirit - spirits using other types of agave are beginning to achieve popularity. They will often employ a traditional smoking to the agave ovens which give it a scotch, peat like smokiness (though without the peat). Even more enchanting, various critters can sometimes be found in the bottom of the bottles. Mezcal, to be mezcal, must be made in Mexico. Tequila is merely the most popular type of mezcal. People drink mezcal in the same fashion that they do tequila: abusing it by shooting out of glasses or off of belly buttons, mixed in cocktails, or sipped on ice.

What is shochu?

We are hardly an authority on Shochu and would welcome better information. Shochu is a Japanese spirit based upon grain alcohol - often rice - and enjoyed and adored by sushi restauranteers worldwide. It is as variant as it is complex both in price and quality. We have begun noting more and more shochu entrees in competitions we follow and we have found a place for it here.

What is in your 'other' category?

Of course, if it grows and makes sugar and makes a claim to tradition, it can be its own style of spirit. If we find it, we try to give it a listing and this is the home for those items that we don't yet have full categories for (or defy categorization at all).

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