Gin and Other Flavored Spirits

Other Flavored Spirits

  • Absinthe, pastis, aquavit and schnapps are all distilled neutral spirits that have been infused using botanicals, spices and other flavoring agents.

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  • Anise-flavored spirits are a very popular and very old category. Raki, which originated in Turkey and Lebanon, is thought to be the oldest version. Raki is produced from a brandy distilled from sultana raisins that is then re-distilled with anise.

    The most famous anise-based spirit is probably absinthe, which originated in the Swiss Alps in the 18th century. Absinthe was invented by Madame Henriod, who used a wide assortment of botanicals, including star anise, fennel, wormwood, hyssop, Melissa, parsley, chamomile, coriander, veronica and spinach. Absinthe quickly grew in popularity and was produced in substantial quantities by Pernod at the turn of the 19th century. By the middle of the 19th century, it had become enormously popular, but it was often not of good quality.

    This “epidemic” of absinthe consumption, like the English gin craze a century before, incited a backlash, and the spirit was outlawed in France in 1915, supposedly because of the poisonous nature of wormwood. Wormwood contains a compound known as thujone, which was thought to be a hallucinogenic. It’s now believed that problems with absinthe related to its high alcoholic strength, not to any properties of thujone.

    The category never died and today it includes many other types of spirits from around the world like ouzo from Greece, French pastis, Basque parcharan, Italian Sambuca, and others. Absinthe itself has also made a comeback, at least in Europe, where it is once again legal.

    Raki should not be confused with Araq, which is a generic Arabic word for liquor, and thus indicates a large number of products. Some of these are equivalent to raki, but it is not always the same product. South and Southeast Asian arrack is distilled from palm tree sap or cane and rice and is unsweetened. Middle Eastern versions like raki are made from dates, figs and raisins, and are flavored with anise or caraway and usually sweetened.

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  • Akvavit called schnapps in German-speaking countries is based on neutral spirits distilled from potatoes or grapes and flavored with caraway. The base spirit can also be flavored with a variety of other spices, such as cumin, dill, fennel, coriander, orange peel or grains of paradise. These elements are either macerated in the spirit or infused by redistilling the spirit with the spices. Akvavit is usually drunk very cold from small glasses, alongside salted fish.

    Linie or Linie Aquavit is both a brand and a general type of spirit that has crossed the equator by ship. The brand that bears the name ages its aquavit in ex-sherry casks and ships their distillate across the equator twice.

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  • The most common flavoring agents in schnapps are caraway or aniseed, though there are dozens of different varieties. Schnapps is referred to in Scandinavia as Akavit or Akvavit. Other flavored spirits include the many types of aniseed-flavored spirits such as anis (France), ouzo (Greece), raki (Turkey) and others. Another similar spirit is pastis, which is flavored with licorice and other herbs and is greatly beloved in southern France.

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  • A liqueur is a spirit that has been sweetened and usually flavored. The word cordial is often used as a synonym, but usually refers to beverages made with fruit pulp or juice. Chartreuse and Jägermeister are early examples of liqueurs that originated as herbal medicines.

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