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Posted at 03:36 PM ET, 07/28/2012

Amari, Chilean Pisco and a new Mai Tai recipe

Editor’s note: Our Spirits columnist is in New Orleans, reporting daily (or whatever one calls drinking and writing in Crescent City) from this year’s Tales of the Cocktail conference.

Hard days of tasting here, from Bernheim wheat whiskey to the new Lillet Rosé to Vya's new Whisper Dry vermouth. But I do it all for you, dear readers. 

Perhaps the most interesting and exciting was the blind tasting of  amari , from Italy and Germany, in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton overlooking the French Quarter. The tasting was a mix of well known spirits such as Averna, Fernet Branca, and Montenegro, with lesser known amari such as Varnelli Amaro Sibilla.

The nicest surprise, however, was finding Braulio Amaro Alpino (which I've previously enjoyed only in Italy) in the mix.

Braulio is light and fresh and floral for an amaro, made from Alpine botanicals found around the mountain town of Bormio. I was told by the brand ambassadors from Domaine Select that Braulio will be available in the United States “very shortly,” so definitely look for it. The amaro geek in me also has to mention that I got to taste a special 2008 reserve Braulio that was magical.

Pisco continued to pleasantly surprise me at a number of tastings this week. First, a group of Peruvian piscos hosted a Pisco Pavillion, where I enjoyed Macchu Pisco's La Diablada acholado (produced and imported by Bethesda resident  Melanie Asher ) and Campo de Encanto’s new single-grape moscatel bottling.

Even more surprising was a small tasting of piscos from Chile. In the past, I've been a bit disparaging toward Chilean pisco, as I think some of the bigger Chilean brands are not up to the quality of their Peruvian rivals. But after trying some artisan brands Friday afternoon, I can see my opinion quickly changing.

I particularly loved Pisco Waqar and Kappa pisco , the latter made by Marnier Lapostolle family, which makes Grand Marnier as well as wines in both Chile and the Loire Valley. Good-quality Chilean pisco makes sense: Chile is such an up-and-coming wine region, so brandy production should be a no-brainer.

The best cocktail I had yesterday was a Mai Tai, made by Rocky Yeh , in the Pierre Ferrand tasting room. I've been singing the praises of Ferrand’s dry curacao lately, and have always been a fan of the cognacs. But after spending time with their rums, I can't wait to try Rocky’s Mai Tai recipe at home.

If you don't have the specific rums listed below, experiment with layering rums of different ages, along with darker or overproof rums to create effect. You can use Grand Marnier in place of curacao.

Orgeat syrup is available commercially from several producers, or you can make it yourself from a recipe I ran a few years ago.

Crushed ice

1 ounce Plantation Grand Reserve 5 year old rum

1/2 ounce Plantation Guadeloupe Vintage 1998 rum

1/2 ounce Plantation Original Dark Overproof rum

1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao (may substitute Grand Marnier

1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 ounce simple syrup (see NOTE)

1/4 ounce  orgeat syrup

Lime wheel, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Add the rums, curacao, lime juice, simple syrup and orgeat syrup; shake well. Pour everything (including the ice) into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with the lime wheel.

NOTE: To make simple syrup, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a slow rolling boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof container and let cool to room temperature.

Further reading

The ‘Love Boat’ bartender, new Spanish brandy and Mauritian rum: How much better can it get?

Tales of the Cocktail: A glazed beginning

By Jason Wilson  |  03:36 PM ET, 07/28/2012

Categories:  Spirits, Spirits | Tags:  Jason Wilson, Spirits

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