Food & Drink

10 underrated/overlooked boozes your bartender wants you to order

Published On 03/23/2014 Published On 03/23/2014

If you walk into a cocktail bar and ask for a Moscow Mule, your bartender does not respect you then it's time to order a new concoction. So, in an effort to suss out what should be in said concoction, we asked 10 industry experts what underrated or overlooked boozes you should be sampling. Here's what they said:
 

Rachel Freeman

Kirk Estopinal, co-owner, Bellocq (New Orleans, LA)
Underrated booze: Isastegi cider
Why: "Natural cider... is delicious and diverse." Spanish ciders lack the extreme sweetness associated with popular American ciders, and are better-described as subtly sour. Estopinal uses the cider as a syrup in cocktails, and notes that it "keeps its acidified quality if you gently heat up the syrup."
How to use it: Rhi's Kryptonite
Add 2.5oz Calvados brandy, .25oz Isastegi cider syrup (recipe below), and 14 drops Angostura bitters to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir briefly. Strain into a double Old-Fashioned glass with fresh ice. Express the lemon peel and place it in the glass with an eye for aesthetic. Add two drops of Fee Brothers' Old Fashion bitters.
Cider syrup
Heat 1cup each, demerara sugar, white sugar, and Isastegi cider and stir until combined. Never boil.

Bobby Heugel, co-owner, Anvil Bar and Refuge & The Pastry War (Houston, TX)
Underrated booze: D'aristi Xtabentun
Why: Heugel claims this Mexican liqueur, which actually evolved from a Mayan liquor, has been a secret weapon for years. "This liqueur now produced with rum, honey, and imported anise... adds sweet anise tones to cocktails in a very balanced manner."
How to use it: Xtabentun Margarita
Shake 1.75oz Pueblo Viejo Blanco tequila, .75oz Xtabentun, .75oz of a 50:50 Persian/Key lime juice blend, 2 bar spoons turbinado syrup, and strain into a cocktail glass with cubed ice. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Liz Childers

Leo Robitschek, bartender, NoMad (New York, NY)
Underrated booze: Linie aquavit 
Why: The herbaceous Scandinavian liquor brings a caraway-dill flavor that mixes well with dark liquors. 
How to use it: North Sea Oil
Stir .25oz Combier triple sec, .25oz Laphroaig 10yr Scotch, .75oz Cocchi Americano, and 1.5oz Linie Aquavit in a tumbler with ice. Garnish with a grapefruit twist. 

Erick Castro, bartender, Polite Provisions (San Diego, CA)
Underrated booze: Olmeca Altos tequila
Why: "It's a kick-ass tequila" partially produced using the Tahona method -- the traditional process of crushing the roasted agave with a 2-ton millstone made of volcanic rock. The bourbon barrel-aged reposada mingles smokey wood flavors with citrus and ginger. 
How to use it: Mayan Concubine
Combine 2oz Olmeca Altos reposado, .75oz lemon juice, .5oz simple syrup, .5oz Rothman & Winter Apricot Liqueur, and a dash of Angostura bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake and strain. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Neal Bodenheimer, co-owner, Cure (New Orleans, LA)
Underrated booze: Distillery Emile Pernot's Grande Liqueur de Sapins
Why: The piney-tasting liqueur is "a great alternative to Chartreuse", but was actually first created as a low-sugar, higher-alcohol version of the Sapins for confectioners to use in baking.
How to use it: Sutpen Sour
Dry shake .75oz fresh lime juice and egg white. Add 1.5oz Buffalo Trace bourbon, .5oz Liqueur de Sapins (55%), .25oz ginger syrup, and .25oz simple syrup, then give it a hard shake. Strain into a rocks-filled double old-fashioned glass. Float .5oz Lustau Moscatel Sherry on top.

Liz Childers

Ignacio "Nacho " Jimenez, bar manager, The Daily & Naren Young, "The Cocktail Guy", AvroKo Hospitality Group (New York, NY)
Underrated booze: Midori
Why: The green, melon-flavored Japanese liqueur mixes well with any fruity cocktail.  
How to use itMidori Sour 
Combine 1oz each vodka and Midori in highball glass. Top with lemon/lime soda and garnish with cantaloupe balls. 

Mike Ryan, head bartender, Sable Kitchen and Bar (Chicago, IL)
Underrated booze: Kalani
Why: The liqueur is "from Mexico, and is made with actual coconuts" and pure cane sugar. Ryan says he loves it in a "piña colada, utilizing fresh pineapple juice, funky white rum, and cream"... but it's also good as a replacement for the traditional Maraschino liqueur in Prohibition-era classic the Last Word. 
How to use it: Last Word
Shake .75oz each, gin, green Chartreuse, Kalani, and fresh lime juice with ice and strain into a chilled glass.

Naren Young, "The Cocktail Guy", AvroKo Hospitality Group & Masa Urushido, bar manager, Saxon + Parole (New York, NY)
Underrated booze: Curaçao
Why: It's "often seen as a 'passé' liquor", but the dyed-blue spirit brings notes of orange and exotic colors to classic cocktails. 
How to use it: Corpse Reviver No. Blue
Shake 1oz gin with .75oz each Lillet Blanc, Blue Curaçao, and lemon juice. Pour into glass and top with 1 bar spoon absinthe.

Liz Childers

Nick Detrich, co-owner, Cane & Table (New Orleans, LA)
Underrated booze: Giffard Creme de Pamplemousse
Why: "A French grapefruit liqueur, it's fresh and juicy and plays well in a variety of contexts: from shaken refreshing drinks to stirred and spirit-driven cocktails."  
How to use it: The Aperitiki Swizzle
1.5oz Byrrh Quina Aperitif, .75oz fresh lemon juice, .5oz Giffard Creme de Pamplemousse, .5oz Becherovka, 2 dashes Legendre Herbsaint, and 1 dash Angostura bitters. Add pebble ice and, using a swizzle stick in the ice, rub your hands together around the stick as though you were trying to start a campfire. Garnish with a generous bouquet of mint and serve immediately.

Naren Young, "The Cocktail Guy", AvroKo Hospitality Group & Masa Urushido, bar manager, Saxon + Parole (New York, NY)
Underrated booze: Marie Brizard crème de menthe
Why: The mint-flavored liqueur is a surprisingly refreshing after-dinner drink, and great for mixing Girl Scout Cookie-inspired cocktails
How to use it: Grasshopper  
Shake 1oz crème de menthe, 1oz white crème cacao, and 1.5oz heavy cream. Pour into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with shaved Valrhona chocolate.

Liz Childers is a food/drink editorial assistant for Thrillist and thinks Creme de Pamplemousse is much more fun to drink than cream of grapefruit. Follow her at @lizchilders1.

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