This winter, instead of fighting the cold with cozy glasses of whiskey and warming drinks, we’re embracing the great outdoors with cocktails that harness one of the season’s more aromatic offerings: pine. No, that doesn’t mean we’re muddling needles from our Christmas tree into Mojitos. Innovative spirit-, liqueur- and syrup-makers have captured the evergreen’s piquant flavor in bottles, so it’s easy to whip up a cocktail that’s as seasonally appropriate as your home decor. Here are five pine-forward products to try this winter.
Based in Portland, Clear Creek set out to create an eau de vie that captured the flavor of Oregon’s state tree, the Douglas fir. Distillers infuse brandy with Douglas fir buds twice, giving the spirit not only a fir tree’s unmistakable aroma and flavor, but also its light jade hue. Sip it neat or on the rocks for a delightfully wintery nip, or mix a quarter-ounce into a French 75 for a fresh zing of flavor.
Instead of using pine buds or needles for color and pine-fresh flavor, Zirbenz employs Arolla Stone Pine fruits—baby pine cones, essentially. The fruits are plucked from the Austrian alps by local mountaineers and then macerated with a sugar distillate to create a delicious red-hued liqueur. Though drinkers in the U.S. have only been able to find the resin-forward liqueur since 2005, Zirbenz has been making this traditional zirbenschnaps since 1797.
Hailing from France—a country is known for its herbal, almost medicinal liqueurs like chartreuse and Bénédictine—this “grand liqueur” deviates from the norm. First, it comes in at a powerful 55 percent ABV, which is high for most spirits, let alone liqueurs. Second, this liqueur uses fir buds in addition to botanicals to achieve its herbaceous equilibrium instead of the usual herbs and spices. The result is a surprisingly light piney flavor that’s not overwhelming, but it will shine through in a cocktail.
We all know that maple syrup is great in cocktails—but now it’s pine syrup’s turn to shine. Instead of sap, this tree-based syrup is made from pine cone buds harvested from the Dolomite Mountain region in Italy. The buds are left to sit under the sun in glass jars, and macerate with sugar and water for months. Then, distillers filter the resulting liquid and cook it down to create a highly floral and lightly piney syrup. While you can easily add it to cocktails in the same ways you’d use maple syrup, you can also drizzle the syrup over bar nuts for a delightful accompaniment to your drinks.
Herbs, spices and wild evergreen needles from Colorado flavor this cocktail syrup from Dram. While it’s not as thick as the Mugolio syrup, its consistency is just right for winter-inspired cocktails. Add a touch to your Old Fashioned or Tom Collins, and feel like you’re hiking through the Rocky Mountains without leaving your couch.