The New Spirit That Allegedly Smells Like a Patagonian Forest
It’s not often that an entirely new spirit comes along. A new fruit liqueur, yes. A new-to-the-States European bitter—sure, about every week or so. And new craft gins hit the market faster than we can keep track.
But an entirely new invention? That’s a rare breed. And that’s why we’re so excited about Träkál, a spirit made in Chilean Patagonia that’s intended to be a pure expression of the region’s terroir.
You might envision Träkál as somewhere between a brandy and a gin. A brandy, because it’s distilled from fruit—native pear and crabapple. And a gin, because it’s made with an array of herbaceous botanicals. (The FDA stuck Träkál in a category of its own: a “spirit distilled from apples and pears.”)
But it’s hard to describe exactly what it tastes like, because all those botanicals are unique to Patagonia. According to co-founder Ben Long, when you walk through the Patagonian forests, it smells almost exactly like Träkál.
It’s smooth and fruity, with the apple and pear base spirit coming through, but with so much else going on, too: a strong anise-like flavor, a hard-to-pinpoint fruity element, a warm, spicy forest-floor earthiness. In short, it’s delicious, and quite literally in a class of its own. Sip Träkál neat to wrap your head around it, but then try these three original cocktails.
Easy: Träkál on the Rock
There’s a reason that classic martinis and Manhattans work so well. In the case of a martini, you’re displaying the best qualities of a great gin, balanced with dry vermouth; in the case of a Manhattan, showing off a whiskey with sweet vermouth. Here, we’re using both sweet and dry, together with Träkál, resulting in a smooth sipper that beautifully illustrates the complexity of the elusive spirit.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine an ounce and a half of Träkál, ¾ ounce sweet vermouth, ¾ ounce dry vermouth, ¼ ounce simple syrup, and a dash of Angostura bitters. Stir until very well-chilled, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a thick orange slice—studded with cloves, if you want to get fancy.
Intermediate: Patagonia Pear
For this lighter, fruitier cocktail, we amplified the pear base at the heart of Träkál. All you need is a store-bought pear nectar—Looza is a great brand, available at Whole Foods and the like—along with lemon and soda to brighten it up. A perfect way to appreciate the character of Träkál in a vibrant drink that goes down in a flash.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce and a half of Träkál, 2 ounces of pear nectar, ¼ ounce lemon juice, and ¼ ounce honey syrup (that’s just honey dissolved in hot water, 1:1). Shake until very well-chilled, then strain into a tall glass with fresh ice. Top with an ounce of club soda and give a quick stir. Garnish with a few thin pear slices, fanned out over the drink, and a straw.
Advanced: Träkál Sour
A testament to Träkál is how it quickly caught on in its native Chile, where it’s currently served in bars all over the country—the best-selling domestic spirit after the country’s national spirit, pisco. And its national cocktail, the Pisco Sour, happens to translate very well to Träkál. The key ingredient here is egg white, which softens the edges of the spirit and citrus and gives the drink a smooth, silky texture. Shake it hard, then shake it again.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine two ounces of Träkál, an ounce of fresh lemon juice, 3/4 ounce simple syrup, and one egg white. Shake all that up without ice to aerate it—that’s called a “dry shake”—and then add ice and shake again for a “wet shake,” to chill it down. Strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a cinnamon stick, and/or a light dusting of grated cinnamon.