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Spirits, other ingredients from South America will add a kick to cocktail menus

Spirits, other ingredients from South America will add a kick to cocktail menus
(Image credit: Flickr/CUESA/Amanda Lynn Photography)

South American spirits and flavor profiles are expected to pop up on more cocktail menus this year, according to the 2017 Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast from Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. The rise of Brazilian cachaca and pisco from Peru and Chile has paved the way for more South American spirits to enter the US market, said Kimpton’s director of bars, Mike Ryan.

“We’ve already seen the rise of pisco and cachaca; I predict we will continue to see these spirits grow in popularity as they begin to permeate American cocktail culture, Ryan said. “Additionally, we will see a wider range of South American spirits like singani, a Bolivian grape brandy similar to pisco, begin to become more widely available. Citrus will be a big part of the conversation as well, as we dig deeper into the South American palette of citrus fruits,” he said.

Citrus isn’t the only culinary element that will flavor the South American cocktail trend. Chilies, which have a strong presence in the cuisines of Mexico and Central American countries are likely to show up in some South America-inspired drinks, Ryan said. Fruits from the Amazon region will also be popular, as will “local herbs and local sodas or fermented beverages typical of different parts of the continent,” he said.

As a wider range of restaurant concepts integrate South American spirits and flavor profiles into their beverage programs, the ingredients are more likely to become part of fusion cocktails that put a unique twist on classic recipes. For bartenders looking to introduce patrons to South American spirits, Ryan suggests substituting them for the base spirit in a familiar drink, such as an Old Fashioned or a daiquiri. The classic chilcano also serves as a great introduction to pisco.

“Pisco, ginger ale, and lime juice — it’s a Moscow Mule with a twist,” Ryan said of the cocktail, which Kimpton serves at its South American-influenced rooftop bar, Boleo, in Chicago. “You can use ginger beer if you want a little more spice, and you can infuse the pisco with various fruits or spices to add complexity. It’s bubbly and bright, great as an aperitif,” he said.

Classics like the chilcano and the caipirinha “or Argentinean classics like the Fernet-and-cola, will certainly form the backbone of experimentation,” Ryan said. “However, the bright, bold flavors of the cane-and grape-based spirits (cachaca and pisco) lend themselves well to broad experimentation, and we will see many North American and European classics get a South American spin.”

Ryan worked with Boleo’s head bartender, Jess Lambert, and Chicago’s Rhine Hall Distillery to create a proprietary Fernet called Fernet Lola, which has blueberry, grape and apple notes with a saffron and eucalyptus backbone. “The result is a sweeter spirit with a smooth finish that can be enjoyed straight or integrated in one of Jess’ hand crafted cocktails, like the Fernet Lola & Cola and a new Lola Daiquiri,” Ryan said.

In addition to the South American-influenced menu at Boleo, Kimpton is embracing the South American spirits craze by stocking at least one type of pisco and one cachaca at each of its bars and hosting cocktail competitions to encourage the company’s bar leaders to experiment with various ingredients.


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