Mezcal’s growing market share, a spicy marg alternative, and how canned wines reached the upper deck
By Tali Dalbah
KNOW YOUR RUMS….AND RHUMS
Rum, distilled from fermented sugarcane or molasses and originally from the Caribbean, is now becoming a craft spirit made in many places around the world, and gaining popularity not just for its cocktail friendliness. One of my favorites is a dark, spiced Demerara Rum, a type made in Guyana on the northern coast of South America. Rhum agricole (the French term for cane juice rum), meanwhile a style originally made in the French Caribbean islands from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice rather than molasses is famed for a crisp, aromatic, and slightly vegetal taste. In Brazil, you’ll more likely encounter Cachaca, made from fermented sugarcane juice, and the most popular spirit in the nation. Its most poetically used in the Caipirinha, a super summer cocktail similar to the popular Mojito.
OUR PICK: Kirk & Sweeny 23 Year
This 23 year old rum has an amber color, elegant aromas of vanilla and toffee, and a round mouth feel rich in flavors like toasty caramel and orange peel. $44.99
Tequila and Mezcal: Spirited Differences
Drinkers who ask for a mezcal thinking that they’re actually just asking for a tequila…only with a flourish, take note: there are vital and often misunderstood distinctions between these two magical Mexican pours.
First, all tequilas are mezcals but not all mezcals are tequilas, just as all cognac is brandy but not all brandy is cognac. There are differences in production for each: Tequila is made using a single type of agave plant (agave tequilana, aka “blue agave”), and only in the state of Jalisco and small parts of four others: Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, Nayarit, and Michoacán. Mezcal can be produced from up to 28 varieties of agave (including blue) and is made around the city of Oaxaca and some areas of the states of Durango, San Luis Potosi, Guerrero, and Zacatecas.
The best tequilas are made using 100% blue agave (the law requires a minimum of 51%), and when the fermented juice is ready it is distilled twice. For the Silver (aka Blanco) varieties, it will be bottled immediately after distillation, while Repos ado is set aside for 60 days to one year in oak. The top level is Añejo, which is aged up to three years, though as of 2006 there is a new category, Extra Añejo, which will age for a minimum of three years, is typically quite complex, and can be very expensive, with a low end of $120 but can rise to $7,500 (for Patron Lalique, of which only 500 bottles were made) and above.
Mezcal, for its part, is becoming increasingly popular; according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, its sales increased from 50,000 cases in 2009 to 360,000 cases in 2017, and according to analytics firm Future Market Insights, mezcal is expected to constitute an $840 million international marketplace by the end of 2022. Many collectors are now searching for unique brands made of the most coveted agave and in “single village” style (mostly found as Blanco/Silver), a painstaking process in which the agave is roasted and partially caramelized in underground pits, which helps produce a signature smoky flavor.
Super Buy Rite Wine & Liquor, 575 Manila Avenue, Jersey City, buyritewines.com
CAN DO ATTITUDE
From white to rosé, red to sparkling, canned wine is not just handy and fun, but a fast growing part of the market. One of my favorites, from Underwood Oregon base winery, comes in a 375ml size. This newest offering is the Underwood Riesling Radler ($6.99), an unexpected but simply terrific mix of Oregon Riesling, hops, and grapefruit (that’s right), along with a super cool tropical feel can design. Bridge Lane, our neighbor from Long Island, also has a new can offering; its Chardonnay ($7.99) is all freshness, with stone fruit and green apple, a lingering minerality, and a subtle, earthy edge. Amble & Chase Rosé, meanwhile, in its skinny chic can, is sourced from sustainable growers in Provence, France, comes in a four pack for $19.99, and presents juicy peach and ripe red grapefruit with a wonderful freshness and salty minerality.