Much like any regular cocktail drinker, I love discovering new spirits from all over the world. But as of late, I’ve realized that it’s even more fun to discover liquors that come right from my own urban backyard.
You may have heard about Brooklyn’s burgeoning distillery scene, but whiskey, rye and bourbon aren’t the only things our borough is producing.
A few months ago we were introduced to a liqueur called Sorel, which is a Caribbean spirit made from hibiscus flowers. The producer of this spirit, Jack (pictured), is a New Yorker, born and raised, but has roots leading back to Barbados. His grandparents told him stories of sending the neighborhood children to pick the flowers, which, Jack says, “are as common as dandelions,” so that they could make hibiscus iced tea. Since Barbados was part of the spice route, they flavored the tea with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. When the kids were asleep, his grandparents would spike it with rum, making it a perfect nightcap.
For years, Jack made his own version of Sorel right here in New York, but never had aspirations to bottle or sell it. That changed when he was suddenly diagnosed with cancer and given a five percent survival rate. Jack quickly reassessed his goals and focused more intensely on what was important to him: enjoying time with friends and family while discovering and drinking spirits, especially Sorel. He applied himself fully to making a commercial version of the liqueur and officially launched his distillery in Red Hook in May of 2012. He beat the odds and is healthy today.
Jack only uses organic grain alcohol as his base of his Sorel, as well as pure cane sugar and imported spices. What really impresses us is the flexibility of this liqueur; it’s delicious straight up, hot or on ice, with mixers, in punch and the list goes on. When Jack visited our shop, he shared a recipe with us called “The Ariana” and this cocktail is our new go-to for every boozy brunch.
For one cocktail, you’ll need:
1 champagne flute
2 oz Sorel liqueur
3 oz Prosecco
Pour Prosecco into champagne flute and finish with Sorel.
Or, you could take after the founder himself, who likes to mix two parts Brenne Single Malt Whiskey with one part Sorel. This combination, he says, brings out the best qualities of each spirit. Now that’s a motto I’ll keep in mind the next time I’m mixing up a cocktail.
Selina Andersson heads up events and social media for Tipsy, a wine and spirits shop in Brooklyn. Tipsy hosts 3 or more free tasting events every week. Visit us at the corner of Myrtle and Classon or online at www.shoptipsy.com.