In “Spirit Guide,” Wayne Curtis demystifies the ever-shifting spirits landscape one bottle at a time. This round: gentian-based aperitif liqueurs. His article features our Cascadia American Bitter Liqueur alongside some venerable favorites.
“Tom Burkleaux founded New Deal Distilling in Portland, Oregon, in 2004, and after he got his legs under with vodka and gin, devoted two years working out a proper gentian-based liqueur. He ended up recruiting two bittering agents—he found he could soften the gentian by mixing it with less-forward angelica root—and employed a traditional double maceration method, first macerating the roots in neutral spirit, then redistilling, and doing a second maceration with the redistilled spirit.”
“Like others, this is tempered with herbs, including rose, lavender, tarragon, and cardamom. It has a more floral aroma and finish than most, which reduces the bitter profile significantly. He was aiming to use Pacific Northwest products, including locally grown gentian, but found that the region wasn’t yet ready, and so imports gentian from French farmers, who’ve learned a thing or two our about growing at scale over the past two centuries. “You can do it as a labor of love on a small scale, but when you want to move a product to market, there’s the ‘estate showpiece’ approach, and then there’s ‘production-ready,’” Burkleaux says.”