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Hybrid Spirits: Fresh Fuel Flames the Cocktail Craze

Many spirits enthusiasts not only are embracing the classic brands and styles but also are seeking out new tastes.

Many spirits enthusiasts not only are embracing the classic brands and styles but also are seeking out new tastes, often presented in cocktails made from an ever-increasing and dazzling medley of ingredients. To capitalize on these trends, suppliers have concocted a genuinely innovative and exciting generation of original spirits. For lack of industry parlance, we’re calling them contemporary hybrid spirits, and they’re likely to change the way we view once-conventional product categories.

“Consumers are always looking for something new and different, and the influx of innovative flavors on the market gives them a lot of new options to choose from,” says Pat Couteaux, master distiller at Infinite Spirits. “We developed Shakers Rose Vodka because it’s a unique flavor that has been enjoyed for centuries in other parts of the world. Initially, we weren’t sure if it would be popular with consumers, but the response thus far has been phenomenal — it goes to show that there’s always room for innovative products.”

“Hybrids are fueling the growing interest in spirits by answering consumer needs, namely quality and taste,” contends Jean Christophe Terzaghi, senior brand manager at Schieffelin & Company. “We based Navan’s product proposition on joint positive trends. It’s a highly innovative product that appeals to enthusiasts of Cognac, flavored spirits, and premium spirits. Plus there’s the cachet of the Grand Marnier name.”


Colored Commingled Cognac
We’ve seen the explosion of flavored vodkas and rums, but these spirits are subsets of traditional categories. Many of the new elixirs are the square pegs that just don’t fit into the recognized round holes. An excellent example is Heaven Hill’s runaway success, Hpnotiq. Imported from France, this Day-Glo aquamarine hybrid is made from a singular blend of triple-distilled vodka, aged Cognac, and a proprietary mix of natural tropical juices. While well suited for drink making, Hpnotiq is more like a skillfully crafted cocktail in a cork-finished bottle.

“The growth of these ‘fusion’ spirits reflects not only expanding consumer tastes but also acceptance by bartenders and mixologists,” says Larry Kass, director of corporate communications for Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc. “Products such as Hpnotiq are incredibly versatile because of their multifaceted ingredients. These brands give cocktail craftsmen another tool to create both modern twists on classic cocktails and new innovative drinks.”
Another hybrid success is Alizé de France, which is an exotic blend of passion fruit and Cognac. Introduced in 2000, Alizé Red Passion combines passion fruit, cranberry, and Alizé Cognac. Both versions are frequently featured in cocktails. RémyRed is another popular line that has resonated with younger consumers; Strawberry Kiwi Infusion and Red Grape Berry Infusion join the original Red Berry Infusion; for all three, fruits and naturally derived flavorings are added to the mix, which is then infused with Rémy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac.


This category also includes Xoteric; two versions of Envy, the original (infused with passion fruit and guava) and Mango Melon; the iridescent green Intrigue from Skyy Spirits; and the well-balanced Destinée Ruby and Sapphire from White Rock Distilleries.

Not Humdrum Rum
The rum category has been sizzling, so it should come as no surprise that rum-based products have been developed that go beyond the established styles. Crossing over several conventional categories is Bacardi Ciclón, a blend of gold rums that is infused with aged Tequila and natural lime flavor. It is an intriguing spirit with a citrus bouquet and a prominent Tequila palate. The rum component pleasantly asserts itself during the lingering finish. Bacardi also has introduced a sucralose-sweetened low-cal line of fruit-infused rums called Island Breeze.

Equally intriguing is Allied Domecq’s Kuya Fusion Rum, which features an assemblage of barrel-aged rums, natural citrus flavor extracts, and an array of island spices. Kuya is a fusion between a classic spiced rum and a new-age fruit-flavored rum. This one-of- a-kind rum is tailor-made for life behind the bar.


Kin to Gin
Besides the staggering number of new unadorned and flavored vodkas, the ongoing martini boom has also spawned several exceptional singular gins (Hendrick’s and No. Ten by Tanqueray, to name two) and, relevant to this story, gin hybrids. Wet by Beefeater is a welcome departure from convention. It’s a pure-grain, London-distilled spirit redistilled with a select cast of botanicals, including the essence of pears. The fruit adds a soft and inviting lushness to the gin. Wet is also bottled at an accessible 70 proof, which allows its delicate flavors to persist longer on the palate.

Ranking high on the list of hybrid spirits is Kensington, a London dry gin from Scotland. After distillation, it’s aged in new American oak barrels from Kentucky. Kensington is slightly sweet, with a touch of smoke on the finish, and its rich amber color will capture immediate attention.

In the mid-1990s, sales of distilled spirits lagged behind those of beer and wine. Now as spirits steadily erode beer’s once seemingly insurmountable lead, producers and suppliers are fueling consumer demand by launching increasingly intriguing products. These new spirits offer testimony that we are indeed evolving as a species.

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