Odd Spirits: Sotol

You may not have heard of it, but this cousin to Tequila is about to start popping up everywhere.

Sotol is a spirit that traditionally can be found in regions of northern Mexico, as the plant itself, commonly known as Desert Spoon only grows in the north, New Mexico, west Texas and areas of the Texas Hill Country. It’s known as the state drink of Chihuahua, Durango and Coahuila, and could possibly be dated as far back as 7000 b.c.e.

The Chihuahuan indigenous Rarámuri fermented Sotol juice into a beer-like alcoholic beverage as early as 800 years ago. Then in the 16th century, Spanish colonists introduced European distillation techniques to produce a complete Sotol spirit. However, even with that much history behind it, there are currently only a few commercial examples out on the market right now.

It’s surprising that Sotol hasn’t made more of a name for itself yet. It’s produced in a manner similar to the more common artisanal mezcals of central Mexico. Much like Tequila, the Desert Spoon takes approximately 15 years to mature and yields only one bottle of Sotol per plant making Sotol distilling a very artisanal process. Over the course of its life, the Desert Spoon also takes on some of the characteristics of its surroundings, so  forest-grown Sotols can be pinier, with notes of mint and eucalyptus, while desert ones have mineral, leather and earthy notes.

There are a wild variety of Sotol curados as well, which are typically flavoured with raisins, cinnamon, pecans or other herbs and spices and are generally sipped like an apertif after dinner.

With all this variety it’s odd that Sotol hasn’t captured the hearts of drinkers as of yet, but things are changing. For one, the unique flavours is enticing bartenders to find ways of adding Sotol into creative cocktails. It also appeals to drinkers who care about organic products; since the plant is wild harvested, they are completely organic and grown without fertilizers or pesticides.

If you’re interested in Sotol, there’s a company called Desert Door making some effort in widening the market. Should you get your hands on a bottle, try this cocktail out:

Bee’s Knees

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Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Desert Door Original Sotol
  • 0.75 oz Lemon Juice
  • 0.5 oz Honey

Method: Shake all ingredients over ice. Strain into a coupe glass. Optional lemon garnish.

 

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