If you’re a regular reader, you might have noticed that we recently took a trip to New York (here, here, here, here, here), an anniversary celebration that was also something of a cocktail pilgrimage. A required stop on that pilgrimage was the great Astor Wines. Back in the twilight days when the cocktail renaissance was just beginning, when the vast majority of liquor store staff would return your request for St. Germain with a blank look, Astor Wines was a place you could go for the earliest of craft spirits, for fantastic bottles filled with as yet unknown liqueurs, and for some actual choice in vermouth. All you had to do was get yourself to New York. We bought our first interesting liqueur at Astor Wines.
Several years later, we visited again, wondering what we’d find. Is Astor as wonderful as we remember it? Has the rest of the liquor world caught up with it or even passed it by? Will we still run across rare and wonderful bottles?
It turned out to be good news on all sides. Other liquor stores have indeed made a lot of progress. We ran across bottles that would have practically been an Astor exclusive several years ago, and were encouraged to know that we could now think of two or three stores in each of DC and Boston that actually carry it.
And while other sellers have done a good bit of catching up, Astor Wines still had the capacity to surprise. We discovered a few hard to get favorite brands on their shelves, a few bottle we’d heard of but never actually seen on a shelf, and a few things we’ve never even heard of. Knowing we had ahead of us several hours of walking around the city, we had to limit our purchases. We were proud of ourselves that we kept it to three bottles: one of a hard to get favorite, one of something we’ve wanted to try but haven’t seen, and one of something completely new.
The completely new bottle was of a new, Anglo-French liqueur called Escubac, an herbal liqueur with an unusual mixture of what we’d call baking spices, what we’d call Indian spices, and botanicals. It makes for an intense but not overwhelming mix. We appreciated the fact that anise didn’t play any noticeable role. While we like anise, there are already plenty of other liqueurs that make good use of it; a strongly herbal liqueur that goes a different direction was refreshing. The tasting notes on their website mention that Escubac is sweetened with raisin, something we didn’t really catch on an initial tasting, with the spices playing such a prominent role. Once we knew to look for it, we appreciated the milder and more complex form of sweetness brought about by the raisins.
Its makers suggest drinking Escubac with tonic, and we can see why. It’d be a bracing and refreshing mix. We, however, liked the idea of bringing its intensity into an otherwise sweet rum drink.
Escuby Cocktail Recipe
- 1 3/4 oz aged rum
- 3/4 oz Escubac
- 1/2 oz Amaro Ramazzotti
- 1/4 oz falernum
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- orange twist, for garnish
- Add all liquid ingredients to a mixing glass.
- Fill with ice to level of the liquid.
- Stir until the ice is noticeably melted.
- Strain into a cocktail glass.
- Garnish with orange twist.