This New Type of Spirit Is Patagonia in a Glass
What mixes like a gin, sips like a whiskey and is the liquid embodiment of Patagonia, that mountainous, glacier-riddled haven for backpackers at the bottom of South America?
No, this isn't some weird riddle. The answer is Träkál, a heady but smooth 42 percent ABV, 84-proof, triple-distilled liquor made from Patagonian apples, pears, and a blend of native herbs and berries. Translating to "first warrior into battle," Träkál was created by a group of former backpackers who sought to capture the rugged spirit of Patagonia in a new kind of tipple.
"I wanted it to be like the experience of walking through a forest in this part of the world," says master distiller Sebastian Camorino, who worked with natives in the south of Chile for a year and a half to find the right mix of seasonal scents and tastes. They were looking for ones that could be preserved for year-round use and settled on essential oils and herbal vapor infusions, which are added during the final distillation for a bright, smooth finish.
"I wanted it to be liked by people who weren’t from there but also recognizable by people who were from there."
The genre-blurring concept of Träkál is so unprecedented even government authorities in Chile didn’t know how to classify it. But Camorino says that's exactly what makes Träkál stand out. Just like how sake is quintessentially Japanese or mescal is emblematic of Mexico, Träkál is Patagonia in a glass. "It’s completely new."
For now, Träkál can be found only in Chile or Colorado, although you can order a bottle from The Proper Pour in Denver. Why Denver? In addition to being the home of cofounder Ben Long and a booming gastronomy and bar scene, it has the right attitude. Both Coloradans and Patagonians share an outdoor mind-set, Camorino says. Plans are in the works for expansion to, among other places, Georgia, Florida, and parts of California and the Pacific Northwest. "We’re going to go where people are interested in us," Camorino says.
With its earthy, floral notes, Träkál is also extremely versatile. It goes great on the rocks, but bartenders are also reinventing classic cocktails with it, like the Patagonico, a twist on a Negroni, in addition to coming up with new creations. Camorino likes to keep it simple: Träkál, a splash of tonic water and an orange slice, or, even better, "chilled, while sitting on a riverbank in Patagonia with friends."
Zoe Baillargeon is a travel and food writer based in Chile. Follow her on Instagram at @gringapatiperra.
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