The term Rancio emerged the other day, and I wanted to address the question as it is a bit ambiguous and used for a variety of wines and beverages. We came across this term as an ingredient in a cocktail, and it was simply printed on the menu as "Rancio". I have never really seen it referred to this way, more often I am used to seeing it as a descriptive reference for flavors and aromatics in certain wines - especially those that have been aged in warm and oxidative conditions for a long period of time.
I knew what the ingredient notation was referencing - most likely a wine from southern France that comes from or around the Banyuls region, but it was not clearly defined on the menu as there was no brand associated with the listing. The impact on the drink was relatively mild, but certainly there were some nutty flavors and aromatics there that the creator of the drink was looking for, and also mouthfeel, which is perhaps the most important characteristic of the Rancio Wine used. Keep in mind, this was very nearly the same aromatics that some sherry or even port wine could also produce in the cocktails, but the texture was not necessarily something these other wines could bring to the equation. Cudos for going the extra step toward unique.
Here is the Oxford definition of Rancio. You can see that there are multiple wine categories that make use of the term and that it is used to cover a wide range of stylistic imprints - all though having to do with some form of severely aged process - but always under controlled conditions. The effect can be tremendous and produce unique wines with long lives to be enjoyed - either in a drink or simply on their own.
From The Oxford Companion to Wine (online edition)
Rancio, imprecise tasting term used in many languages for a distinctive style of wine, often fortified wine or vin doux naturel, achieved by deliberately maderizing the wine by exposing it to oxygen and/or heat. The wine may be stored in barrels in hot storehouses (as for some of Australia's topaque and muscat), or immediately under the rafters in a hot climate (as for some of roussillon's vins doux naturels), or in glass bonbonnes left out of doors and subjected to the changing temperatures of night and day (as in parts of Spain). The word rancio has the same root as ‘rancid’ and the wines which result have an additional and powerful smell reminiscent of overripe fruit, nuts, and melted, or even rancid, butter.
Key flavour compounds identified in aged vin doux naturel wines arise by maillard reaction of sugars with amino acids and by oxidation. These compounds are known to be present in, and responsible for, the characteristic flavour of other sweet food products. Thus, for example, furaneol, cyclotene, maltol, sotolon, which are known contributors to the flavour of honey and caramelized sugar products, have been found in these wines along with several lactones that are important to the flavour of dried fruits.
This richness emerges in a complex series of sensations on the nose and palate. ‘Rankness, a special character of fullness and richness’, was the unflattering description given by Charles Walter Berry, the wine merchant who was Britain's leading cognac connoisseur between the World Wars (rancio can often be found in oak-aged brandies). This richness, allied to a certain mild cheesiness in the nose, reminds some tasters of Roquefort cheese. But the richness, depth, and diversity of rancio can remind others of rich fruit cakes with their flavours of candied fruits, apricots, sultanas, almonds, and walnuts.
Specific Brand Recommendations and Changes
So the following brands are mentioned as a cultivated collection of bar items that should be staple to your offerings. In some case you may have these items, but most likely they will be new. These are approved items and specific recipes are mentioned and/or listed in the third section. I will have many of these items in my bag as I come around to assess your spring proposals (sorry David Roy – we will get to you as we can), and you can taste them for yourself.
Clement Coconut Rum
(funny place to start, right?) not after you taste this stuff.
How about something daring like a coconut mezcal margarita??
Just get rid of any coconut rum you may have on the bar, and use this please. It is far better than anything mass-produced.
Plantation Original Dark, but do not forget about the Plantation Pineapple
This is dark from double wood aging, not added caramel color. Lovely earthy rich flavors. I likey a lot.
Novo Fogo Cachaca Silver
One of the best products of the day; especially the Silver. I have never had a cachaça that was so smooth and tasty – way better than Leblon. Chameleon is aged. A classic Caipirinha (and it is a classic drink) can be had when the warm weather hits, and with the subtle rich smooth texture here – it’s a no brainer.
TEQUILA / MEZCAL
My plan as it is designed, does not call for a silver tequila in the “well”; we use El Jimador as the base level tequila. There is of course a need for a lower priced silver tequila and many just defer to a call brand. No need any longer. I see this as the go-to silver tequila for fresh and refreshing spring/summer drinks. It’s so good and it’s been a long wait to get in CT. Adds a lovely deep peppery note, especially with orange or pomegranate in the drink.
Peloton De La Muerte Mezcal
I have been a proponent of the Fidencio, but I am feeling as though this should become the go-to for Mezcal. High quality all the way through, but a little less expensive and readily available. Plus, I like the name and the authentic bottle is really cool. This should definitely replace any largely distributed brands like Sombra or ILegal. This is good and mellow, but carries the flavor well.
Averell Damson Gin Liqueur
This is a uniquely flavored product that I think is delicious. Many of my guys got onto the mulberry band-wagon recently. Well, be prepared to go the extra mile into deliciousness with this item. I cannot wait to see what we get with this.
Gin Lane 1751 Victoria’ Pink Gin
So a Pink Gin Cocktail is kind of fun, but a little old timey (maybe someone should bring it back?), but this is a great tasting pre-fab “Pink Gin” that is infused with herbs and spices to give it some color and extra flavor. Can use in a specialty drink really well.
Breckenridge Pear Vodka
I've mentioned this earlier, but this should be your standard selection for a pear vodka. Cost savings and a vastly superior product than Goose or Smirnoff.
Elation Pear Liqueur
As an alternative, some of you have been using the St George Liqueur, which is great. I only mention this as an alternative.
Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond Rye
If you know how to adjust for the higher proof, this can be a great addition to your cocktail program as the higher proof will carry more flavor to your guests palate. It’s becoming more readily available (after years of catching up production with demand), so go for it if you can make it work.
Cognac was the original cocktail spirits, and I think there is some total validity to bringing back a cocktail or two to your program that has cognac. The fruit flavors and aromatics in this spirit far exceed what whiskey can bring. Use in any cocktail designed for whiskey.
Remy Martin VSOP or Pierre Ferrand 1856
My Remy-Cointreau rep (Estelle Ngo) made a great pitch with cocktail recipes and of course Remy Martin is the classic cognac, plus manyof you carry on bar. It's a little pricier, but so good. Try in a Remy Mojito.
Bertina Elderflower Liqueur
Ok, so I know a lot of you are very loyal and like to use (excessively sometimes) St Germain (Bacardi owned big brand), but here is a case where you increase the quality factor while decreasing the cost factor. This stuff is great and should replace St Germain on your bars as a staple. It also comes in a re-usable flip-top bottle, good fro juices and other items to use on the bar.
Fratello Hazlenut Liqueur
I’m not sure why you still have Frangelico…?
Sibona Camomilla Liquore – very tasty and very versatile from a flavor point of view. May be some creative genius can interpret this to a cocktail.
Marolo Grappa And Camomile Milla
Wow. You all need to get into these products; and Italian locations especially need to pay attention here and enhance your back bar offerings. Very interesting cocktail applications as well.
There are a number of grappi manufacturers out there, but these guys have a wide range of very interesting and cool flavors to work with. Working on a dinner that pairs the grappa wine sources with the wine producers that grow the base juice might be a cool idea.
LIQUEUR: Don Ciccio Linocello, Mandarinetto, Ibisco (Hibiscus)
I had tasted these products a number of years ago and was not enamored. Today, I think they have improved tremendously, and there are creative ideas abound with them. The Limoncello is very good and pays homage to the Amalfi Coast very well. The Mandarinetto is a superb flavor if treated correctly. And the star is the Ibiscus; mix it with some mescal and you can have a stunning mule or some other creation.
Del Professore Vermouth Dry
Ok, so here was the winner of the day for me.
The Traditional Italian (white vermouth, but you need to forget what you think about vermouth) is stunning. Made by a Bartender from Rome, these are about as perfect a drinking vermouth as I have come across. I want to see a drink called “Del Professore” with 2 parts Gin, 1 part vermouth and a few dashes of orange bitters (yes, I know it’s a martini, but it is so good and if you call it a gin martini then nobody will buy it – just tell them it’s a really cool cocktail and it will sell.)
Do you need it? The white – yes. If for nothing else to drink on your own. Also great for low-alc cocktails (another trend that is happening very much, right now).
We do not dive too deeply here at my locations, but it is popping up with much more frequesncy. The Sochu category is actually the largest selling spirit category in the world (there are a lot of people across Asia that drink it). I was presented with several this go around in multiple states. My pick so far is the Mizu Sochu.
I have seen a lot of cool and interesting bitters brands recently – here are a couple that should be on your radar:
Hella Bitters – Smoked Chili and Ginger Lemon are sort of unique, but with standards like Citrus, Aromatic, Orange, it’s a good set.
Bittercube – really great selection of interesting bitters. Look to use Jamaican, Cherry bark vanilla, Enlightened Old Fashioned, Black Strap or Coffee/Cocoa/Hot Pepper
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