Spirits Close-Up: Lesser-Known Liquor

Kronan Swedish Punch // Photo by Kevin Kramer

The craft cocktail movement, aided by exciting boutique importers, is bringing so many interesting new bottles of booze to our local shelves. But which ones are worth a bother? Which are versatile enough to play around with, and easy to mix into your favorite drinks? We asked MSP bartenders to endorse three of the stranger spirits that would be right at home in your liquor cabinet.

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Kronan Swedish Punsch

Drew HammBartender, Bellecour

Kronan Swedish Punsch is a liqueur that dates back to the Swedish East India Company. It’s based on arrack (a type of rum distilled from sugarcane and rice), made in Sweden, and imported to the U.S. by Edina’s own Eric Seed of Haus Alpenz. This sweet and smoky, dark and funky liqueur is delicious by itself, or in cocktails like the classic Doctor Cocktail (Jamaican rum, Swedish Punsch, lime) or Bellecour’s Penguins & Polar Bears (blended Scotch, Swedish Punsch, lemon, Angostura bitters).

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Kara SmithFormer Bar Manager, Pajarito

Bacanora is an agave spirit, but it’s not to be confused with tequila. It’s a mezcal that comes from the Sonora region of Mexico, where it was illegal to produce until 1992. Those who don’t like the smokiness of typical mezcals will love Bacanora’s more subtle smoke and earthy notes. It’s best neat—or on the rocks—to not disturb the flavor of the terroir. If you want to make a cocktail, I’d stay away from any heavy juices or overpowering mixers. An old fashioned with some chocolate bitters and cone syrup would be perfect.

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Nux Alpina

Patrick OrloppTattersall Distilling

Walnut liqueurs are a staple of countries bordering the Alps. Italians call them Nocino, the French Noix, and Nux Alpina is an Austrian Nüsse. Each summer, green walnuts are carefully plucked (taking care to not stain everything forever) and left to steep in brandy. In the final weeks, select spices and botanicals are added before it is sweetened and proofed down. The flavor is luscious and nutty with a dash of dry baking spice on the finish. I love subbing this in for a portion of the sweet vermouth in a Manhattan or combining it with Tattersall Amaro for a digestif.

Get acquainted with more varieties of liquor by visiting the Spirits Close-Up archive.

About John Garland

John Garland is the Deputy Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in every coffee shop on West 7th Street.