We're just loading our login box for you, hang on!

Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Drinks without category

Drinks without category: Pussanga

Pussanga is made from a plant used in shamanic medicine as a love potion. It has been described as a liqueur, a new style of a spirit, or even a hybrid….

Pussanga is made from a plant used in shamanic medicine as a love potion. It has been described as a liqueur, a new style of a spirit, or even a hybrid. But what is it? We speak to the founder to find out.

In Central and South American jungles there are plants  known as pussanga whose root is used historically by local shamans to make love potions. This process was witnessed by a German scientist named Petra Spamer-Riether in the late 1980s, who visited Peru after her bachelor’s degree and then again after her masters’s degree, and later for her PhD travelled into the jungle to find with this special plant.

“I already started to learn quite good Spanish and I was in five different places at the Madre de Dios River, near the Manú National Park. I used to live with Machiguenga and Piro Pueblo indigenous people, and then I went to the Ucayali River,” says Spamer-Riether. 

“I was working there in a little Indian village, Limojema, and I heard that locally there were some roots of ‘pussanga plants’, which means an aphrodisiac plant in the local language. They showed me the root and how they blended it with different herbs, plants, ginger and honey. It was always sweet and a little spicy, but it varies from different areas”.

Tasting that drink in the Peruvian jungle didn’t immediately lead to Spamer-Riether creating her own, however. She spent the next couple of decades working as a journalist in TV, radio, and newspapers, eventually making documentary films about science and nature, including about her travels in Peru. 


Petra and Janina

A drink to remember

After one particularly grueling project her daughter, Janina, bought her a novel to relax with, The Cook by Martin Suter. In it, there’s a story about a cook who made aphrodisiac recipes for dinners. “I had a flashback to my time in Peru 25 years ago and thought I could create an aphrodisiac spirit like the shamans did”.

By 2011 she was working on what would become Pussanga, although it took a year of experimenting to create the recipe. “In the beginning, it tasted like cough medicine! I used some other aphrodisiac ingredients, like chilli and ginger, and settled on a recipe with a selection of fruits, herbs, and plants like pomegranate, thyme, basil, orange, strawberry, tangy raspberry, a lot of cardamom, some cinnamon, and a lot of vanilla”. 

Of course, there’s the vital ingredient: crushed pussanga root from Peru and Mexico. Spamer-Riether won’t reveal the exact type of plant, but we do know it adds a complex, bitter flavour. With the help of her daughter, who is still involved although now splits her time between a PhD and the brand. She launched Pussanga at Bar Convent Berlin in 2013 to a great reception. People might not have known what it was exactly, but they liked it.


There’s some classic botanicals, and one special, secret ingredient

How to make a drink like no other

The drink is now made at a distillery in Spamer-Riether’s native Germany, using what she describes as a very complicated, handmade process. In a glass ball, alcohol is mixed with soft water from the mountains of the Spessarts in order to extract the flavours from the fruits, herbs, and spices. 

Each ingredient is macerated over the course of two weeks, steeped into alcohol in cotton bags at selected intervals. “It’s tough because when you bring them all together you can’t filter the liquid. The pussanga root in particular is like dust, which is nearly impossible to filtrate. So one ingredient could need five days, another one nine,” Spamer-Riether explains. 

The spirit is filtered several times and then everything spends a few months together in stainless steel containers to allow all the ingredients a chance to marry together and develop. Because each batch is made to taste rather than to measure, each bottle is unique.

The result is a drink that is fruity, spicy, bitter, and a little bit sweet. “It’s a unique taste. When one of our first awards in 2015, Cocktail Spirits Paris, one of the founders said ‘it’s a singular product, you can’t compare it with anything, it’s so special’,” Spamer-Riether says. She describes it as a hybrid. In 2015, Pussanga was chosen among the 100 most innovative spirits and has picked up numerous awards since its creation. 


Is it a liqueur? Something else? Whatever it is, Pussanga tastes good

Drinking Pussanga

But what is it? In some countries, Pussanga can be classified as a liqueur, but as the definition of what makes a drink a liqueur differs so much across the world, that’s not a complete classification. A hybrid is not a bad way to put it. What’s most important is what it tastes like in your glass anyway, and happily it’s not only unique but really enjoyable.

Pour yourself a glass and you’ll find it’s spicy from chilli and baking spice. There’s also heaps of red fruit sweetness and sour tang which is balanced with a really pleasant dose of bitterness. There’s a touch of German liqueur heritage in that spice and herbaceousness, but it definitely stands on its own two feet. Immediately I’m thinking Pussanga would be an interesting base for a Spritz, but it would also mix well with tonic or sparkling wine. Although, I can’t say it had any love-potion qualities for me, and, in fairness, that’s not something the brand guarantees either.

While you might not land your soulmate with Pussanga, finding a suitable pair for the drink itself is not particularly hard. For Spamer-Riether, the sky’s the limit with how you can drink it. “It works in so many different cocktails because you can pair it with every spirit, Tequila, gin, vodka, rum, mezcal, whisky. The Ritz Hotel last year made a very nice cocktail with a Glenmorangie, and it makes a good Manhattan variation. Tony Pescatori created a very nice Pisco Sour with Pussanga,” she says. There’s a reason why top bars like Isabel’s, Amazonico, and Nightjar stock it. 

But, if you want to keep it simple you can make yourself a Pussaga Tonic, just avoid the sweeter, flavoured tonics, or mix it with some Champagne. It’s also tasty neat, with Spamer-Riether saying she drinks it in the summer as a digestive, sometimes with ice cubes and a lemon or orange garnish, but she also likes to heat it in the winter, mixing it with black tea, making punches, or even with hot chocolate. It’s worth experimenting to find how you like best. Whatever you decide, it’s a safe bet you won’t have many other drinks like it in your cabinet.

No Comments on Drinks without category: Pussanga

Drinks without category: Spirit of Aloha 65

Born in a U.S. surf bar as a gift to the après-sea crowd, the Spirit of Aloha 65 is like nothing you’ve ever tasted before… The fact that Stephen Thorp…

Born in a U.S. surf bar as a gift to the après-sea crowd, the Spirit of Aloha 65 is like nothing you’ve ever tasted before…

The fact that Stephen Thorp ended up making a drink as unique as Spirit of Aloha 65 wouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone who knows him, as he’s a pretty unique guy. His father was Richard Thorp, an actor who featured in Emmerdale, and he knew Prince Edward growing up. After he left school he headed off to America to make his fortune, ending up in Florida surfing and running a beach bar. To entice business, he made his own drink, a spirit infused with tropical fruit, chilli, and a blend of herbs and spice.

This homemade drink was often enjoyed as a shot or in a long drink after a day of surfing, so it was described as a ‘sundowner’. It became very popular and, when Thorp moved back to England around 15 years ago, he didn’t forget about his creation. He bought and renovated The Idle Hour in Barnes and kept making his own concoction for loyal customers. Enough people said he should bottle it and so, about four years ago, he decided to sell up the three pubs he owned and do just that.

He teamed up with Peter Gutierrez, former managing director of Jose Cuervo International, to help turn his creation into a brand. The result is Spirit of Aloha 65, the name both referencing all the joys of the sun, sea, and sand life as well as the number of recipes it took him to perfect the process. Much like his original creation, Aloha begins life as a neutral grain spirit (NGS) that is infused with fresh pineapple, lemon, ginger, scotch bonnet chillies, and a selection of herbs and spices including nutmeg and coriander.

Spirit of Aloha 65

Have you ever had a drink like Spirit of Aloha 65 before?

The only thing that’s distilled in the whole process is coriander. This is not like a gin, where you start with NGS and distil it with botanicals to get flavour. Instead, each ingredient like pineapple is chopped up and left to naturally infuse in tanks over a number of days. Once the spirits are ready, they’re blended together. There’s nothing artificial, all the flavour comes from those ingredients. There is filtration, but some sediment may form in the bottom, so before you pour Spirit of Aloha 65 do give the bottle a good shake. 

Though the process hasn’t really changed much since Thorp first made his signature spirit, the production of Spirit of Aloha 65 is now a very professional operation handled by De Kuyper in the Netherlands. Thorp couldn’t find anyone in the UK to make it, as it’s a complicated and slow process, but it’s in good hands. The Dutch booze makers are such perfectionists that whole batches have been thrown out when not thought to be of standard. 

Naturally, you might think of Spirit of Aloha 65 as a liqueur. In the US you could call it that, but there’s not enough sugar in it to be classified as one in the EU. It doesn’t meet the criteria to be called a rum, a gin, or a flavoured vodka for various reasons, including not being distilled and being too low in strength, a palatable 27% ABV. This also means Aloha is very on-trend, being low-alcohol, vegan-friendly, and low in calories. The brand is so trendy, in fact, it even makes a hot sauce with the same six ingredients, minus the alcohol, of course!

Spirit of Aloha 65

You can use Spirit of Aloha 65 in many different ways

So it’s tough to know how to categorise Spirit of Aloha 65. The brand describes it as an infused spirit, which is as good a term as any. It’s one of a number of new products that are defying convention and we’ll be covering more soon, as we’re enjoying the boundary-pushing that comes when the market becomes crowded. People find ways to stand out, and Spirit of Aloha 65 certainly does that.

It’s hard not to with a bottle like that. Bright blue with a Hawaiian surfer wearing a lei on the label is hardly inconspicuous. Then there’s the drink itself. There’s nothing that springs to mind that I’d directly compare it to, but the flavours are familiar and balanced so it isn’t challenging at all. I love the earthy, spicy heat of the chilli and the tropical backbone the pineapple gives it, with baking spice adding sweetness and the citrus some brightness. 

It’s perfectly drinkable on its own or just with ice and the duality of the refreshing, tropical elements with the warming spice means it suits all seasons in my book. If you’re looking to mix it, Spirit of Aloha 65 is at its best with ginger ale, although if ginger isn’t your thing an aromatic tonic would do the trick too. I’d also suggest you give the Aloha Colada and the Bloody Mary twist a go too, while if you’re truly adventurous mix it with a touch of mezcal and be amazed at the results.

Fundamentally, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t know what to call Spirit of Aloha 65, because I can guarantee you’ll want to drink it.

You can buy Spirit of Aloha 65 by clicking here

No Comments on Drinks without category: Spirit of Aloha 65

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search