6,000 feet. That is roughly the altitude that Singani 63 is grown and distilled. Singani is a grape based spirit from Bolivia that has recently been introduced to the United Stated thanks to award winning film director Steven Soderbergh. He fell in love with it in 2007 while filming “CHE” in Bolivia. Singani has been produced in Bolivia for 500 years but has never been exported until recently and it’s all thanks to Steven.
We were invited to a gathering of distributors, bartenders, and food critics to celebrate the recent availability of Singani 63 in Florida at Luke’s Kitchen and Bar in Maitland. Everyone went around the table to introduce themselves and how they were connected to the industry. Having been behind a bar only once in my life, and having been reprimanded for improper use of the ice machine within the first five minutes of taking my post, it was obvious we represented the consumer side of the industry.
The bartenders at Luke’s have developed multiple cocktails using Singani 63 and we were treated to a selection of them, along with some custom creations from fellow attendees. The Mrs. ordered a Black Forest which contains:
Tempus fugit creme de cacao
Black sesame orgeat
I ordered a Martini with two parts Singani 63 and one part Cocchi Americano with a large twist.
Our host for the evening was Jonathan Brathwaite, chief operating officer at Singani 63, who shared with us how the brand started and why Mr. Soderbergh is so passionate about this project. Many celebrities have put their face on a spirit bottle and called it a day. But Mr. Soderbergh is different; he has been deeply invested in this project for the past decade. He has attended numerous cocktail events and has become friends with many bartenders in the industry.
Singani is versatile and impresses many a bartender who immediately start dreaming of all its possibilities after their first taste. It can replace ingredients or serve as a base spirit (being 40% abv) which brings a whole new dimension to familiar cocktails.
So what does it taste like and why the numbers 63? Both excellent questions that I asked myself. It tastes like it smells which is unique for a spirit. It is dry, smooth, floral, and peppery all at the same time, hence why so many bartenders instantly love it. And 63...well that is the year Steven Soderbergh was born.
And Mr. Soderbergh and his Singani 63 team want singani to be more than just another drink, they want it to be its own class of spirit in the United States, just like whiskey, gin, and tequila are. Currently it is classified as brandy. The Federal government’s Beverage Alcohol Manual (BAM) was last updated in 2007. The cocktail world has come a long way since 2007 - what other classes could and should be recognized?
The only change to BAM was one amendment in 2018 that officially recognized Ouzo and Aquavit as their own respective classes due to pressure from Greece and Norway. Discussions have already been fostered by the Singani 63 team between the US and Bolivian governments to accomplish the same for singani. Who knew that international politics had a role in cocktails!?
This week I really wanted another Singani 63 Martini, so we swung by Bitters and Brass where we were first introduced to Singani 63 a couple of months ago. Arthur was gracious enough to allow me behind the bar again but this time for photoshoot purposes only.