Spruce or Douglas Fir? Cocktails Gain the Taste of Trees
In Atlantic Magazine‘s ”Sprucing Up Your Cocktail,” Wayne Curtis writes in about the trick to getting your drink to taste like a Northern Maine spruce tree. It involves letting spruce resin simmer overnight in pots you never want to clean again. But the reward, he says, is a primeval awakening as you are transported to the loamy forest floor.
Spruce was a familiar flavoring in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially if you lived up north. It was found in tea, in beer, and perhaps most commonly in chewing gum—spruce gum was produced commercially all the way until the 1970s.
(Here we pause for a flashback to Pinot Grand Fenwick chewing gum.)
Curtis approvingly cites a spruced-up Manhattan, mentions Oregon’s Rogue Spruce Gin, and notes that spruce is showing up in beer, too, but it doesn’t seem that he has heard of newcomer broVo‘s Douglas Fir Liqueur. [UPDATE: I, in turn, hadn't heard of Oregon's Clear Creek distillery's Douglas Fir Eau de Vie. Thanks to @WN1188 for the tip.]
We had the chance to sample a few of broVo’s wares over the summer (broVo’s Mhairi Voelsgen and Erin Brophy head out to the Washington State forests in summer, when they say the fir’s new growth’s notes of ”citrus and earth notes are strongest”). It’s true: If you smell a tree in your drink, it wakes you right up.
If you’re making a face at the prospect of a sappy drink, know that the effect is largely thanks to your nose, rather than your tastebuds. Besides the Douglas Fir, broVo offers rose geranium, lemon balm, ginger, and lavender liqueurs, and all provide light, unusual overtones that prompt you to ask, “What’s in this?”
Brophy and Voelsgen (their last names, mashed up, provide the company with its name) are staking out drinks on the far side of the spectrum from, say, a heftily peaty scotch. Their liqueurs stay on the tip of your tongue, dancing away from any flooding of flavor. You can try out the lavender in a Saint Blanc at Oddfellows Café & Bar, the Douglas Fir in RN74‘s Emerald & Lime. A wide variety of local bars have put new broVo spins on familiar drinks. See what you think.