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AÇAI-SPIRITED
Everyone’s favorite Brazilian berry takes over the bar.
By Katie Loeb

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very once in a while, something comes along that’s so ubiquitous you have to wonder what all the fuss is about. Over the last few years, açaí (pronounced ah-SIGH-ee) berries have been touted as a weight-loss aid, anti-oxidant dietary supplement, energy booster, holistic cholesterol control medication and a cure for just about

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COURTNEY (LEFT) AND CARTER REUM, CREATORS OF VEEV

every ailment known to man. Açaí berries are the fruit of a palm tree that is native to the Amazon rainforests of South America. The pulp of the darkpurple, cherry-sized fruits is often eaten mixed with tapioca or granola as a breakfast food or snack. The juice is also popular as an ice cream flavoring or beverage. The deep violet juice has a delicious flavor that’s described as a cross between raspberry and chocolate by some, or blackberry and pomegranate by others. Since açaí has successfully invaded the iced tea aisle, the flavored water market and the juice blends, it was only a matter of time before some clever distiller would find a way to put it into cocktails. And they have. There are several products available that make the exotic flavor of açaí available to the mixologist who wants to try something new and different. No guarantees that it will cure all that ails you, but the flavor is delicious and just the thing for spring and summer cocktails. In 2007, brothers Courtney and Carter Reum launched VeeV, a 60-proof açai-infused, wheat-based liquor distilled in Idaho. It is marketed as the first and only distilled spirit made from the açaí berry. Preston Eckman, VeeV’s brand ambassador for Pennsylvania, says, “VeeV adds bright, deep notes that aren’t overpowering and mix well with any spirit/liqueur. VeeV is also kosher, and doesn’t contain any

C O U RT E SY V E E V

added sugars.” This unusual liquor is fruity, smooth and complex, and mixes well with club soda, ginger ale, lemonade, iced tea or tonic. It can be used both as a substitute for vodka in some of your favorite cocktails as well as a “condiment” of sorts in others. A splash of VeeV in your gin and tonic or vodka and tonic can add springtime freshness to these classics. As an added bonus, VeeV is the only certified carbon-neutral spirit in the world. The distillery operates using renewable wind energy and uses a four-column distillation process that uses exponentially less energy than a traditional pot still. Other

AÇAI COCKTAILS PART 1
VeeV Açaí Liqueur (code #60693, $31.29/750ml bottle) is a Special Liquor Order product, and can be ordered through the manager at your local PLCB Wine & Spirits shop. Absolut Berri Açaí (code #3205, $19.99/750ml bottle) is a listed product and available on the shelves of any PLCB Wine & Spirits shop.

.5 oz. Lillet Blanc .5 oz. fresh lemon juice Peychaud bitters for garnish Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with 2 or 3 drops of Peychaud bitters floated on the surface of the drink.

Açaí Martini
2.5 oz. vodka (plain, citrus or Absolut Berri) .75 oz. fresh lemon juice .5 oz. V8 V-Fusion Acai Mixed Berry juice .5 oz simple syrup Shake all ingredients well with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Add a dash of rose water if available. Garnish with flamed orange peel*, and serve. *Great bartender trick that always elicits oohs and aahs. Makes drinks taste better too, and not difficult to do. For an instructional video on how to do this, go to www.videojug.com/webvideo/how-toflame-a-citrus-peel

Brazilian Spritzer (courtesy Preston Eckman, Opa Restaurant)
2 oz. VeeV 1 oz. Aperol (an Italian aperitif) .75 oz. blood orange juice .25 oz. simple syrup Shake and strain into a rocks glass on ice. Top off with sparkling wine (rosé cava is great). Garnish with a sprig of thyme.

Cool Breeze (courtesy Katie Loeb, Oyster House)
1 oz. VeeV 1 oz. Bluecoat gin

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than the açaí berries — which are imported from Brazil — all of the ingredients are sourced locally, cutting down on the carbon footprint of shipping. VeeV also contains Vitamin C-rich acerola cherry and prickly pear, which is believed to combat hangovers. Drinking any alcohol-based beverage for health reasons does seem a bit self-delusional, but since the VeeV Spirits company is making such a positive environmental impact and donates $1 towards tropical rainforest sustainability and conservation in Brazil for every bottle purchased, there’s certainly something to feel good about when drinking their product. In February 2010, Swedish vodka giant Absolut launched their entry into the açaí market with Absolut Berri, an açaiblueberry-pomegranate flavored vodka. According to Laura Stephen, the company’s global marketing director, Absolut Berri’s flavor is described as having “an elegant, focused berry aroma, a pure, vital and slightly juicy taste, and a smooth, crisp and berry finish.” It mixes well with club soda, tonic, cola, ginger ale, lemon-lime soda, iced tea or lemonade — virtually anywhere you would imagine a berry flavor complementing the base beverage. If you like Cherry Coke or raspberry lemonade, then this could be your new spring and summer go-to spirit, providing multiple new cocktail possibilities with minimal skills or effort required. Absolut Berri also mixes deliciously in more complex cocktails, making a great substitute for unflavored vodka in a Cosmopolitan, for example. Another way to enjoy açaí in your cocktails is to avail yourself of one of the many juice blends that are available on the shelves of your local supermarket. V8 V-Fusion, readily available in local supermarkets such as Acme and Superfresh, makes an Acai Mixed Berry juice blend that contains the juice of 8 vegetables and fruits: sweet pota-

WHAT DOES AÇAÍ TASTE LIKE? TAKE YOUR PICK.

toes, purple carrots, carrots, apples, white grapes, açai, blueberries and limes. Substitute a splash of this in any recipe calling for cranberry or pomegranate juice and you’ll sneak in one of those pesky daily vegetable servings we can never keep up with every time the U.S. Department of Agriculture decides to change the Food Pyramid. Although many of us might never have heard of it just a short time ago, it would seem that açaí is a flavor that’s here to stay. Its refreshing and unusual flavor appeals to a broad spectrum of palates, and its versatility and availability in many forms makes it an easy new flavor to incorporate into a professional or home bar. Enjoy it during the warmer months — its fresh fruitiness is the perfect foil for a warm breeze and a cool cocktail. Cheers! ❏ Katie Loeb is the beverage maven for Inside.

AÇAI COCKTAILS PART 2 Açaí Lemonade (aka Eco Aid – courtesy of VeeV Spirits LLC)
1.5 oz. VeeV Açaí Spirit Lemonade Splash cranberry juice Lemon wheel for garnish Build in a tall glass over ice and stir well. Garnish with lemon wheel. This drink is a variation of a classic Mai Tai from one of Pittsburgh’s finest barkeeps, Mike Mills. While this drink might be beyond the scope of the average home bartender, it illustrates the versatility of VeeV and how high end cocktail bars and mixologists are utilizing the spirit.

My Bow Tie (courtesy of Mike Mills, Embury at the Firehouse Lounge, Pittsburgh)
1 oz. Orinoco Rum (substitute Ten Cane rum if Orinoco is unavailable) 1 oz. Veev Acai Liqueur .5 oz Green Chartreuse .75 Lime Juice .5 oz Orgeat Syrup (an almond flavoring syrup for cocktails) 1 egg white Fresh ground Nutmeg *Lime Peel Combine all ingredient except nutmeg and lime peel in a tin and dry shake without ice to froth egg white. Add lots of ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with fresh ground nutmeg and lime peel. *For the lime peel in this drink, cut as wide a peel as possible and pinch in the middle of the peel over the glass. Then float on top of the drink to look like an actual bow tie.

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