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K&L Staff Recommendations
Chartreuse "V.E.P." Green (1L) $149.99
96-100 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Classic/Highest Recommendation* The seductive bouquet offers wonderfully floral, fruity, guava- and melon-like fragrances of elderflower, becoming richly pear- and quince-like following aeration time. The palate entry is soft and firm; the midpalate is integrated, harmonious and exquisitely balanced between alcohol level, sweetness, acidity and floral impact. A perfect liqueur." (4/2008) K&L Notes: Double Gold Medal at the 2007 and 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition! St. Germain is an artisanal French liqueur made from hand-picked elderflower blossoms. The... Read More »
96 points Wine Enthusiast: "Tawny and bright in the glass, this mellow, bittersweet beauty offers caramel and vanilla, braced by allspice and bitter orange. Although Nonino is best known for its grappas, this amaro, flavored with herbs from the mountains of Friuli, is worth seeking out. Consider it for dessert pairings or an edgy spin on a negroni. (KN)" (4/2014) K&L Notes: From Distillatori Nonino in Italy's Friuli. This amaro is a grape distillate infused with herbs and aged in barrique, the Quinessentia Amaro Nonino shows fragrant mountain herbs. It's delicious as an aperitivo served with a ... Read More »
Wine Spectator: "Although many amari boast a secret formula comprising a multitude of ingredients-Fernet-Branca ($30) contains a total of 27, giving it a licorice, menthol and raisin character - certain flavors are well-trodden. Among them are anise, angelica, marjoram, cinnamon, cinchona, gentian, rosemary, saffron, fennel and cardamom, as well as mint and orange. (JB)" (2/2016) K&L Notes: Fernet Branca is an Italian amaro developed in 1845. The family's secret recipe still has never been disclosed, but what they can tell you is that it is a combination of 27 different herbs picked ... Read More »
From the distillery: "Ready for a bigger, better, bitterer bar? Say hello to Bruto Americano! With a bracing dose of bitterness, a bright pop of citrus, and intriguing sylvan notes inspired by distiller Lance Winters’ formative experiences growing up in California in the 1970s, Bruto is a bitter aperitivo liqueur that makes us as proud as it does thirsty. Compare it to the other aperitivos you’ve been drinking and experience what you’ve been missing. A variety of herbs, roots, and other botanicals. Though the exact number of ingredients and formulation a... Read More »
93 points Wine Enthusiast: "New to the U.S. market in 2012, this 'dry' Curaçao is intriguing and should work well as a sophisticated sweetener alongside bitter-edged spirits and darker, biting spirits like rye whiskey. While not precisely dry, this golden liqueur has its vanilla sweetness tempered by a wash of bitter orange. The scent is rich and agave-like, with a touch of mezcal-like funkiness. (KN)" (2/2012) K&L Notes: Designed by renowned cocktailian David Wondrich, this is perhaps the finest orange liqueur available for mixing. Try it in a Sidecar or Corpse Reviver for spectacular results.
92 points Wine Enthusiast: "A classic, can’t-go-wrong workhorse spirit that provides a versatile option for a wide range of cocktails. This clear liqueur has a bright, true orange scent with a hint of bitter orange on the aroma. The flavor mix is of candied orange slices and lightly bitter orange peel. The finish is warm and clean. Good balance. (KN)" (2/2012) K&L Notes: A must-have classic.
91 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Best Buy* This relatively gentle amaro supposedly tastes like artichokes. Instead, the palate finds mellow dark chocolate, walnut and allspice, finishing bittersweet. (KN)" (4/2016) K&L Notes: An artichoke based bitter enhanced by the infusion of 13 different herbs and plants. Totally natural with rich aromatics, it is a modern and versatile digestivo. A great way to end your day.
*5 Stars from Paul Pacult - Highest Recommendation!* Gran Classico Bitter is based on the original Bitter of Turin recipe dating from the 1860s. This classic aperitif is artisan-made in a small Swiss distillery from an infusion of numerous herbs and roots including bitter orange peel, wormwood, gentian, rhubarb, and other aromatic plants. Gran Classico Bitter’s color is a natural result of the herbs and plants infused into pure grain spirit produced to the highest Swiss standards and is not artificially colored in any way. It is amazingly complex and re... Read More »
92 points Wine Enthusiast: "The nosing passes pick up smells of aniseed, cardamom, licorice, hay, white pepper, floral/viny scents along with coriander, sage, and thyme. The palate entry is sweet, floral, peppery, and viny; the midpalate features fennel, rosemary, allspice, and bark. Ends up herbal sweet." (2/2007) K&L Notes: A softer sweeter version of the green. Always a pleasure mixed up or even on the rocks.
92 points Wine Enthusiast: "The bouquet is lovely, balanced, properly astringent, ripe and juicy with scents of cherry stone and cherry juice. The palate entry is decadently sweet and textured with vibrant tastes of cherry compote and cherry preserves at midpalate. The finish is svelte, moderately syrupy and downright delicious. An outstanding liqueur: use it in an Aviation Cocktail." (12/2007)
This true CLASSIC is a must have for any mixologist or amateur cocktail lover. This special french liquor was released in the 19th century by french industrialist vAlexandre Le Grand and it's actual connection to the Benedictine order is dubious at best, but the recipe is claimed to have been invented in 1510 by french monk Don Bernardo Vincelli. The main flavor components include Hyssop, Angelica, and Lemon Balm, but the other 24+ ingredients and the composition are a closely guarded trade secret. Similar to Chartreuse, the conncotion is aged for sever... Read More »
Wine Enthusiast: "Dark purple, nearly opaque, with a wine-like scent. Warm and rich, this black currant spirit coats the tongue and palate with big, grape-berry flavors. It’s best lightened with bubbly, as in a Kir royale." K&L Notes: There may be no better aperitif for an outdoor spring meal than a glass of dry rosé. Then again, we would not sniff at a chilled Kir, either. Made with any ol' simple white wine (Aligoté is the traditional choice, but a Mâcon or Pinot Blanc work just fine) and the addition of a healthy dash of Crème di Cassis, a Kir is refreshing, palate awakening and th... Read More »
93 points Wine Enthusiast: "This lime-green, anise-scented liqueur is sweet at first sip, then herbaceous in the middle, showing fennel, pine, tarragon and mild floral notes. The finish is spicy and warming, with anise, white pepper and ginger heat. It's a bit too viscous and fiery for straight-up sipping, but it's beautifully complex and a key ingredient for the classic Last Word and other cocktails. (KN)" (4/2016) K&L Notes: Chartreuse has gotten notice in recent years as an important ingredient in popular Gin cocktails such as the Last Word, but the spirit which named a color has a grand and... Read More »
93 points Wine Enthusiast: "Opaque and inky brown, the restrained aroma hints at espresso. On the palate, it's a wash of espresso, hazelnut and cola, with a pleasantly fleeting sweet-ness followed by a long, herbal finish. (KN)" (4/2014) K&L Notes: An hour or so has passed since your last spoon full of smashed yams, your concluding hunk of brioche stuffing, your final, fateful bite of tryptophan-laden turkey, and yet you cannot pull yourself from the table. You are full, beyond full. Never fear, Averna is here! Leave it to the Sicilians to come up with the ultimate in stomach soothing digestive... Read More »
Inventory: San Francisco
92 points Wine Enthusiast: "Nuanced and palate-cleansing, look for a mild, savory scent and bracing notes of dill, fennel seed and pine, plus a brisk, zingy finish that suggests caraway-seeded rye bread. Pair this refreshing sip with herring or other savory bites. (KN)" (11/2016) K&L Notes: Brennivin is Iceland's most classic tipple. The stark black label and intense flavor have given rise to the nickname "Black Death," but the traditional Icelandic "schnapps" is all about celebrating life! Distilled from grain and flavored with caraway, it does not have any sugar added after distillation and t... Read More »
Wine & Spirits: "Not as unusual, but certainly noteworthy, is the St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur. Based on the New Orleans–style chicory coffee, the lightly sweet and spiritous brew combines cold-steeped Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans with vanilla and cane sugar. Pure roast-coffee flavor dominates, with hints of cherry and a smoky essence from the chicory. There are just enough floral vanilla tones to keep it from getting heavy. (LB)" (10/2014) K&L Notes: Roasted Yirgacheffe coffee beans, French chicory root, Madagascar vanilla beans, and organic cane sugar combine to create a coffee li... Read More »
One of the most delicious and versatile new releases from our neighbors in the Bay Area! The St. George spiced pear uses pear brandy and a spiced pear juice to create a liqueur that mixes beautifully into a number of cocktails, or pairs wonderfully with desserts. Be careful. It goes down far too easily...
93 points Wine Enthusiast: "Grand Marnier—or “GrandMa,” as some cocktail geeks gleefully shorthand it—remains one of the classics. Although it’s Cognac-based, it’s a versatile match for other spirits, too. The liqueur is extremely aromatic, with lots of sweet and bitter orange notes exploding out of the glass. Look for a warm, honeyed flavor and a nice burst of orange peel and spicy cinnamon and ginger on the long finish. (KN)" (2/2012) K&L Notes: The original. Grand Marnier was created in 1880 by Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle (and the Lapostolle family still owns the company) as a blend o... Read More »
90-95 points Wine Enthusiast: "The first aromatic blast is seductively anise-like, then it mellows, turning softer, more herbal, and plumper. At palate entry the intensely bitter taste of anise both enlivens and cleanses the palate; at midpalate the pleasant sting of alcohol and the zest of rooty/woodsy botanicals make for memorable imbibing. Finishes elegant and smooth." (10/2005) K&L Notes: While the prohibition of absinthe in 1915 put a damper on wormwood spirits, it created a market for anise-flavored liqueurs like Ricard. With its characteristic licorice flavor, Ricard is a light and refreshi... Read More »
Well, I've only been waiting my entire life for this product to arrive. This is truly the quintessential bitter French liqueur. They start with high quality neutral spirit. Both bitter and sweet orange peels are macerated in the base spirit before being distilled. Then they do it again. Wait, then they do it one more time. Then they add more peels, spices, botanicals, etc. A small amount of sugar is used to balance the bitter and stabilize the color. This is the Franco-phonic answer to Amaro and it is so so good. Truly a special treat for anyone smart en... Read More »
92 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Best Buy* The vibrant, bittersweet bouquet is citrusy, herbal, floral and earthy. The palate entry is bittersweet, intensely herbal and earthy but refreshingly orange citrusy; the tasty midpalate is marked by heightened sweetness and a more mineral-like core flavor. Finish is savory and bittersweet." (12/2006) K&L Notes: According to a highly trusted source, this is the closest available substitute for the old incarnation of Amer Picon. (Amer Picon is a highly sought-after cocktail ingredient, which is not distributed in the United States.) What few people know is... Read More »
***Five Stars/Highest Recommendation - The Spirit Journal*** Known for their Absinthe, Tempus Fugit has made waves over last year releasing the exceptional (albeit controversial) Gran Classico and the lovely Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violette. Their new Creme de Cacao is out of this world. Few things have bothered me more than the subpar Creme de Cacaos I've tasted in the past, but this stuff is awesome. Based on a 19th century recipe, the Tempus Fugit folks have gone so far as to replicate the original cacao and vanilla sources from Venezuela and Mexic... Read More »
Ravello and the surrounding villages known collectively as the Amalfi Coast have been famous for their natural and human-built beauty since the time of the ancient Romans. It is so incredibly gorgeous there, that it almost seems unfair that Ravello is also home to the producer of this lovely dessert tipple based on the local lemons. Amalfi Coast Limoncello is an origin-protected IGP product (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) like Balsamico di Modena. Yes, this stuff is sweet, but also acidic. It's a lemonade stand for grown-ups, and there is nothing bette... Read More »
92 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Best Buy* A syrupy textured mixer comprised of liquid sucrose, lime juice, almond and clove essences and water—not to be consumed neat. Clove and lime juice on the nose. Thick and sweet on the palate, but the lime juice acts as the perfect balance for the high-octane liquid sucrose. Scores of applications in cocktails." (6/2006) K&L Notes: Velvet Falernum is a longtime staple item of resorts and bars in Barbados, and today for its use in Tropical, Tiki and Caribbean drinks such as the Rum Swizzle, Mai Tai, Zombie, Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and the Corn n’ Oil. It is ... Read More »
Finally! We've been given a version of white Campari/Biancosarti that's actually everything we'd hoped for! Luxardo's Bitter Bianco comes from a well-balanced distilled infusion of bitter herbs, aromatic plants and citrus fruits in water and alcohol. The result is stunning and for those who are genuinely Campari crazy (as in crazy for Campari specifically, not just all bitter liqueurs), this is the closest substitute we've ever encountered. Try it in an Americano or white Negroni and be amazed. It's the most exciting new Italian liqueur to hit the Americ... Read More »
Originally created in 1823 by James Pimm of Kent to be served as a digestif, Pimm's Original Gin Sling was the first "House Cup" at London's popular Oyster Bar, thus the spirit's name: Pimm's No. 1 Cup. A special blend of herbs, liqueurs and quinine were steeped in gin and paired with oysters on the half shell. As the brand's reputation grew, other Pimm's Cups were developed, each based on different spirits, including vodka and brandy, but only the gin-based cup is available in the US today. The iconic cocktail, appropriately named Pimm's Cup, has been a... Read More »
If you're a Campari fan, but have never been able to find something outside of the Italian legend that scratches that same itch, then this might be the one thing that finally captivates you. The Leopold brothers have gone back to the drawing board and created an all natural version of the bitter aperitivo that uses real cochineal (like Campari used to) to color the liquid and brings a much bolder, more bitter flavor. It mixes like a DREAM into a Negroni and works wonders in an Americano. If you think you've got the Negroni cocktail mastered, think again.... Read More »
The elusive Génépy (Génépi) from Dolin is a type of liqueur that has long been sought-after, but only recently become available in the US. Its character is derived from the various alpine shrubs of the genus Artemisia. More commonly known as wormwood, Genepi is an iconic alpine botanical associated with the kingdom of Savoy and the regions in France, Switzerland, and Italy that once made up that kingdom. It's been used for centuries to flavor liqueurs, digestifs and various tonics. The flavor profile falls somewhere in between modern absinthe and chartre... Read More »
From its origins in the tropical hills and valleys of Jamaica, the allspice berry has for generations been prized for its exceptional tastes of clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg and a pepper note that dazzles the palate. The allspice liqueur, known in classic cocktails as "Pimento Dram," brings together the fine pot-still rum and classic allspice berries of Jamaica. Enjoy St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram in classic cocktails, Wassail and other punches, mulled wine, continental and island cuisine.
Using a wine base of Piemonte Moscato, this secret family recipe was developed over the last century by the Bosca Family. Using cardoon, Blessed thistle and several other botanicals, the Cardamaro is one of the most unique and interesting amaro currently available. An absolutely fantastic price for a high quality, delicious amaro and a fantastic gateway into this world of Italian bitters.
Only the second domestically produced Fernet available, SF's local Fernet producer has knocked it out of the park. It's got everything you love about the Branca and nothing you don't! Gone is the hard edged menthol flavors, replaced by cinnamon and subtle bitter roots ALL sourced locally. The ingredients list is made of almost exclusively native plants with the exception of a couple of classics which are nonetheless grown in CA. Medium bodied with a good deep spicy nose. The palate is forgives, but does not forget! Lots of complex and familiar aromas of ... Read More »
96-100 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Classic/Highest Recommendation* Very ripe, intense aromas of fresh-off-the-vine raspberries; further aeration stimulates a trace of welcome tartness brought on by acidity that perfectly counters the concentrated ripeness. Palate entry is sweet, ripe and juicy; the midpalate is medium-bodied, ripe, sweet/sour without being jammy or overbearing. Finishes long and intensely raspberry-like." (2/2004) K&L Notes: From the Beverage Tasting Institute: "Deep ruby color. Aromas of warm raspberry compote and raspberry sorbet follow through on a soft, supple entry to a fruity ... Read More »
93 points Wine Enthusiast: "The brisk, invigorating scent of this amaro hovers between herbal and medicinal. On the palate, it skews sweeter, with rich caramel and hazelnut flavors and just enough bitterness and baking spice to keep things interesting." (4/2014) K&L Notes: Leave it to the Italians to make a bottle of "bitter" so beautiful and so tasty, too. This is an infusion, made from a secret recipe of aromatic herbs in alcohol, with the addition of a small amount of water and sugar. The result is a digestivo like none other, and just the thing to follow up an espresso after a rich, Italian... Read More »
Wine Enthusiast: "Despite the mild licorice scent, this clear, thick liqueur is surprisingly bold on the palate, showing lots of candy-like black licorice. It feels quite fiery, especially with repeated sips. (KN)" (4/2014)
Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur combines juice from the seasonal harvest of Austria's famed Klosterneuberger apricots with an eau-de-vie produced from this same fruit. Destillerie Purkhart selects its apricots each season from family orchards in the Danube Valley and surrounding regions. Ideal for perfecting so many classic cocktails. Try the Golden Dawn Cocktail: 2/3 oz. Dry Gin, 2/3 oz. Orchard Apricot Liqueur, 2/3 oz Calvados, 2/3 oz. Cointreau, 1 dash Grenadine.
91 points Wine Enthusiast: "Though it's made with ancho chiles, this liqueur is modest on the spice scale. Caramel-y brown in the glass, look for a lightly herbaceous aroma similar to root beer and rounded flavors that mix caramel and cocoa with raisin and cinnamon heat, with a faint smokiness on the finish. Particularly harmonious mixed in cocktails with brown spirits like whiskey. (KN)" (2/2016) Wine & Spirits: "Made in the Barrio del Artista in Puebla, Mexico, since 1927, Ancho Reyes is a spicy ancho chile–based liqueur that actually tastes like real peppers. The peppers set fi re to your mouth, b ...Read More »
The Danish classic is making a come back with the craft cocktail set. Its fresh, tart cherry character is the perfect balance to add both sweetness and acidity to your cocktail. If you love cherries, this is the adulterant for you. You can also sip it chilled or throw it in a spritz without much issue.
Suze Gentiane Liqueur is a bitter aperitif that has been produced in France since 1889, but we're just getting it at K&L now! Lightly sweet with plenty of gentian bitterness, this is the perfect ingredient for a white negroni, or just plain soda water.
Just in time for the holiday season, legendary Oregon fruit distiller Steve McCarthy brings you his best liqueur yet: Clear Creek Cranberry. I have been anxiously and impatiently awaiting this elixir since I got the chance to sample it at the distillery four months ago. This is not the sugary-sweet, syrupy substance you probably are expecting. This cranberry liqueur captures the pure tart and tangy essence of the berry itself, with just enough sweetness to balance it out. It's juicy, supple, and incredibly addicting. It's going to blow you away and it's ... Read More »
Another exemplary effort from Tempus Fugit. Nothing on the market comes close to the amazing and authentic flavors exhibited here. Even the high end French producers settle for using mint extracts rather than fresh mint and Tempus refuses to compromise. This has fresh spearmint and peppermint as well as a host of botanicals to provide depth. Distilled from winter wheat to a 193 proof, then macerated with the herbs for supreme concentration.
Fernet del Frate Angelico is truly a step back in time and a major step up in quality from anything available on the modern market. It is made in micro-batches by hand at the Matter Distillery in Switzerland following an original, hand-written recipe, purchased by the distillery's original owner in 1930 from a long-closed Italian distillery. This amazing liqueur can be sipped on its own, but shines in skilfully-made cocktails, especially the Employees Only 'Fernando' and the Toronto. It is a fantastic, multifaceted substitute for cocktail bitters. Tempti... Read More »
Dark, brooding, and deceptively tart, this incredible raspberry cordial from local hero St. George Distillery is complex enough to sip on its own, yet not so cloying as to overpower a fine cocktail. Pure raspberry flavor in spades, with just enough sugar to balance out the acidity. Try it with the St. George NOLA Coffee liqueur for a really decadent experience.
Giffard is one of France's highest quality liqueur producers. They're sourcing the highest quality fruits and spices for their liqueurs and have committed to using local ingredients where ever possible. Because Giffard liqueurs are truly designed specifically for use in cocktails, the aromatic profile is the most important aspect of this product. The violette is a deep, brooding, stark violet color and the flavors are delicate yet concentrated, without getting soapy. Lovely.
Sfumato Rabarbaro translates to "smoky rhubarb," which tells you all you need to know about this unique amaro. Instead of using a neutral base, the Cappelletti family of Trentino-Alto uses a special variety of rhubarb root that's combined with alpine herbs and berries.
Rothman & Winter's Crème De Violette Liqueur is one of the great mixing agents now available. All you need is a little gin and a lemon, and you've got a delicious and sophisticated cocktail. Elegant in its simplicity, this authentic alpine liqueur captures the fragrance, vibrant colors, and taste of the native wildflowers found in the Alps - the Queen Charlotte and March violets. Use it in classic cocktails such as the Blue Moon or Aviation, or enjoy as an ingredient in continental cuisine.
The magnificent Giffard Triple Sec is the gold standard for orange liqueur. A fabulous addition to almost any cocktail. From the distillery: "Fresh and candied orange notes. Delicately sweet, enhanced by a note of bitterness that is typical of orange and grapefuit peels. Slight touch of cinnamon at the end."
Giffard is one of France's highest quality liqueur producers. They're sourcing the highest quality fruits and spices for their liqueurs and have committed to using local ingredients where ever possible. Because Giffard liqueurs are truly designed specifically for use in cocktails, the aromatic profile is the most important aspect of this product. While the flavor on the palate is excellent, the depth of flavor on the nose is second to none. The grapefruit is snappy, tart, and fresh. Incredible
94 points Wine Enthusiast: "Especially recommended for sweetening cocktails made with dark spirits, this liqueur is made with Cognac, Mandarin oranges and spices. Look for a vibrant orange color, citrus and tropical fruit aromas and a sweet, mouthfilling flavor that mixes bold orange with caramel." (2/2012)
This Amaro is a product of the Zarri family tradition, and follows a recipe that has been kept in the archives of the Villa Zarri cellars for half a century. This liqueur is made with cold alcohol infusions of 28 precious herbs and aromatic roots whose taste is bitter yet elegant. These include quassia, rhubarb, wormwood, Colombo, liquorice, mint, myrtle-leafed bitter orange, gentian, bitter and sweet orange peel, and a covert many others. The extract obtained is then left to stand for several months in a steel container until it reaches the 35 percent a... Read More »
This classic vermouth type is based on Piedmontese white wines, including some Moscato, and infused with a wide range of different botanicals, many of them grown in the Occitan Alps near the winery. The flavor of this vermouth is complex and vivid, with an excellent balance of sweetness and bitterness. Some vermouths taste strongly of a single botanical, but the interplay of components here is distinctive and delicious. We drink it with a splash of soda water as an aperitivo, and you should too.