Hops—Not Just For Beer Anymore

How the not-so-secret ingredient in your favorite brew is making a better, bitter liquor.

Photograph By Victor Prado; Food styling by Karen Evans at Apostrophe.

How the not-so-secret ingredient in your favorite brew is making a better, bitter liquor.

Turns out that the herbal, spicy flavors of hops add an entirely new dimension to all kinds of spirits. "It brings a rounded bitterness, much different than, say, citrus peel, but more restrained than radicchio," says Christopher Bates, executive chef and general manager of Hotel Fauchére in Milford, Pennsylvania, where he serves a hops-infused Manhattan and an olive oil made from the dried flowers of the heady plant. But the methods used for hop-centric hard liquors are as varied as the flavor profiles themselves. For its Hophead Vodka, California-based Anchor Distilling Company drew on its brewing heritage, adopting the same Yakima Valley hops found in its legendary beers. Darek Bell, owner of Corsair in Nashville, distills a Russian Imperial Stout through hops, then ages it in charred-oak barrels to make his chocolate, maltyRasputin Whiskey. Drinks historian David Wondrich, meanwhile, collaborated with New York Distilling on a recipe for Holland gin that substitutes Cluster hops for traditional Dutch botanicals, resulting in the sippableChief Gowanus New-Netherland Gin. And if you're looking for an option that plays well with others, Canada'sBittered Sling Grapefruit & Hops bitters goes best in a reimagined Aviation cocktail, a classic that combines gin, maraschino liqueur, and lemon juice.

—Amy Zavatto

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