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Cacao Fruit-Based Solbeso

The first 80-proof spirit born from the tree best known as the source of chocolate

by David Graver in Food + Drink on 05 June 2014

solbeso-distilled-cacao-1.jpg

Whiskey hails from grain, agave provides the source for tequila and vodka can be derived from wheat or potatoes. But with Solbeso, an entirely new and (as yet) unnamed category of distilled spirits has emerged. Carefully selected, fresh cacao fruit—sustainably sourced from family farms in Ecuador and Peru—yields the drink, which becomes high-proof alcohol after fermentation and craft-distillation in South America.

This full-bodied white spirit does have a very subtle, smooth cocoa hint, but it is in no way a chocolate beverage since it's from the fruit pulp—not the cocoa bean. Dominated by various citrus notes with a light floral nose, it tastes distantly akin to tequila. And, much like tequila, Solbeso contains natural stimulants.

Although this is its first foray into the world at large, the origins and inspiration behind Solbeso are rooted in history. Even before cocoa beans were used to create chocolate, early inhabitants of South America used the pulp around the seeds for alcohol. With the modernization of ancient techniques and a new distribution system for cacao pulp, the resulting spirit maintains a full, unique flavor that avoids becoming overly sweet. Altogether, it's a stand alone sipper that can also add new dimensions to cocktail-making—and it's truly unlike anything else on the market.

Solbeso is available online for $40.

Photo by Hans Aschim

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