"He who does not know the Chilean forests does not know the planet." -Pablo Neruda
Nothing is like Träkál. Even the FDA thinks so as they designated the spirit a unique category. This Chilean liquor from Patagonia calls you in with a beautiful artisan bottle and is even more mysterious after tasting it. The distillers sought a name for this “Spirit of Patagonia” and derived the name from the indigenous Huilliche language: Trä meaning valor and Kál meaning action. Thus, combining the two words leads to an approximate meaning of first warrior into battle. The boldness of this spirit reflects the name.
The master distiller wanted the whole experience of Träkál to mimic walking through a Patagonian forest. The scent fulfills that goal. The nose has a hint of sweetness and reminds me of wet mornings in the Oregonian woods. The sweetness mingles with an herbaceous quality reflecting the array of flora used in the spirit.
The depth of the flavor backs up the mysterious aroma. Träkál has a crescendo-like tasting experience with the subtle flavors coming on first and the boldest notes at the finish. The initial taste is almost a brief sweet honeysuckle that quickly gives way to the Patagonian plants incorporated in the distillation. The finish yields a bold smokiness reminding me of a peaty scotch.
Träkál’s unique characteristics make it extremely versatile, so substitute it into recipes you might otherwise use gin, unaged brandies, or even scotch.
THIRST AND HUNGER
Twist on a Classic: Negroni
The more I delve into the world of cocktails, the fonder I become of bitter flavors. Negronis, with their use of Campari, masterfully bring out this flavor profile and the gin accentuates it. Träkál, as a substitute to for the gin, adds numerous new dimensions to this classic. The hearty smokiness with hints of herbs plays with the vermouth and amaro in interesting new ways.
For the drink:
1 oz Träkál
1 oz sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica)
1 oz amaro (Campari, San Simeone, or substitute in your personal favorite)
For the garnish:
Traditionally an orange peel, but I used grapefruit
Nick and Nora
Combine all of the drink ingredients in a cocktail mixer, add ice and stir until chilled. Pour into your glass through a Hawthorne strainer. Add your garnish.
Something Original: Smoke Bird
This drink reminds of the steam rising off a lake early in the morning. The Träkál plays the role of this steam with its herbaceous smokiness. The spiced simple syrup, calvados, and lemon juice brighten the drink and give that sensation of a bird taking off through the mist.
For the drink:
½ oz Träkál
1 ½ oz calvados
½ oz fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz spiced simple syrup
For the garnish:
Combine the drink ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice and shake for 40 seconds. Add ice until three-quarters full and shake another 5-10 seconds until chilled. Pour through a Hawthorne and fine mesh strainer. Using an eye dropper garnish with Peychaud bitters.
Eat Your Spirit: Ceviche
Ceviche seemed like an effective way to incorporate Träkál into food. The depth and smokiness of the liquor did not trigger any immediate ideas of how to use it in a dessert. My wife came up with idea of using it in ceviche and I thought the idea was perfect. I based this ceviche on Cooks Illustrated recipe and some others that incorporated tequila. I made two batches, with and without the Träkál, and found the one containing the liquor brought an interesting dynamic to the meal.
For the ceviche:
2 tablespoons Träkál
1 pound fresh scallops (you can cut them into smaller pieces if you desire)
1 ½ teaspoons lime zest
½ cup fresh lime juice
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 jalapeño, diced
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 scallions, sliced
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon cumin
Add all of the ingredients to a large Ziploc bag and place in the refrigerator. Allow the scallops to cook in the mixture for at least an hour or longer depending your preferred doneness. Serve and enjoy!
Chile’s landscape alludes easy categorization. Running three thousand miles north to south the variety in geographies and climates alone is astounding. Chile’s climate ranges from desert to Mediterranean to ice cap and everything in between. Some of the most dramatic places in the country are southern Chile, the land of Patagonia and the location of the Träkál distillery. The region earned its name from Ferdinand Magellan who sailed through the region on the first circumnavigation of the world, describing the indigenous peoples as giants and in Portuguese calling them Patagão or in Spanish Patagón, people with big feet. Patagonia came to mean the land of giants. While the people were not giants, the scale of everything in the region seems to fulfill the name.
While only 10% of Patagonia is located in Chile (the other 90% is part of Argentina) the home of Träkál represents the region. The spirit is distilled in the city of Osorno located in the Región de Los Lagos (the Lake Region). Evidence exists of human populations inhabiting this area as early as 10,000 BCE, and the geography seems good evidence why. The rich landscape is full of lakes, it’s on the coast, and the southern end of the Andes runs through the eastern border with Argentina. I have barely begun to learn about the region, and first-hand experience is how I’d love to learn so much more.
I cannot wait to visit this enchanted land. I’ve wanted to visit even before trying Träkál and now I want to see if the spirit of Patagonia fulfills its name.