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Cacao fruit in your drink? But don't think chocolate

Solbeso

If you think cacao is synonymous with chocolate, think again—at least so far as your spirits collection is concerned.

New spirit Solbeso, introduced at Tales of the Cocktail, is the first to be distilled from the cacao fruit. (It's cacao beans that become chocolate.) "That's my biggest challenge," said founder Tom Higbee. "If [the consumer] even knows what cacao is ... few can imagine it in a drink."

Put creme de cacao and chocolate liquors out of your mind. Solbeso ($40) is a white spirit with citrus notes of orange and lemon, making it a more versatile cocktail component. Suggested recipes include using it as a stand-in for bourbon in a Manhattan, and pairing it with muddled jalapenos and lemon juice.

Higbee came up with the idea on a trip to Peru, where he saw cacao farmers throwing away the fruit as a byproduct of the salable beans. The delicate fruit, they told him, quickly ferments. "If it ferments, you can distill it," he said.

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Solbeso is current available in New York, Miami and Los Angeles, primarily in bars—where the company hopes bartenders will be the front line in winning over consumers.

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CNBC.com is in New Orleans for the 12th annual Tales of the Cocktail festival, which runs through Sunday. Check back for more coverage of the trends shaping what you'll drink at home and on the town—and how much you'll spend doing so.

By CNBC's Kelli B. Grant