A "light and refreshing" summer drink is often code for the inclusion of cucumber, citrus, maybe some mint. But aloe vera?
If you're thinking that sounds a little offbeat, you're not wrong. Aloe sometimes makes its way into herbal liquors such as amaro, and bartenders occasionally use its juice in cocktails, but aloe vera liqueur Chareau ($49) is quite literally the only product of its kind on the market.
(CNBC checked, asking the folks at Beverage Testing Institute to comb their extensive database. No other aloe mentions turned up, they said.)
"I wanted to create something unique," said Kurt Charron, founder of craft distillery Charron Favreau, based in Alameda, California. The company is named for his grandparents; Chareau is a blend of their last names.
Chareau's list of ingredients—all sourced from local farms—is short but sweet: cucumber, lemon peel, muskmelon and spearmint, which are distilled with an eau de vie from Muscat grapes. Aloe juice and a little sugar are added before bottling.
"For me, when I think of aloe, I think of a trip to the spa," said Lance Winters, master distiller at St. George Spirits, who consulted with Charron. "The other flavors are a really great way to tie that together."
The result is a spirit that has a quintessentially fresh scent and taste, pulling from all its ingredients. It's fairly sweet, but not sugary.
Small-batch bottling and limited distribution could make Chareau a find worthy of souvenir tourism, if you don't live in an area where it's available. (Most airline policies allow consumers to include several bottles of alcohol in their checked baggage.)
Chareau is currently available for sale in California only; the Chicago launch is slated for July 1, and on August 1 the liqueur will be available in New York City, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., said Charron. Bars in Las Vegas and several Arizona cities, as well as California, also have it available on their menus. (Check out Chareau's site for a map of buying and drinking locations.)
What to do with a bottle of Chareau? "As long as you stick with fresh ingredients and go with the flavors there, you can't go wrong," said Christopher Brian, senior general manager at Plan Check Kitchen + Bar, which has three establishments in the Los Angeles area.
In other words, pairings with cucumber, citrus juices or melon are an easy go. (Check out the California 75 recipe below for an easy cocktail with lemon juice and sparkling wine.)
Mixologists also say the drink plays well with other herbaceous spirits, particularly gin. Charron said he prefers an "old-school boozy martini, fifty-fifty gin and Chareau."
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Plan Check's Fairfax location uses Chareau in its signature cocktail Splendor in the Grass, a mix of the aloe liqueur, agave syrup, lime juice, arugula and white truffle salt. The novelty of the combo gets plenty of diners to try it, said Brian, but the drink has also gained popularity among regular diners.
"The ones who order it, a high percentage of them, it's their go-to cocktail," he said.
Shake Chareau, gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice. Strain into Collins glass over ice. Top with California sparkling wine. Garnish with fresh rosemary.