Cane Spirit is a an alcoholic spirit normally made from molasses or fresh sugar cane. It is basically a type of rum. It is most popular in South Africa, where it is often known simply as “cane”, and Brazil where it is known as Cachaça.
Rum or Vodka?
While Cane Spirit is made from molasses, Cachaça is made from the pure unrefined juice of sugar cane. There is some debate as to whether it and Cachaca should be classifed as rums or not. There is also more debate as to whether Cane Spirit should be classified as a vodka. The largest selling brand in South Africa, Mainstay, has won trophies and medals in the vodka categories of spirits competitions.
Mainstay is a very important spirit in South Africa and is almost considered as important as Tequila is to Mexico. Mainstay was launched in 1954 and holds the record that is was the only spirit on South Africa to exceed sales of 15 million litres per year (in the 1980s). Sales are not as massive as they were in the 1980s but it is still one of the most important white spirits in South Africa.
Mainstay is made from fermented molasses (a by product of sugar production in KwaZulu-Natal) which are then distilled using the continuous distilling method. It is distilled 5 times and the resulting spirit is very clear, clean and pure which only faintly tastes of the original cane or molasses, which is where the whole rum or vodka debate arises. It is bottled at 86 proof or 43% abv and is normally served mixed in cocktails and punches such as Mainstay on the Beach.
Maison Briottet is a family business that was founded in 1836 in Burgundy as a wine negociant but, through the years, have developed into a company who focus on fruit crème, liqueurs, brandies and Marc de Bourgogne. Briottet is currently led by Gérard Briottet, the fourth generation of his family to head the business.
Briottet are very high quality producers. They have contracts with many growers and are always searching for the ripest fruit and the best varieties with which to make Briottet liqueurs. After all, it the fruit is the starting point, and the most important ingredient in the creation of their products. Briottet only uses traditional, time-consuming methods of maceration, with very pure neutral alcohol and blending with the correct amount of sugar which helps to create the balanced fruit liqueurs and crèmes they are famous for. They do not use any atificial colours or flavourings.
I have never tried Rhubarb Liqueur before. I know that many people have their own homemade rhubarb liqueur recipes for dealing with a fresh rhubarb glut but, hey, I have never grown rhubarb, so it is will have to be a store-bought one for me. So what is it like?
Briottet Rhubarb Liqueur Tasting Notes
Well quite simply is is like liquid, sweet rhubarb. It is made by macerating (steeping in alcohol) both green and pink rhubarb for 2 months. This has produced a very pretty, delicate, light pink colour. The nose is quite powerful, evocative of freshly cut rhubarb and sweet, rhubarb confit – there is nothing remotely artificial about this. The palate is again full and sweet, rounded but with good acidity. It is very sherberty and reminiscent of rhubarb and custard boiled sweets, if anyone remembers those. It is very long lasting. I find it a bit sweet to drink on its own, it might work over ice. It will come into its own in cocktails or other recipes. More below.
So what to use Rhubarb Liqueur for?
As I said, I think it is perhaps a bit much to drink on its own, but perhaps straight from the freezer or over the ice it would be very good. Some people pour it over vanilla ice cream for a simple, quick but delicious pudding. Perhaps the most common use, apart from cocktails, see below, is to use it with a white wine, preferably sparkling, to make a “Rhubarb Kir”.
Rhubarb Liqueur Cocktails
Here are a few ideas for some cocktails. All credit to the original mixologists.
Gin and Rhubarb Cocktail
• 1 ounce Rhubarb Liqueur
• 1/2 ounce lime juice
• 1 1/2 ounces gin – such as Cold River, Aviation, Plymouth
• 1 ounce soda water
• lime slices, for garnish
Combine rhubarb syrup, lime juice, and gin in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake for 10 seconds and strain into a glass. Top with the soda water. Serve with lime slice.
Rhubarb n’ Rye
1 1/2 oz Rye Whisky – Pikesville, Rittenhouse or perhaps High West Double Rye
1/4 oz Rhubarb Liqueur
1/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
Stir, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a sugar-dipped rhubarb stalk.
Spiced Rhubarb Caipirinha
2 oz Cachaca Cane Sugar Spirit
1 oz Rhubarb Liqueur
½ oz. simple syrup
1 full lime
Shake vigorously with ice and strain into short glass with no ice.