Introducing Sotol: Mexico’s Wild Spirit

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The green juice cocktail at Bar Fluxus
The Green Juice cocktail at Bar Fluxus

Photo Credit: Matthew Grippo

Move over, tequila. There’s an old Mexican spirit—but relatively new to the U.S. market—that’s making waves among mixologists in San Francisco. Allow us to introduce you to sotol, a potent herbaceous spirit once thought to be distilled from agave, like tequila. But DNA tests proved its source, the wild desert spoon plant, is part of another succulent family, the stout Nolinaceae with spiny leaves that grows mainly in the three northern Mexico states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Durango. According to Jackie Patterson Brenner, one of the Bay Area’s leading figures in the spirits industry and the Northern California manager of the Bar Back Project, “sotol is a spirit category with as much history and authenticity as mezcal but with its own culture, heritage, and unique flavor.”

Jackie Patterson Brenner
Jackie Patterson Brenner

Photo Credit: Brendan Mainini

Brenner represents Sotol Por Siempre, a sixth-generation producer that roasts the plants’ hearts in volcanic rock–lined pits, ferments the juice, then distills it twice in alembic copper pots. Many producers age the resulting sotol a few months to two years in oak barrels, producing a clear plata, golden reposado, or amber añejo. It can be infused with raisins, cinnamon, pecans, or even a hunk of meat. “The complexity of aromatics in Sotol Por Siempre is staggering. There is just so much going on,” Brenner says, “it’s grassy, vegetal, mildly smoky, with sweet fruit and minerality.” To taste sotol, head to Bar Fluxus in SF’s financial district. Open since December, the colorful bar has innovative libations, live music, and eclectic artwork. Order the Green Juice cocktail with sotol instead of vodka and you’re in for a treat. The perfectly balanced pale green liquid, a mixture of sotol and the juices of lime and aloe vera, is refreshing, light, and almost too easy to drink. As Brenner puts it, “Sotol Por Siempre’s flavors and aromas scream green in my mind, so the vegetal notes in the green juice, particularly the aloe, really accentuate those bright green flavors.”

The potent libation
The potent libation

Photo Credit: Matthew Grippo

Green Juice
Recipe courtesy of Bar Fluxus

1½ oz. Sotol Por Siempre
½ oz. Chareau aloe vera liqueur
½ oz. honey syrup (1:1 honey to water)
¼  oz. aloe vera juice (pure, not soft drink)
¼  oz. fresh lime juice2 drops chlorophyll

Place all ingredients in a Boston shaker. Add ice, shake vigorously, and fine-strain into a coupe.

The eclectic seating area at Bar Fluxus
The eclectic seating area at Bar Fluxus

Photo Credit: Matthew Grippo

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