Crafting Savory Botanical Spirits the DIY Way

by Faye Sakellaridis
Forthave Spirits, Brooklyn-based distillery that launched this past January, has so far produced three exquisite handcrafted botanical blends - an apertivo, amaro, and gin --  that are the savory culmination of a conscious and holistic approach to making herb-infused spirits. After coming across herbal liqueurs at a dinner 4 years ago, founder Daniel de la Nuez was inspired to not only make his own, but learn the process thoroughly enough to be involved every step of the way.

The name Forthave is derived from Richard Forthave who, according to legend, created an herbal vinegar concoction that allowed a band of thieves to rob victims of the European plague without contracting the deadly disease themselves. Hence Forthave Spirit's striking emblem of a plague mask, designed by Daniel's collaborator and artist Aaron Fox, whose minimalistic touch lends an elegance to its foreboding countenance.
The DIY ethos permeates virtually every aspect of production, from personally meeting the farmers where the plants are sourced to the design aesthetic. There's a strong intention to maintain a distinct personal touch wherever possible and avoid the trappings of corporate standardization. Even the UBC symbol on each bottle is freed from its default sterility and reimagined as the optical illusion of the contour-sharing vase and profiles. 

"We see this image so often, it's all around us, and it's a really ugly thing," says Daniel. "Aaron sees things differently, and there's real estate here to do something different."
Their hands on approach reflects a spiritual intention as well, not unlike the principles behind biodynamic agriculture, which drew upon the esoteric ideas of theosophist Rudolf Steiner. 

"Steiner had a big reaction against the oversimplified notion that plants only need nitrogen, water, and sun," explains Daniel. "That aspect is super important."

One concept of biodynamic agriculture that they incorporate is using the lunar cycle for their infusions. "It's used as a marker for time, and puts us more in line with the earth's gravitational cycle."

They take time with each blend, carefully contemplating the expression of the herbs each each step of the way as it evolves. The result is a harmonic richness and depth in the flavor profile of their three blends.

Their apertivo "Red" is a bittersweet infusion that includes orange, chamomile, and rose. The amaro "Marseilles" is a round and warm flavor, and although amaro means bitter, there's more of a mellow sweetness that's far from cloying. It contains notes of honey, eucalyptus, and cinnamon. And "Blue," an American dry gin whose infusion includes juniper, grapefruit, and mint, is creamy and savory, and doesn't have that burn that gin normally gives. 

As I sipped each blend, it took a good 3 to 5 seconds to experience the wave of flavors. The effect is synesthetic -- I could feel the rhythm as the flavor tones unfolded, and see the colors and shapes. Of course, it's a very subjective experience, and their blends are rich enough to inspire the imagination. 

That's why they describe the effect of their completed blends to that of poetry. "The poet's intention will be one thing, and the reader will take away something different. That's where a lot of the beauty is in what we do."


If you're in New York City, you can try these exquisite blends for yourself at Forthave Spirit's pop-up at The Alchemist's Kitchen this Friday, April 21. Learn more here.


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