From carnival season to tailgate keggers, drinking is as much a part of Louisiana culture as boudin or brass bands. What’s a crawfish boil without a cold beer, or a Mardi Gras parade without a strong hurricane in the hand you’re not using to catch beads?
Craft distilleries across the state know this, and they aim to create something authentic and locally-sourced to fill our cups in our times of revelry. We tracked down a few of the leading liquors distilled right here in-state to add to your shelf.
Bayou Rum: Louisiana Spirits Distillery, Lacassine
By Kaci Yoder
The history of rum in Louisiana reaches back to the colonial 1700s, and the stories tell of Étienne de Boré, the French planter known for being the first to granulate sugar in Louisiana and launch sugarcane as a bayou cash crop. He’s also known for introducing rum making to his sugarhouse, creating a trend that would lay the groundwork for countless future daiquiris and hurricanes.
A few hundred years later, brothers Trey and Tim Litel and their partner Skip Cortese channeled all that history into their new venture: Louisiana Spirits. Their goal, according to Trey Litel, was to craft a “world-class” rum starting with pure Louisiana sugarcane. In 2013, Bayou Rum was born.
“The ‘farm to table’ movement based on consumer’s desire to eat and drink gave a spark to craft distilling,” Litel said. “We thought that Louisiana with our culture of good times and the fact that Louisiana sugarcane farmers produce more sugarcane than any Caribbean island, makes Louisiana the perfect place to build a distillery and make rum.”
These days, Bayou Rum boasts a family of four rums, including Select, Silver, Spiced, and Satsuma, each one contributing to the 64 (and counting) tasting awards and accolades the brand has won both nationally and internationally. The rich flavor profile of each rum comes from local ingredients and diligent care, starting with sugar straight from Jeanerette, La.’s M.A. Patout & Son and incorporating Vendome Copper pot stills and American bourbon barrels for aging.
For summer, Litel recommends Bayou Silver Rum to complement ginger beer, fruit juices, and lemonade, as well as Bayou Satsuma Rum as a substitute for triple sec, Grand Marnier, or Cointreau in a margarita.
Bayou Berry Lemonade
Handful of fresh berries (3 strawberries, 5 blueberries, 5 raspberries)
2 tsp. sugar
0.5 oz simple syrup
0.5 oz lemon juice (juice of one lemon + zest)
6 oz. lemonade
3 oz. Bayou Silver Rum
Mix ingredients. Top off with sparkling water. Serves 2 high-ball glasses over crushed ice
LA1 Whiskey: Donner-Peltier Distillers, Thibodeaux
By Matt Starlight
According to Donner-Peltier, their LA1 Whiskey is “so named because of its status as Louisiana’s first aged whiskey since prohibition.” With such an impressive background, it’s not surprising that this whiskey has received numerous accolades, such as Gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition of 2014 and Silver in the World Spirits Awards that same year.
LA1 is distilled just down the road in Thibodaux, Louisiana, so you know what you’re tasting is made with Bayou State Pride. We know how important your whiskey selection truly is. Peruse the shelves at your favorite liquor store and the options can be a bit overwhelming – it’s emblematic of the complexity of the whiskey industry as a whole. Knowing how different regions distill and the effects it has on the flavor, not to mention the proof, barrel age, and ingredients. But, before you make any rash decisions, like wasting your money on something cheap like Kentucky Dale, keep in mind that Louisiana pride and attention that go into LA1, the whiskey that was there right after prohibition.
This golden 92 proof spirit has notes of cocoa, vanilla, honey, dark roasted coffee, and more and goes perfectly with your favorite mixers. All the flavors are easily noticeable, and the finish has a savory burn to it, but it’s mellow enough to taste the cocoa, corn, and vanilla flavors. For anyone looking for a classic whiskey that captures the essence of Louisiana, let LA1 be your new go-to.
Paddling Poule Deau
2 oz LA1 Whiskey (DPD’s Rougaroux Full Moon Dark Rum would also work)
1 oz sweet vermouth
0.25 oz cane syrup or 0.25 tsp simple syrup
1-3 dashes of Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients, except for the bitters, over ice in a shaker and shake well. Strain over ice in a rocks glass and add desired dashes of bitters.
Crescent Vodka: Cajun Spirits Distillery, New Orleans
By Kaci Yoder
As the booze capital of the country, it’s no surprise that some of the state’s best vodka comes out of New Orleans. Cajun Spirits Distillery sits deep in the 3rd Ward, where they use custom-made copper stills and nothing less than 100 percent Louisiana sugarcane base to make every bottle of rum, gin, and vodka. If this distillery were a Mardi Gras queen, Crescent Vodka would be the shining gem in her crown.
This 80 proof vodka faces a lengthy fermenting and distilling process, passing through a 16-plate column process twice until it’s been distilled 34 times. From there, the master distillers at Cajun Spirits add purified water to this vodka base and fit through charcoal to create the final product.
The story of Cajun Spirits Distillery began in 2010 when founder Gus Haik launched the brand as the culmination of a decades-long dream. Haik had become fascinated with the distilling process through his job at sea as a Navy officer: making seawater drinkable for his crew.
His 10 years of duty eventually brought him back to his hometown of New Orleans, where Haik was happy to settle down and begin contemplating his dream. His lessons from service, Louisiana agriculture, a flourishing craft bartending scene, and the personality of the Crescent City all coalesced in a distillery. Once he got a taste for the industry by working in a few, in 2010, he decided it was time to start his own.
Also know for Tresillo Rum, the team behind Crescent Vodka creates crisp, pure liquors with a powerful buzz.
Satsuma Street Party Vodka Infusion
Peel of 3 Louisiana satsumas
1 ¾ c Crescent Vodka
1. Place cleaned and prepared infusing ingredients in 1-pint canning jar
2. Fill with vodka or rum.
3. Cover with lid and shake a few times.
4. Store in a cool, dark place and shake 3-5 times a day.
5. After day 4, taste your infusion to see if it has reached the flavor you desire. Continue infusing/shaking until you like the way it tastes.
Oryza Gin: Donner-Peltier Distillers, Thibodeaux
By Matt Starlight
If you’re a member of the fine alliance of champions who appreciates gin for all its sweet, savory glory, Donner-Peltier has the perfect spirit for you. They distill their Oryza Gin with the same 11 botanicals as their famous vodka: juniper, satsuma, lavender, oris root, cantaloupe, coriander, pink peppercorn, angelica root, paradise seed, orange peel, and lemon peel, so you know they put as much effort into the process as you should in the selection.
For most people, gin is gin. It isn’t given the same level of respect or attention that your more popular spirits might, such as whiskey or tequila. But, for Donner-Peltier, and those how can appreciate a finer gin, it means the world. What flavors go into your gin wholly affect the outcome of your drink, and what you mix with each gin makes a big difference. So, next time you’re thinking about picking up the cheap, plastic bottle on the bottom shelf, just know the disservice you’re doing yourself. Gin is versatile, malleable, and ever changing to go with your mixer. What kind of mixed drink do you want?
Just to prove how impressive this gin really is, it’s won The Gold in The Fifty Best Gin Awards in 2014, the Silver in the World Spirits Award in 2014, Silver in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2013, and many more, all of which can be viewed on their website.
If you’re up for this stellar blend of delicious flavors, throw a splash of this into your next mixed drink for an elevate booze-filled experience.
Ramos Gin Fizz
1.5 oz Oryza Gin
0.5 oz lime juice
0.5 oz lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
Squeeze of an orange slice
2 drop vanilla extract
Egg white of 1 egg
Shake everything together in shaker with ice for at least 2 minutes. Strain in Collins glass with no ice and top with club soda. Garnish with an orange zest.