Spirit Spotlight: Eau de Vie

Peak Spirits Peach & Pear Brandy

I like the Germans because they are no bullshit people and they make really good wine. Not a lot of people would make that exact statement, but I am a huge fan of Riesling and the language just gets right down to the point. For example, Schnapps. For our purposes here in the US, the word represents a horrid beverage that most of us remember from our preteens and perhaps induced a first drunk barf, but in German it is derived from the classic language to mean ‘a swallow’. The French gave it a fancier name. I mean, it makes sense, right? The more romantic, crying turtleneck culture would name something as simple as fruit hooch “eau de vie,” while the barbaric Germans just like to swallow. My loyalites lie with Deutschland.

Either way, it all boils down to the same thing: ripe fruit that is fermented and distilled into a lovely clear liquid we modernists like to call brandy. Typically very dry, the unoaked eau de vie packs the aroma and flavor punch of the decided fruit, but lacks the sweetness of the original reproductive vessel. This quality makes for a nice after dinner tipple, and certainly lends itself for all kinds of creativity in cocktails.

We are starting to see a number of eau de vies come out of the fruit producing parts of Colorado, which is nice because even though a peach or pear tastes good on its own, it will not get me drunk or tell me a joke. And the quality of this stuff really makes me feel like a big asshole for drinking that cheap plastic synthetic syrupy crap that’s on display near the penny tray at the packy. I really wish I discovered a high-end eau de vie sooner in life, much like the stuff that is produced by Peak Spirits in Hotchkiss, CO (they have chickens!).

Besides the fact that the fruit only travels a short six miles from farm to site, each batch is slowly fermented and pot-distilled to deliver a clean and crisp fruit-forward spirit. In addition, the peaches and pears are organic, and water is sourced from the CapRock on Grand Mesa at 10,500 feet. You simply cannot get more pure than what these folks are doing up at Peak Spirits- perhaps if you had a system at home, but I certainly don’t have any confidence in myself to make anything remotely drinkable. As far as tasting notes, I’ll save you the details on what hints of clementine zest and circus peanuts I get on my highly evolved palate and say this: fresh. ‘Fresh’ is something I typically don’t use to describe any type of liquor, but somehow it ends up in my notes for these excellent eau de vies. Stellar, local and made by a bunch of people who are doing the craft right.

Now that you have been taught about this fine fruit brandy, what to do with your knowledge? Make a drink I say. Here’s a timely recipe for those cold winter months, a Colorado spin on a classic, the Hot Toddy.

HOT TODD DE VIE

  • 1.5 oz Peak Spirits Pear Eau de Vie
  • .5 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
  • 1 oz Epicurean Honey Co. Alfalfa/Clover honey syrup*
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 moon lemon slice
  • 2 cloves
  • hot water

Introducing the apple brandy adds a little depth to the party while not overpowering the pear flavor. As you measure out your ingredients, be sure to pour some boiling water into your mug to get it piping hot. Hot is a very important step not to miss when making this type of drink. You should be working with about a 10 oz. mug. Ceramic is better than glass; it holds heat better.

Method- Dump the hot water out of your ‘charged’ mug. Add eau de vie, brandy, and honey syrup. Cover with hot water and add lemon with the cloves poking into the peel. Stir with cinnamon stick on a bear skin rug and do your best Burt Reynolds impression.

*Honey syrup: Dump a jar (approx 32 oz.) into a pint of water over medium heat. Mix until dissolved, throw in the fridge until cool. You want to do this because introducing honey to a drink right from the jar is a huge pain in the ass. Put the syrup in a squirt bottle and save your self from a sticky mess.

Bonus- You may wonder what the funnel and those other bottles are doing in the picture above. Aging the eau de vie for a little springtime punch, of course. Stay tuned for that.

About Jim Halligan


Jim is a modern day conquistador. When not teaching his three parrots to speak Italian, he spends time poking flags in things and calling them his own.