The craft cocktail world is one that we think deserves its own reality show. It’s competitive, it’s daring, and we’re sure there are plenty of opportunities for drama. Most importantly, to succeed, there’s no room for anything but innovation, although usually, this is more pertinent to the cocktails themselves, rather than what’s used to make them. So while others were experimenting with old favorites by adding rhubarb to mojitos or mixing mayonnaise into Jäger, Los-Angeles based distiller Kurt Charron saw an opportunity.
Meet Chareau, an aloe vera liqueur that Charron conceived when he heard bartenders clamoring for a fresh, new spirit. At first, he planned to make his mark on the distillation industry with an un-aged brandy enhanced with cucumber and gin botanicals. That all changed when he tasted a cocktail flavored with aloe vera juice. Tasting the sweet, floral notes, something clicked. Charron had found his muse.
Crafting Chareau took over five years and began in Charron’s L.A. apartment as he strove to produce a liqueur that would capture California’s flavors and spirit while being something no one had experienced before. He soon partnered with Master Distiller Lance Winters from San Francisco’s St. George Spirits. St. George has a reputation for playing to the imagination, rather than expectations, and Winters brought the distillation knowledge to successfully bottle Charron’s vision.
At its best, distillation is an art form: a fermented grain or fruit is heated to achieve desired alcohol concentration and flavors and, often, is infused with botanicals and juices. Charron and Winters used an un-aged eau de vie, or a fruit brandy, and enhanced it with cucumber, spearmint, lemon peel, muskmelon, and, of course, aloe vera. By April 2013, Chareau was on the shelves, the first 600 bottles selling out within months.
So what do you do with a drink inspired by a succulent? While Chareau can be consumed straight, recipes have used it as a mixer for gin, tequila, mezcal, Scotch, and bourbon, among others, and used it to update classics like martinis and French 75s.
Chareau is also one of those rare cases in which all of the ingredients are listed right on the bottle. All of them grow in California are organic, when possible, and are sourced from farmers Charron knows personally. Even the spirit’s name has its roots in California soil: it’s a blend of the surnames of his grandparents, Charron and Favreau, farmers who brought their family to the state.
However, this does mean that there are only a limited number of bottles available at a time and with a growing demand, availability isn’t a guarantee. Luckily for those who aren’t West Coast-based but are anxious to try it, Chareau can now be found in states across the country with plans of expansion. Ready to try your own Chareau cocktail? Checkout the Eastside below, plus more recipes here.