Film director Steven Soderbergh came to London to introduce Bolivian spirit Singani 63 to the UK on-trade
It’s not every day that you encounter an entirely new spirit category, but that’s exactly what was on offer for the bartenders attending this singani event at the The Curtain hotel. Soderbergh’s introduction of Singani 63, initially in the US and now in the UK, marks the spirit’s first official foray outside of its native Bolivia.
His day job might be in film, but Soderbergh has immersed himself in this new role within the drinks trade. It all began with a bottle of singani given to him by his casting director on the film Che. Previously a vodka on the rocks drinker, this gift set him on a path that led to the creation of his own brand, and the introduction of this historic spirit to the world.
‘I felt like one of those people that goes to a garage sale, buys a painting for $60, and then someone says, “That’s a Rothko”,’ he said.
Soderbergh approached singani producer Casa Real to create a brand of his own, using only estate-grown grapes. The result was Singani 63. ‘I feel very fortunate that the first singani I was exposed to was produced by Casa Real,’ he explained. ‘If it had been produced by someone else, I don’t think we’d be here today.’
So what is this previously undiscovered Bolivian spirit? Naturally there was a film to give the assembled bartenders some background. Bolivia’s national spirit, it explained, is an eau-de-vie produced from just one grape variety, Muscat of Alexandria, grown, fermented and distilled at altitudes above 1,600m.
One of Singani 63’s key characteristics is its versatility. Recommendations include using it in a Negroni with Aperol, as a replacement for rye in a Vieux Carre, and indeed as a substitute for just about any spirit in other classics.
As Soderbergh put it: ‘We discovered that it has this egoless position. It seems to find its place within a cocktail, like it’s saying “I should play lead guitar here, or tambourine there.”’
Bourne & Hollingsworth’s Jim Wrigley was on hand to demonstrate this versatility, and provide some cocktail inspiration too. First up was a drink he called Shampers, a Champagne Cocktail without its headline ingredient, but rather combining Singani 63 with Muyu Vetiver, verjus, a honey shrub and Real Kombucha Royal Flush.
Wrigley’s next drink was designed to highlight Singani 63’s spicy notes, getting its name from the traditional Bolivian dance La Diablada, and inspired by the Piña Colada. His third was an elegant combination of Singani 63, Colomé Torrontes, genepi, voatsiperifery pepper syrup and tonka bean droplets, garnished with voatsiperifery chocolate.
To begin exploring Singani 63’s potential for yourself, get in touch with UK agent Distillnation.