Novo Fogo is an organic, microdistilled cachaça from Morretes, Brazil, with two bottlings – a Silver that is aged in steel barrels and the Gold, which is aged in 50 gallon oak barrels that previously housed bourbon for at least two years. While I really like the Silver and will quickly admit that it’s probably my favorite cachaça these days, I thought the Gold would be more interesting for a review, as aged cachaça is something of a novelty in the US market.
Whenever I’m trying an aged spirit, I look for something that can be both enjoyed straight or in a cocktail. Novo Fogo Gold suits this bill. The oak barrel imparts a vanilla and caramel scent on the nose, with a bit of tropical fruit as well. On the palate you get more of the vanilla, with honey and some light baking spices, as well as banana and tropical fruits. The finish is long and quite smooth, with a bit of oak-driven spice. It’s smooth enough to drink neat or on the rocks, but it also works very well in cocktails, as we’ll see below.
But beyond the quality of the spirit, my favorite thing about Novo Fogo is that they thoroughly get the value in promoting their bottlings with high quality, craft cocktails. As regular readers of this blog know, I hate spirit company PR that includes recipes with sweet & sour mix, flavored vodka, or super-sweet liqueurs. I like getting ideas for cocktails that I would actually want to drink, as opposed to cocktails that 20 year old club goers from Strong Island want to drink. Very few brands use their high-end bartender brand ambassadors as the source for the recipes they use to promote their spirits, but Novo Fogo does (Jacob Grier of Portland works with them now and his Crystal Caipirinha is pure brilliance). Novo Fogo’s mixology section is full with interesting cocktails that I actually want to make. But this is my favorite so far:
2 oz. Novo Fogo Organic Aged Cachaça
1/2 oz. Trader Tiki’s Hibiscus Grenadine (I used Employees Only Grenadine)
1/4 oz. Fernet Branca
2 dashes orange bitters
Place all ingredients into a mixing glass. Fill with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel.
I’m always looking for interesting ways to use Fernet and boy is this one of them. This is a really awesome cocktail. It rich and boozy, but very complex. What I really love about it, though, is it is a good alternative for me when I don’t want a gin, rum, or whiskey based booze-driven cocktail. Check out Novo Fogo’s mixology section – there really are a lot of other good recipes that show the range of uses of both bottlings.
Disclosure: This post was made possible because I received free bottles of Novo Fogo Silver & Gold for the purposes of sample and review.
After I posted this review, Dragos Axinte, proprietor of Novo Fogo, emailed me to relate the history of The Cornerstone. Here’s his telling, reprinted with his permission:
I’d like to give you the story of The Cornerstone. Just a few months ago I had no idea what Fernet was, but found by following the right people on Twitter that it was something I needed to know. I decided that I would make a cocktail with cachaça and Fernet, but first I had to figure out what it was. I went and bought a bottle, took it home, opened it, sipped a shot, then actually shot the next one (looking for that warm stomach feeling) and instantly I knew what my cocktail would be. I had the proportions on the first try; that’s usually what happens, as I compose the cocktails in my head first.
Then I needed a name. I did a little contest with Seattle bartenders, asking them to name my cocktail. That really surprised them – that’s not usually how it works! (which is why I did it…) The prize was a pair of Sounders tickets. Jay Kuehner of Sambar, one of our most talented, suggested something to do with Foz do Iguaçu, where Brasil and Argentina meet (and also Paraguay). But the winner was Andrew Bohrer of Mistral, equally talented man, with The Cornerstone. He thought that the drink was good enough to become my cocktail cornerstone. He is rooting for me to obtain my mixology credibility.
Dragos included a new set of Novo Fogo-based cocktails which continue the trend of being interesting, complex, and, at the bottom, things I would want to drink. While many are originals by Dragos, Jacob Grier, Evan Martin, and Thomas Bondesson also contribute to the selection. I’m definitely going to try some of them out at home, though many include syrups and tinctures that I’ll (or you) will have to make from scratch.