You know the aloe vera plant: Maybe you rub the inside of the succulent's leaves on your cuts and sunburns for relief; maybe you even drink aloe water or juice for the reported health benefits. But have you tried the latest aloe creation, Chareau liqueur? We had our first taste of Chareau after telling a bartender we enjoy "weird" cocktails. As far as weird things go, Chareau is very approachable - maybe a little different, but friendly - and delicious.
Unusually, the spirit's ingredients are listed right there on the label for you. Chareau is made with aloe vera, cucumber, eau de vie (unaged brandy), lemon peel, muskmelon, spearmint, sugar and water.
Distilled in Alameda and made with fresh ingredients from nearby farms, Chareau is very much a local invention. Kurt Charron, founder and creator of Chareau, lives in Los Feliz. When he was ready to release the beverage last year, after four years of finessing the recipe, he began in his own neighborhood. The first bars to carry Chareau were Harvard & Stone, Sassafras, Café Stella and Big Bar.
All of the flavors in Chareau are discernable. The spearmint and cucumber are a natural fit with the cooling aloe. The overall effect is a little fruity and a little floral, with the spearmint lending some strength and medicinal qualities that keep the drink grounded. But even with a mix of flavors, the liqueur preserves that unique aloe essence of a softly sour, viscous water.
Charron was in conversation with bartenders as he created the drink, and he was excited by the demand for something new in craft spirits. "Bartenders and distillers are bouncing ideas off of each other and coming up with flavor profiles that have never been tried before," Charron told us.
The feedback Charron received on his first bottles was all positive, so he started expanding the business. Now, in addition to California, the liqueur can be had in Arizona and Nevada and, after this summer, in New York, Illinois, and Texas.
Charron told us that even though the recipe is settled, he satisfies his urge to tinker and perfect the drink by tasting the ingredients to source the best each time. "I've used different farms from batch to batch, and I think I know my favorites right now," he said. He's particularly enthusiastic about the fourth batch of Chareau, which is currently in the works.
Some places in town already have Chareau cocktails on the menu. Plan Check offers the Matthew Biancaniello creation Splendor in the Grass, made with Chareau, agave syrup, arugula, lime juice and white truffle salt.
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But we talked to many bartenders who were still experimenting with the liqueur, perfecting the drink recipe they liked best. So you may not see Chareau on the cocktail list at your favorite bar yet, even if they have it on the shelf. Go ahead and ask for it straight or request a custom cocktail. Bars and liquor stores who stock the liqueur are mapped on the Chareau website.
Drinking game suggestion: Pour Chareau for some unsuspecting friends and let them take turns guessing the ingredients. Wrong answers drink. The clear spirit won't give anything away visually. See how long it takes for someone to come up with aloe.