TREND ALERT - OVER PROOF SPIRITS

Written by Steve Fette, SP. - Craft Spirit Specialist 

One’s understanding of ‘over-proof’ spirits is often dependent on that person’s individual experience with the liquid. Often it is a death nail, a regretful reminder of that one time back in your twenties. For others it is a reminder of the tropical persuasions from your last vacation; and let's be honest folks, we are all reminiscing about those! And still there are still those of you who yearn for that rich, deep burning flavor of a cask-strength whiskey or brandy. Whatever your understanding of this high-octane liquid may be here, are some interesting facts about ‘over-proof’ spirits.

“Over-Proof” spirits are a British invention…

  • Back in 18th century the British were stocking their ships with barrels of spirit (typically rum or gin) since it would not spoil. In order to save space and maximize inventory they would use over-proof spirits and then sailors would add water to bring down the heat. At the time part of a British sailor’s wages was paid in spirit so they developed numerous techniques to determine the strength of alcohol to assure they were getting the best juice.

Why the term ‘proof’ caught like wildfire…

  • Simply, if you could hold a flame to the spirit and it burned steadily then it was ‘proofed.’ If it failed it was deemed to light it was ‘under-proof.’ And if it burnt very quickly then it was considered ‘over-proof.’

Why ‘navy-strength’ was an explosive concept…

  • This term refers to a spirit that is no less than 57% alcohol-by-volume (or 114-proof). The British sailors coined the descriptor for spirits that spilled onto gunpowder that would allow it to remain ignitable.

Better for infusions…

  • It is simple chemistry really. Ethanol-alcohol is ‘hydrophilic’ meaning it LOVES water so much that it will pull those molecules out of any flavors it can latch onto. Therefore, a high-proof spirit will pull MORE flavor out, faster, of what you are infusing with than a standard-proof spirit. Be sure to dilute your infusion down to a normal proof with distilled water.

Purer, more concentrated flavors…

  • Whiskey, regardless of origin, is known to enter the barrel at an ‘over-proof’ level of alcohol. The reason for this is two-fold. First, there is the economics of the situation - higher entry proof means more bottles of whiskey per barrel after dilution. The second reason is the chemical reaction that goes on between the wood and the spirit. A higher-proof spirit will extract more flavor from the wood than a standard spirit. Additionally, ‘cask-strength’ expressions are often the best representation of an aged-spirit in that their flavor is not influenced by any additional water.

Feeling Spirited?

Check out a few "Over-Proofed" Spirits Allied Beverage Group

carries and some cocktail ideas below!

Zombie Punch

½ shot - St. George Absinthe

½ shot - Lime Juice

1 shot - Dark Rum

1 dash - Grenadine

1 shot - Grapefruit Juice

1 dash - Angostura Bitter

1 shot - Gold Rum

½ shot - Caribaya 151-proof rum

 

Instructions 

Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into a collins glass with fresh ice.

X Rated Woo Woo

1 oz - Devil Springs 151 vodka

1 oz - peach schnapps

1 oz - simple syrup

2 oz - cranberry juice

Instructions 

Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into a collins glass with fresh ice.

Cheers!