yellowbelly in the central west end photo by michelle volansky

Where to try sugarcane spirits in St. Louis right now

Cachaca, the Brazilian distillate that fuels the caipirinha, usually dominates any conversation about non-rum sugarcane spirits. But other spirits in this niche category are slowly making their way into cocktail culture.

Clairin is Haiti’s unofficial national spirit, and making it is a revered tradition in the island nation. Made with raw cane juice as opposed to molasses, much like rum agricole, it’s typically crafted in small rural distilleries in villages across the country. “It’s a straight sugarcane distillate that’s un-aged; they have this great briny, green flavor,” said Andy Foerstel, co-owner of Intoxicology. For those looking to expand their palates, Intoxicology currently carries three different clairins: Sajous, Le Rocher and Casimir.

Wiggins utilizes clairin and charanda, a sugarcane spirit from Mexico, on his drink menus at Yellowbelly, Lazy Tiger and Retreat Gastropub, which he co-owns with Travis Howard. Humble Brag, one of the few cocktails that’s remained on the menu at Lazy Tiger since it opened, features Patrick St. Surin Clairin Milot, a spirit Wiggins described as having great aromatics and notes of blueberry yogurt. The Guava Bomb at Yellowbelly is based on Uruapan blanco charanda, and Uruapan charanda also makes an appearance in the restaurant’s Mango Tango. At Lazy Tiger, Uruapan aged charanda is featured on the sugarcane flight; both versions are available at The Wine & Cheese Place.

“The Spirit of Haiti, the company that has brought in almost all of the other clairins to the market, has really changed the game,” Wiggins said. “They’re bringing most of them in at a cocktail price point. Before, you just couldn’t get clairin in the U.S., or at a price point where you could use it in a cocktail.”

He also credits Uruapan for being at the forefront of bringing affordable charandas into the market, a spirit he’s particularly stoked about.

“What Mexico is producing as far as their sugarcane spirits is really exciting,” Wiggins said.