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What’s The Newest Craze on Cocktail Menus? Terpenes, Of Course

If you’ve spent much time in wine tasting rooms or hovered around a freshly poured tasting flight at a local brew pub, you may have taken part in a common -- though perhaps little understood -- ritual that often accompanies tasting craft beverages. Before sipping the drink, knowledgeable tasters hold the glass to their nose, welcoming a big whiff of the work of art they are about to taste.

This seems straightforward enough -- wine, beer, and even craft spirits often give off a pungent aroma that is as pleasing to the nose as the drink itself is to the lips. But the line of inquiry often stops there, never really diving into why that drink smells the way it does and, equally as important, what that scent can mean for the overall impact of the drink on your body.

Not to beat the same old drum here. If you follow the Abstrax blog you can guess what’s coming next. But there really is something worth noting about the aromas emanating from the glassware at your local tavern. As it turns out, terpenes may have everything to do with it.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

What is in that pungent drink?

terpenes in drinks

We’ll start by breaking down the common ingredients in a nice, stiff cocktail. A dash of gin, some sweet vermouth, bitters, and handful of ice to bring the whole thing down to just above the freezing point. But in a rising number of bars across the United States, there are terpenes in the drink as well.

This is what pushes the aroma to the next level. Cocktail recipes are increasing being infused with limonene or myrcene to add both a pungent air and dose of side benefits to the mix, creating a cocktail that is as unique as its ingredient list.

The trend of terpene-infused drinks follows the increasing popularity of essential oils in craft products, as evidenced by their easy availability in shopping centers across the country that also feature craft beer and spirits. In Aurora, Colorado, the Stanley Marketplace is the perfect example.

Here, the Zero Market, a zero-waste store sells essential oils just across the hall from Cheluna Brewing. Locavore food options sit nearby maker stalls.

With the consumer’s focus increasingly riveted to quality ingredients, putting terpenes into the cocktail menu just makes sense.

Terpenes are increasingly accepted as a mainstream alternative to essential oils. They can spice up a cocktail and separate it from what bartenders up the street are pouring.

Some bars are even leaving the booze behind

In New York City, establishments like Listen Bar are taking the charge a step further. Here, you’ll find terpenes on the menu but won’t find the booze -- the bar is, in fact, alcohol-free. Despite its sans-sauced status, the bar still packs it in and has become a major playor in the city’s vibrant nightlife scene.

The place is so confident in their appeal that they are crowdfunding their first permanent location, complete with a draft system that will pour alcohol-free beer and kombucha, in addition to the handmade drinks put together by the bartenders.

Other than the fact that they don’t sell alcohol, Listen Bar is pretty much a typical nightlife hub -- live music and special events will be hosted on the regular, and they’re even promising live astrology readings from a former Vogue writer.

What terpenes can be put into drinks?

As terpene extracts become increasingly commonplace across the United States, the options for unique cocktails continues to grow. There’s the limonene and myrcene we discussed earlier, but how about sweetening a drink up with Abstrax Wedding Cake? Or adding a taste of lavendar goodness with a few drops of linalool?

Possibilities abound, but one thing is certain -- the cocktail menu at your favorite drinking establishment might get a lot more interesting in the coming years.

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