Chile and Peru’s pisco and Brazil’s cachaça have long held the limelight in the world of South American spirits. Bolivia lies between these three countries, so it’s no surprise they developed their own national spirit in tandem with their neighbors. Now, at long last, Bolivia’s own showstopper singani is getting some well-deserved love. Singani may be somewhat under the radar at the moment but we don’t see things staying that way for much longer. With its versatility, drinkability, and marvelous flavor, Bolivia’s national spirit is something to seek out.
Singani is a sort of cousin to pisco. It’s an eau-de-vie distilled from wine made of 100 percent Muscat of Alexandria grapes. Muscat of Alexandria was one of the first grape varieties to make the voyage across the Atlantic with settlers coming to the New World. Both the Spanish and Portuguese have a long history of making eau-de-vie. So, it was only natural that they brought that tradition with them when they settled in Bolivia and the rest of South America. This is the only variety allowed in singani production and helps give the spirit its unique flavors. Like other members of the Muscat family, this grape is incredibly expressive, full of floral, spicy, and honeyed aromas with just a touch of fresh sweet grass.
The Muscat vineyards lie in the rain shadow of the Bolivian Andes, which separate the country from its neighbors Chile and Peru. High elevation vineyards, which adorn the spine of the Andes, are the sole source for singani’s Muscat grapes. There’s even a minimum altitude requirement — the grapes must come from vineyards grown at a minimum of 1,600 meters. Terroir expresses itself in spirits and singani is no exception. The elevation at which the grapes are grown contributes to singani’s profile. The vineyards cover a relatively small area of production. For the most part, they’re scattered through regions like Tarija, La Paz, Potosí, and Cinti.
Like pisco, singani is perfect as a cocktail base. Its fruity, floral, and slightly spicy character makes it a gorgeous spirit for banging up a few drinks. Swap it for pisco in classic cocktails and make yourself a Singani Sour or Singani Punch. You could also revel in its flavors the way the Bolivians do and mix up a Chuflay. Bolivia’s national cocktail is as simple as singani topped with ginger ale and garnished with a lime. Singani hasn’t quite reached the same levels of popularity as pisco or cachaça in the US, but you can find it stateside.
Singani is an ideal spring and summer sipper if you’re over the more familiar warm-weather tipples. Use it in pre-batched cocktails at your next barbecue or sip on a Chuflay the way the Bolivians do. Regardless of how you choose to knock it back, Singani deserves a spot in your drink cabinet.