Sage is the fourth product from Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, which focuses on creating wholly unique and, sometimes, questionably mixable liqueurs. These liqueurs are often drawn from historical texts and/or are inspired by curious ingredients (like gingersnap cookies). With this product, sage herbs are the focus.
Unlike AitA’s three other spirits, sage is clear. Like them, it’s infused with a vast array of botanicals to give it its character, including elderberry, pine, black tea, rose, dry orange peel, cubeb, angelica, sage (at last!), lavender, spearmint, dandelion, thyme, sumac, rosemary, licorice root, and fennel. Whew!
If that list sounds slightly familiar it’s probably because you’ve read enough of my gin reviews to realize how many of these have become common components of modern gins. And in fact, that’s really what Sage is: a “garden gin” as was common in the era of Thomas Jefferson, made with local botanicals. Sure enough, it’s based on a recipe Jefferson himself used in 1806.
This is gin, sure enough, but with one notable ingredient missing: Juniper. Without the essential evergreen herb, Sage has room to run to other areas of the earth. And along the way we find a fairly delicate spirit, imbued with pepper, floral elements, mint, and licorice. You’ll catch most of the above botanicals as you sip, even if sage itself is one of the more elusive ones on the list.
The attack offers flowers. The finish goes back to the earth. This is a spirit that develops and changes in the glass, offering lots of complexity and plenty to think about — both gastronomically and historically — as you drink it. Use it in place of gin, preferably side by side with a “control” cocktail to see how things change. Really curious stuff.