The reputation of Everclear is perhaps not the best, the kind of thing that is mentioned in the same breath as frat parties, jello shots, and the worst kind of Saturday night bad judgment. But Everclear, distilled from mixed grains, has a legitimate place in the drinking universe — and it doesn’t involve bar bets. In an attempt to upgrade its image, Everclear recently rebranded with new packaging, and we got a bottle of the flagship 190 proof version to see how versatile it is.
While you can drink Everclear on its own, I don’t recommend it. The experience is truly like sipping the purest expression of alcohol you can come by — which is what it is — and while it’s not completely flavorless, its mild notes of lemon, orange peel, and white pepper are not really significant in the face of its blistering booziness, which overwhelms all else.
What a spirit like this is really designed for is making other spirits, namely liqueurs and bitters. Everclear even refers to itself as an “unfinished ingredient,” not something designed for shots.
I used Everclear in my recent Art in the Age bitters project, and I also used it to make a hibiscus liqueur, with dried flowers sent from the folks at Everclear. One need only steep said flowers in the hooch for a couple of hours, then mix with simple syrup, to produce a surprisingly delicate, gently earthy, and naturally floral concoction. You can do the same thing with a lower-proof spirit like vodka, but the end result just isn’t as intense, since it’s (inherently) more watered down. There are plenty of recipes on the company’s website.
Remember that the full 190 proof Everclear isn’t available in every state; you may have to acquire either the 151 proof or 120 proof versions of the product, depending on where you live. If you can, though, you want to start with the 95% abv version; if it’s too strong for whatever you’re doing, you can always water it down — but you can’t go the other direction.
It’s also the most versatile version of the product in case you want to set just about anything on fire.