TUSK Social: Try a Bottle-Aged Cocktail with their NegroniJanuary 29, 2017
Bottled cocktails have yet to catch on in the Philippines (and no, your alak-entry-level vodka cruiser does not count), but we recently sat down with the guy who has started to make it happen. Kyle Francia is the man behind TUSK Social, the first local brand we’ve encountered to advocate bottle-aged cocktails. Specifically, Francia creates and bottles single-serve cocktails of the apéritif that has become a staple in specialty cocktail bars across Manila: the negroni.
Besides it being Francia’s personal favorite cocktail, the negroni is TUSK Social’s flagship product simply because the drink ages well. There is something about the way that gin, campari and sweet vermouth react with one another and develop over time that gives the mixed flavor a more cohesive value (essentially, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). The longer the cocktail ages, the more mellow the flavor becomes.
Francia aims to make the whole cocktail experience easier and more accessible to young people. When you’re coming out of college, he reflects, you’re used to beer and cheap liquor that you may not be able to appreciate a cocktail, even be intimidated by it. He shares with us, “The first experience I had [of craft cocktails was] in this really, really nice bar. They were asking me all of these questions . . . like, ‘Do you like it spirit forward? Do you like it a bit on the sweet side? Tangy [side]? Fruity side?’ I knew the terms, but I didn’t know how spirit-forward ‘spirit-forward’ was. I didn’t know how fruity ‘fruity’ was.”
This apprehension and uncertainty that Francia experienced (and likely many others have or will have similar moments in their lives, he suspects) is what TUSK Social hopes to address. It is thus positioned as something of a transition-brand, allowing those interested in but with little understanding of cocktails to enjoy the negroni in a setting that they are comfortable in, and on their own terms and pace. With TUSK Social’s bottled negroni, you can take a bottle home and enjoy a well-mixed cocktail at your own leisure, much like you would a beer at the end of the day.
TUSK Social’s negroni is bottled in a slender, tubular bottle with a dark cap. The bottle contains 90ml of the dark amber red cocktail, which Francia suggests you pour over ice with an orange peel—how negronis are typically served. He informs us that the ice changes the flavor as it tempers the harshness of gin. With that in mind, he does not mind taking the mellowed-out aged negronis neat so that the alcohol-spiritedness of the cocktail can be fully appreciated.
We try a 3-month aged negroni (bottled last November 2016) compared to a negroni bottled the day before our interview, and sure enough, the difference is stark. While the bitterness of the fresh negroni is its most distinct taste, seizing unprepared tastebuds with a tightness and a tingle suitable for more primed tastebuds, the 3-month aged negroni has a sweeter, more fruity and relaxed taste that is easier to swallow.
The unpretentious first project of TUSK Social (called such to highlight a balance between aggressive ambition and approachability), positioning itself as the entry level brand into cocktails, is only the start of bigger things. Their mission of pairing big concepts with simple executions will extend into food by 2018, but in the meantime we’ll be stocking our fridge with negronis so we can track their aging process through the months—in the name of research, of course.
A food and beverage brand whose current focus is the distribution of bottle-aged negronis.