Forthave Spirits is a small, natural botanical focused spirits distillery in Brooklyn, New York founded by Aaron Fox and Daniel de la Nuez. Daniel split his time growing up between Brooklyn and Catalonia, Spain. While in college, he worked with Jorge Riera at 360, an early natural wine mecca and, coincidentally, Aaron’s favorite restaurant in Brooklyn at the time. They solidified their friendship over bottles of wine and the batches of spirits they began making together.
When Aaron and Daniel first started, they focused on amari. The first amaro came from the idea of a secret recipe for four medieval thieves. As legend has it, while the plague ravaged Europe in the 15th Century, a botanist named Richard Forthave created a popular herbal tonic as protection against the disease. This amaro, appropriately named Marseille; along with an aperitivo, Red; and a gin, Blue; were the first products they launched under the Forthave Spirits brand—the link between each being the focus on natural botanicals.
For spirits makers, Aaron and Daniel have a process that is solely their own, most similar to that of a natural winemaker. The elements that they love in wine, such as balance, carries through in their spirits. To achieve balanced and nuanced qualities, they commit to using only sustainable ingredients. They source only from USDA organic farmers or work with foraged materials from small Upstate farmers. There is no artificial coloring or processed sugars involved in the entire process. For the dry ingredients foraged from afar, they use a third party to verify the origin.
They look towards history for inspiration for each one of their botanical spirit and approach every aspect of their production and supply chain with great care.
Forthave sources flowers from a friend in the Savoy who grows white génépi and allots them a small portion of the annual harvest (the rest goes to local producers); the distillery macerates the flowers twice before infusing them into a fortified wine base fermented from Cayuga grapes grown by Liten Buffel in Middleport, New York. Winemaker Zack Klug, who specializes in low-intervention releases, worked with Forthave to develop a cuvée that would complement the notes of elder, chamomile and papaya that are released during maceration. “We wanted something clean, high-acid and very precise, similar to Chablis. The Cayuga is lemony and high-toned with some minerality, and dovetails well with the floral elements,” explains de la Nuez.
Those pronounced characteristics are balanced with a touch of raw turbinado sugar, resulting in an aperitif that offers an alternative to the brasher, spirit-based génépy expressions currently on the market. “We wanted something lighter and delicate that could be consumed on the rocks or in a soda or Spritz,” says de la Nuez.
Génépi flowers are rare plants that grow in the French and Italian Alps. Liqueurs and infusions prepared from génépi have historically enjoyed a panacea status in alpine folklore and herbal medicine, especially as thermogenic agents, remedies for fatigue, dyspepsia, and airway infections.
Due to their extreme rarity and remote habitat, génépi flowers prove quite difficult to cultivate. They are largely limited to growing in the moraines of glaciers and rock crevices above 2,000 meters. Génépi is part of the Artemisia family of plants, which include much tougher and bitter plants such as wormwood and mugwort.
Most, if not all, commercially available génépi liqueurs are high-proof spirit based, and often served as an après-ski warm up. For Yellow, Forthave chose a fortified wine approach, as it shows a more delicate expression of the flower.
This is a seasonal product, so availability is limited.