Deep in the southern fringes of the Americas, a land of extremes has captivated the hearts of explorers for centuries. A land where towering spears of granite and serene glacial lakes give way to lush temperate rainforests, the remote landscape dotted with tenacious wildlife ranging from the tiny pudú to the ferocious puma. For the lucky individuals who have spent time exploring Patagonia, the memories can be almost tangible, conjuring up days spent basking in the rich aroma of the laurel trees amidst the gentle trickle of hillside streams nourishing the landscape. While the wild spirit of the region is difficult to sum up in words, recent years have seen the release of a revolutionary spirit called Träkál, an intoxicant that succinctly expresses the beguiling beauty of Patagonia.
When confronted with this aromatic spirit, one of the first questions to arise is typically, “What exactly is Träkál? Is it a Patagonian gin? An infused vodka?” Just as Patagonia represents a completely unique part of the word, Träkál is a completely unique invention in its own isolated class, designated by the FDA as a “spirit distilled from apples and pears.” Currently available throughout Chile as well as in a several US states and Canadian provinces, the origin of Träkál stems from a profound desire to capture the essence of Patagonia in liquid form.
“What inspired me to create the first Patagonian spirit is that there was a bottle missing from me,” says founder Sebastian Gomez, an Argentinian native that sold everything and made the move to Patagonia in the mid-2010s.
The world doesn’t need another gin, or whiskey or vodka, they’ve been done already… We needed something truthful and authentic
“My vision was to put flavors that you sense and taste while exploring this part of the world, and it was also important for me to honor the place—the ingredients could only be local. The world doesn’t need another gin, or whiskey or vodka, they’ve been done already,” he tells us. “We needed something truthful and authentic, to make the best booze we could with just what’s around us.”
Condensing such a rich and vibrant natural landscape into one spirit can’t be completed in just a night. The distillation process for Träkál involves three distinct steps, ultimately imparting a blend of subtle flavors and aromas that can be encountered nowhere else on Earth. To begin, locally sourced apples, pears and crabapples are distilled to serve as a base spirit, then Patagonian berries including maqui and murta are introduced during the second distillation. For the third and final distillation, essential oils derived from indigenous herbs such as tepa and canelo are added to the mix, allowing consumers to immerse themselves in the pristine heart of Patagonia’s Valdivian forests from the moment the bottle is uncapped.
Some believe that the liquor is well on its way to becoming a signature spirit in Chile—just ask Franco Muñoz, Santiago-based bartender and product manager of Okupa Social Distancing Club, a newly founded company that distributes ready-made cocktails to patrons throughout the city. “I think that Träkál blends magnificently with citrus mixes, and berries in general, but also with vermouth and wine-based liquors. I love to make, and drink, a Hanky Panky made of Träkál along with a blend of red and white vermouth, a dash of fernet, and an orange peel as a garnish.” Muñoz notes that even those who are unfamiliar with the product often point it out along the backbar, highlighting the sleek design of the label featuring a silhouette of the Chilean border. Though some patrons may arrive with little to no knowledge of the spirit, it’s rare for them to leave without having taken a taste of the essence of Patagonia.
As Träkál makes its presence known in Santiago’s most prestigious cocktail bars (ranging from the opulent Victorian-inspired Bar la Providencia to the world-renowned Siete Negronis) Gomez sees the spirit as a source of cultural heritage that southern Chileans can feel proud of. “Träkál has touched an emotional chord within Chile. People from the south often feel that they’re forgotten, as happens when the north has such an important and large capital city… When we come along and feel a similar pride for this part of the country, all of Chile can get behind the brand. People who have come from [Patagonia] and call this place home feel pride in this product.”
While Träkál fulfills a particular niche in the spirits world, offering a fragrant nose and delicate mouthfeel that vibes perfectly in cocktails or on its own, it’s more than simply a spirit. Träkál is the echo of an ancient world, carrying the hallmarks of vast temperate forests teeming with life and imparting them upon the senses. Just as one can nose a rich peaty scotch and feel the gentle breeze of Islay flecked with seafoam against their palate, Träkál imbues the rich beauty of Patagonia to all who imbibe. The spirit may be a somewhat recent invention, but one can hope that someday in the future, the name Träkál will be synonymous with the spectacular natural beauty found throughout Patagonia.
Hero image courtesy of Träkál, by Emily Arden Wells