Primate Rescue Center

An Infused Tequila is Taking Bourbon Country by Storm

Erika Fleury February 17, 2017

Did you know some monkeys have a taste for fermenting fruits? Neither did the owners of a new spirits company, until they stumbled upon the fact while tossing around names for their infused tequila, made from Mexican agave fruits. The coincidence was too fitting, and Spider Monkey Spirits was born.

Bisou is one of three rescued spider monkeys living at the PRC.

The company — founded by Marc De Michele and Jonathan Kidwell — launched its first product in Louisville in November and has already been well received by local bartenders and retailers.

The product is an agave spirit that's naturally infused with serrano peppers and ginger. It was the original idea of Michele, the owner of Vines & Canines, who previously worked as a beverage director in Florida, where he practiced infusing tequilas for cocktails. In Louisville, he shared an infused drink with Kidwell, a frequent customer of the Douglass Loop wine bar, who said there had to be a way to sell it.

Infused spirits are an increasing trend, for both home drinkers and bartenders. In liquor stores, other companies have started selling infused tequilas by the bottle, including spirits producers in Oregon and New York. But in Kentucky, an infused tequila with shelf life is still rare to find, Kidwell said. "When you go into a restaurant and somebody makes you something, you go, 'Wow, how can I get that at home,'" Kidwell said. "You have to figure out how to infuse it yourself. The market doesn't have anything like it."

To make their product, Spider Monkey Spirits purchases tequila from Mexico then mixes it with simple syrup and a puree of serrano peppers and ginger, purchased locally from Pop's Pepper Patch. The spirit is aged for 45 to 60 days in rye whiskey barrels, which give it a note of baking spices, Michele said.

Bartenders have taken to the spirit because of its multi-dimensional flavor, the owners said. It pairs well with acidic components from limes, grapefruit or oranges, and it makes a mean Bloody Mary, Michele said. "People are realizing tequila has a huge array of flavor, right along with mezcal," Michele said. "... Everyone used to do tequila shots and poppers, they didn't look at tequila as a true spirit that we could do things with. That is changing quite dramatically."

Now you know why tequila, but why Spider Monkey?

Well, that's a funny story. See, Michele used to be a nationally ranked ping pong player, and when Kidwell first saw him play, his business partner's sporadic movements reminded him of the primate, which can live as far north as Mexico. Combine that with the fact that monkeys have been found to like fermenting fruit, and the name was perfect.

Now, the partners encourage their customers to #findyourinnermonkey — an idea that's caught the attention of the Kentucky Primate Rescue Center, located in Nicholasville. Kidwell said the owners plan to partner with the center on future projects.

Find a list of locations carrying Spider Monkey Spirits on the company's website, spidermonkeyspirits.com. And try their infused tequila at a tasting from 2-6 p.m. Feb. 26 at Total Wine & More, located at 4320 Summit Plaza Drive #5.

- Courier-Journal

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