When the Ty Ku rep contacted me, I was intrigued by the line of sake, soju and blends his company sold. Sake is pretty much ensconced in the American alcoholic psyche thanks to popularization of sushi over the past few decades. But soju — native to Korea — is barely known and not easily found even though it is one of the most popular drinks in Asia.
Soju is a distilled spirit usually derived from rice and most often sold at lower alcohol levels than most spirits, frequently around 20 percent ABV. This, along with a sweetness from added sugar and occasional other flavors, makes it an easy quaff. It's the choice for South Koreans out for a sociable night on the town.
And, just like in the US, it means that producers are mucking with the formula to produce more varities that can catch market share. Ty Ku Liqueur is one of those. The difference is that Ty Ku is also pushing the product here in the US. Get it in people's mouths and it might not be a hard sell.
The Liqueur's appearance may be both a selling point and a distraction. The graceful, triangular bottle is filled with the translucent green spirit — according to one CL staffer "reminiscent of Romulan ale." Push a little button on the bottom of the bottle and the interior of the bottle lights with an eery, warm glow from a hidden light, the "world's only illuminated bottle," acording Ty Ku.
Although the smell — laden with herbacious notes from the ginger, numerous superfruits, and other botanicals infussed into the spirit — is a tad medicinal, the taste is surprisingly easy and refreshing. There's a big blast of citrusy lime, smooth melon and a teeny burst of ginger in the mouth, with just enough alcohol to remind you that you're drinking more than just a wine cooler.
With all the ubiquitous restaurant cocktail lists pimping "unique" concoctions, Ty Ku Liqueur is an easy cheat that tastes better than most bartenders' creations. Pour some over ice, shake well and strain into a martini glass and you have a refreshing, zippy drink that's interesting enough for many men and sweet enough for novelty drinkers, without the hassle of mixing.
The low calories (72 per serving) and dubious effects of the "superfruits" are also good selling points for upscale bars. And, at least in my home, that glowing green bottle is almost worth the $30 price tag, just for effect.