Swill: Drinking the Fruit of the Cacao Plant

Swill is our bi-monthly column dedicated to liquor, wine, beer, and every other delicious dram that falls under the broader umbrella of booze. But it’s more than just tasting notes scribbled on a cocktail napkin — Swill is about getting outside of your comfort zone, trying new things, and exploring the big, wide world of libations. One week you might catch us halfway through a bottle of single-malt scotch, and the week after that we might be buzzing on some Ugandan moonshine made from bananas. This column is just one big boozy adventure, so grab yourself a glass and join us for another round.

A couple weeks ago, we came across something that’s a bit rare these days: a completely new kind of booze. New, at least, in comparison to other distilled drinks. For centuries, we humans have been making hooch out of practically everything under the sun, so opportunities to sample liquor that didn’t exist just a few years ago are rather scarce nowadays. Needless to say, we jumped at the chance to try some.

Solbeso, as it’s called, is a distilled 80-proof spirit that’s made from the fruit of the cacao plant. But don’t be fooled — it tastes nothing like chocolate. Chocolate comes from the cacao plant’s seeds, not the pulpy, citrusy fruit that surrounds them. Usually this fruit is discarded and left to rot after the cacao beans are harvested, but Thomas Higbee and Thomas Aabo, the founders of Solbeso, collect the quick-fermenting fruit and use it to make their booze.

In terms of flavor, it’s certainly a bit odd. The taste is similar to that of buttery white wine, but with more of a citrus kick, and a much higher ABV. It’s sweet, warm, and mellow without being too meek. The flavor won’t hide behind whatever you mix it with like vodka, but it’s also not super bold and overpowering like tequila. It plays well with others and doesn’t try to steal the show, so it’s definitely a good bottle to have in your liquor cabinet.

Because Solbeso is so new, distribution is fairly limited at this point, but if you poke around a bit, you should be able to track down a bottle. If you’re on the east coast, you might even be able to find it at certain bars and restaurants.

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