Of all the flavors encountered at this year’s Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, the one I continue to linger over is Golden Moon Distillery’s Ex Gratia. The name of the spirit refers to an “unremitting act of kindness,” which is relevant because in 16th century Europe, an executioner would have given a dose of this type of elixir to the condemned as a last act of mercy.
Today, sipping this génépi (a traditional herbal liqueur from European alpine regions) isn’t at all dire. Instead you get to enjoy Ex Gratia’s tannic, flavorful, complex composition, one that hints at absinthe and chartreuse (also both génépis) but is distinct in its own way.
About eight years ago, distiller Stephen Gould, who is known for his extensive collection of rare books and papers on distillation dating back to the 1500s, bought several pages penned in the 1580s by a Bavarian executioner. “I found a description of an elixir that talked about high-alpine herbs and an uncommon and valuable spice—nigella sativa or black spice,” Gould says. “It sounded like a génépi.” There was no formula, so Gould got to work distilling his own version. It took about a year to get the blend just right.
The final result is one that deserves a spot in your liquor cabinet. Sip Ex Gratia straight or do as Gould does and sub it for the chartreuse in a classic Bijou cocktail (recipe below). Gould promises that the drink is the perfect accompaniment for caviar, “it’s even better than Champagne.”
1 ounce Golden Moon Distillery Gin
1 ounce white vermouth
1 ounce Golden Moon Distillery Ex Gratia
Lemon twist, for garnish
Stir all of the ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Strain into a cocktail coup and garnish with a twist of lemon zest.
Find Ex Gratia wherever Golden Moon Distillery spirits are sold.