The “bottle says more than [a] caption ever could” read the Instagram post for Empirical Spirits’ Fuck Trump and his Stupid Fucking Wall. The Copenhagen-based distillery entered the U.S. market last summer with the habanero-based spirit as one of its first offerings, and everything from the name to the flavor show that it has no intention of playing it safe.
Fuck Trump is the obvious drink of choice for Iowa caucus (Feb. 3) and New Hampshire primary (Feb. 11) watch parties and for listening to “Fuck Trump” songs by Nipsey Hussle, YG, Mackelmore, CNG and others, but don’t mistake this for a novelty product. Like all of the distillery’s offerings, Fuck Trump is a next-generation spirit with a natural culinary profile. It’s what you might expect from a company led by free-thinking chefs from a historically famous kitchen, which is exactly what Empirical Spirits is.
If you’re familiar with culinary terms like “kaiseki,” “nikkei” and “nouvelle,” you’ve probably heard of Copehagen’s most-celebrated restaurant, Noma, which turned New Nordic cuisine into a global sensation. The four-time World’s Best Restaurant winner mastered fermenting, foraging and local sourcing, and its chef-owner continued to push for progress in his R&D facility The Nordic Food Lab. Empirical Spirits co-founder Lars Williams led the Nordic Food Lab for more than eight years, and his partner Mark Emil Hermansen served as Head of Concept at Noma.
What can spirit aficionados expect from a bottle of Fuck Trump? For one, they can expect the heat to come from POTUS supporters who can’t pronounce habanero, not from the peppers themselves. Habanero is famous for the extreme heat produced by its spicy component, capsaicin, which masks the floral and fruity notes hidden beneath the burn. Williams and Hermansen remove the capsaicin during the low-temperature distillation process, leaving only a slight hint of heat while elevating the natural flavors in the pepper.
The custom base for the spirit features pearled heirloom barley, koji and Belgian saison yeast made in way that Williams described as “a mash-up of eastern and western techniques, taking the best parts of sake and fusing them to the best parts of beer.” The co-founder also said he prefers the sweet and nutty flavor profile of koji over malt, and this keeps the spirit smooth and easy to drink. Still, the pure pepper flavor (tasting like fermented habaneros to me, but that might stem from Noma-related expectations) is the undisputed headliner. The nose is immediate with the aroma of habanero peppers bursting out of the bottle the moment the top cork is removed.
For the cocktail crowd, Empirical Spirits recommends mixing Fuck Trump with grapefruit soda or grapefruit juice and sparking water, but it really deserves to stand alone without mixers, arguably without being chilled. If anything, the lightly spicy pepper flavor might pair better with food. As an experiment, we spiked fresh salsa with a half-shot of the spirit, and the chili pepper flavor enhanced its taste and complexity. Maybe the two co-founders will frown upon this assertion, but their spirits have potential as culinary flavor enhancers as well.
In an old waterfront warehouse in the Christianshavn neighborhood, Restaurant 108 now occupies the space made famous by Noma, which closed its doors in February 2017 and reopened a year later on a farm further out from the city center. NYC-born Williams and Danish native Hermansen, like so many Noma vets, used the opportunity to pursue their own endeavours, launching Empirical Spirits that same month in 2017. Two years later, the company partnered with D.C.-based Domestique to make its U.S. debut with an online store. Empirical Spirits was an immediate hit with seasonal-driven offerings like Charlene McGee (smoked juniper), Fallen Pony (quince tea, quince tea kombucha) and Fuck Trump and his Stupid Fucking Wall.
The first-wave of Fuck Trump bottles, along with a limited-edition Fuck Trump toilet paper, quickly sold out in the U.S. market, and a portion of the early sales went to a non-profit charity that assists immigrants and refugees. The second round arrived this week, and Fuck Trump bottles are currently available at select retailers and online here for $85.