The açaí palm is a tree native to Central and South America that's cultivated for edible hearts of palm and for the fruit that has exploded in popularity over the past few years. It's not quite the health food miracle that many proclaim it to be, but it is tasty and adds an interesting element to fruit juices and related products.
The name is Portuguese, and pronunciation of such words is tricky for people that are used to the more familiar French, Spanish, and Italian. The phonetic version is often spelled ah-sigh-EE, though you'll probably hear ACK-eye in grocery stores and other casual American conversation.
Açaí is made into wine, but I have not tried that yet... Instead, let's take a look at a flavored spirit:
VeeV Açaí Spirit
$30/750mL, 30% abv.
While Açaí is the main flavoring agent, this drink also includes things like acerola cherry and prickly pear cactus fruit. On its own the spirit has a nice cherry pie aroma with a touch of pomegranate. It's lightly sweet, so be careful when adding other ingredients that you don't throw things out of balance. The aromas are fresh and pure, and lack that chemical tang you get from artificial flavorings. It's not really something that I would drink straight, but it tastes delightful and should make for some interesting cocktails.
The fruit comes from Brazil, but the product is actually distilled in Idaho from wheat, flavored with the berries, and then blended using Rocky Mountain spring water. The company runs a carbon-neutral operation (including a wind-powered distillery), and $1 per bottle is donated toward initiatives like The Sustainable Açaí Project. The palm tree is actually a very sustainable crop and doesn't cause the problems that sugarcane does. Additionally, most of the tree is useful in some fashion, see the above wiki link to see how many things can be made from one tree.
I decided to build on the berry elements with the following original cocktail:
Benito's Açaí Smash
100mL VeeV Açaí Spirit
Muddle six blackberries with the liqueur and add to a shaker full of ice. Shake and strain through a fine mesh. Add two dashes of Peychaud's and garnish with an orange wedge.
Folks, it's hot out there, and it's easy to get your hands on fresh fruit. This is a tasty and refreshing beverage for this weather, and don't be afraid to serve it on the rocks.
Note: This bottle was received as a sample.