Photos courtesy of Max Nevins
Hudson Valley brewmaster and distiller Eric Bachli launches Le Moné, a wine-based lemon liqueur to adore in margs, spritzes, and more.
The Hudson Valley has a booming craft spirits scene. Farm distilleries and industrial beverage pros craft world-class whiskeys, gins, and liqueurs. Now, one resident aims to take the aperitif world by storm.
“My dad was always having a drink before dinner. Then, my wife Katie and I traveled through Switzerland, enjoying Aperol spritzes,” Le Moné founder Eric Bachli says. “For me, there’s a lot of very bitter and very polarizing aperitifs out there. I really wanted to create something that had a tremendous amount of versatility, and really captured the hearts and pastime of lemonade.”
The former Vale Fox master distiller brings a lengthy career in the craft beverage industry to Le Moné. However, his journey actually began in the sciences, and he worked as a bioengineer for Pfizer and Boston Scientific. As an exploratory researcher, he contributed to innovation for things like bone fracture repair.
All the while, brewing enticed him. With his medical research, projects could take months or years. With beer, all that science can result in a finished product in three to four weeks.
“So, I started doing more homebrewing,” he reveals. “Just the whole thing I related to science, everything from balancing pH and volumetric changes to isomerization of alpha acids for hop additions. All that stuff really rooted me in just through the science element.”
At the time, turning a homebrew hobby into a professional career appeared daunting. However, Bachli pursed his dreams through the academic route.
First, he enrolled in the Siebel Institute of Technology’s online brewing program. Programming covered all the chemistry, biology, and engineering behind the brewing process. After, he got into the master brewers certificate program at UC Davis. Bachli studied with industry legends like Michael Lewis and Charlie Bamforth, who “really wrote the books on brewing.”
While working for the Craft Brew Alliance, he got experience with global brands like Kona Brewing and Red Hook Ale Brewing. However, his breakthrough moment came once he joined the team at Trillium Brewing in Massachusetts. Of course, he felt confident in the hardcore elements of the craft. What Trillium delivered was the opportunity to innovate, as the New England IPA style rocked the industry.
“It’s kind of an interesting moment in my career. Brewers criticized us heavily for making beers that were turbid or hazy, to the point where I was like ‘They think we suck as brewers.’ But here I am, a trained, educated brewer that knows this is good stuff,” Bachli recalls. “And that’s when I kind of learned how to dissociate from all the criticism [and focus on] just what makes me happy as a consumer when I’m drinking it. Do I enjoy it personally? Is it awesome? Is it an epic experience? That taught me how to self-navigate and gave me self-confidence.”
History proved him right, as the hazy New England IPA dominates the Northeast craft beer scene. (See many Hudson Valley makers with their own spin on the style.)
After scaling Trillium’s production from 2,000 barrels to nearly 20,000, Shane Welch of Brooklyn’s Sixpoint came calling with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Bachli scored the brewmaster position, and headed innovation. (Check out Return Brewing for other Sixpoint alumni in the Hudson Valley.) In Sixpoint’s liquid sandbox, he made over 70 unique small-batch beers exclusively for New York. In addition, he met Le Moné partner Max Nevins.
“We were doing anywhere from one barrel to 500-barrel batches. If you mess up, it’s daunting,” Bachli adds.
Finally, his journey brought him to the Hudson Valley. He and his wife settled on a farm in Clinton Corners. There, they raise goats, chickens, and donkeys. And, after a stint at the Vale Fox Distillery in Poughkeepsie making single-malt Scotch and gins, it was time to innovate a brand of his own.
“We wanted to construct something that still had this simplicity from an ingredient standpoint that beer has or even that a distilled spirit has. It’s adjacent to ‘ready-to-drink’ cocktails,” Nevins explains.
Le Moné starts with a wine base. Bachli and Nevins recruited a sommelier, Marissa Reiser, to lend her refined palate for their search. Certainly, choosing the right flavor profile was extremely important.
Eventually, they landed on Traminette. This New York hybrid grape features a pleasant lemon-lime aroma. In addition, the hardy variety ferments out fairly dry. This is a great starting point, otherwise the drink would become a “sugar bomb.” Le Moné’s Traminette comes from Point of the Bluff Vineyards in the Finger Lakes.
Next, they fortify Le Moné with brandy from California.
“It’s really high in fruit. The brandy takes it from [the wine’s]11-percent ABV to the 16-percent that we’re at. Also, the brandy brings a gentle warmth,” Nevins adds.
Further, a Meyer lemon distillate adds beautiful, bright tartness to Le Moné. Bachli aims to eventually use fresh lemons and grapefruits from his wife’s family farm.
Finally, blue weber agave sweetens the whole affair. Bachli and Nevins had tequila in mind from the very beginning. Though their aperitif is delicious neat, on ice, or with sparkling water, it shines with a splash of Mexican blanco.
“We tried every iteration with tequila and soda water to make sure that we had the right sweetness. There would have to be some sweet component to bring everything in balance, because we’re using that dry wine. And the relative sweetness is higher than regular sugar, so we can use less of it,” Nevins says. “This keeps the sugar content low overall in the drink. For instance, Aperol is about 10g of sugar per ounce; we are sitting at two.”
So, how should you drink Le Moné?
Bottles of Le Moné—available through an online store—come with a handy cocktail guide. For many classic cocktails, all home mixologists need to remember is a three-to-one ratio: 3oz Le Mone, 1oz of booze. For example, add mezcal and muddle cucumber for a smoky Le Mez. During May horse races, sip Le Derby (Le Moné with a shot of bourbon). On the other hand, use an ounce of vodka and fresh mint for Le Mule. Splash your standard Le Marg with orange juice for a refreshing Le Sunrise.
Feeling fancier? For Le Moné 75, combine 3oz aperitif, 1oz gin, and top with 2oz of champagne. You must serve it chilled. Craving something lighter? Add 2oz of soda water to a serving of Le Moné over ice, and garnish with a lemon slice for easy drinking. Nevins adores making Le Mone sidecars with cognac, rather than bourbon. The possibilities are endless.
Of course, when you finish a bottle, hold onto it. It makes for a great centerpiece, but that’s not all. The gorgeous agave-colored, lemon-textured bottles are made from recycled glass. Bachli and his team source this sustainable glass from northern Italy. Specifically, they ship glass from Trentino, in the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol region.
This area is especially significant for Le Moné, since the traminette upon which the brand is founded derives from two grapes, as a cross between French-American hybrid Joannes Seyve 23.416 and Gewürztraminer. Gewürztraminer lends Traminette its aromatic profile, along with tasting notes of lychee. Its name translates literally to “the spice of Tramin.” And where is Tramin located? Südtirol.
“That’s a happy coincidence,” Bachli notes. “The glass recycled glass was a really interesting component. We love the shape, and it’s very reminiscent of a cocktail shaker for us. It has the same color as agave and the texture of a lemon peel.”
As Le Moné grows and expands, Bachli plans more flavors. They will all feature Traminette, Meyer lemon, brandy, and agave. However, different citrus fruits and botanicals create interesting new combinations. Soon, consumers will be able to try Meyer lemon-blackberry, Meyer lemon-raspberry, and lavender, to name a few. Bachli is especially excited for a Meyer-lemon orange flavor of Le Moné, essentially a margarita in a glass.
So, what are you waiting for? Order a bottle of Le Moné and get mixing.