Rafo enjoying a Mango Pimenta @ Coppelia, November 2014

An odd twist of fate brought Rafo Urbina to the Solbeso fold.  Four years ago, founder Tom Higbee was ferreting through the produce markets of Lima when he ran into a well-known spirits writer known for his love of Pisco. Tom mentioned he needed a top-notch distiller, someone who would break from tradition to re-imagine the distilling process, to forge new equipment…and, yes, to spend months at a time in a mosquito-infested jungle that no desert-dwelling Pisco maker would ever consider. Rafael Urbina Olivares was that man. 

Despite the language barrier, Tom and Rafo found common ground in the art of fermentation and distillation. Rafo expressed his desire to build mobile distillation units in container trucks— an unexpectedly novel solution that would enable Solbeso to be produced in the remotest of regions. That night, over a bottle of Rafo’s Pisco, a true friendship was formed. 

As cacao fruit grows counter-cyclical to grape harvests, Tom convinced Rafo to join him in the off-season to produce Solbeso.  Like a baseball team signing a star pitcher, Rafo paid immediate dividends, setting up facilities in Chulucanas – now Junajui – and perfecting the technique of cacao fermentation and distillation under the most trying of circumstances.  Interestingly, despite the difficulties of production – or maybe because of them -- Rafo and his team now produce some of the best distillates found anywhere in Latin America.

From Amazonian Jungle to Asphalt Jungle

Recently, Rafo made his first-ever trip to New York City with his girlfriend Emilie, a fashion designer and founder of Emilime, a line of hand-knit accessories utilizing Peruvian wool and local artisans.  While many first-time New York City visitors comment on the grand scale of things or the noise, Rafo compared it to something more familiar, yet incongruous: the Amazon.  For him, NYC is a rich tapestry of bio-diversity; a vibrant medley of foods, cultures, architecture, and ideas in place of  the flora and fauna of the forest’s floor.  Graduating with a food engineering degree from UNALM (Universidad Nacional Agraria la Molina), Rafo keenly observed connections among the environment, the people, and the products we consume.  It should be noted Rafo did his fair share of spirits consumption during his Big Apple visit, proclaiming each and every cocktail “muy buena,” to anyone who would ask.


Editors Note: 

In addition to distilling Solbeso, Rafo willingly chases after the necessary permits to sell Solbeso locally.  For it’s no longer surprising to say that Lima has transformed into one of the world’s culinary capitals, producing top chefs and renowned dishes one more innovative than the next.  Young talent from all over the region now flock to Lima, introducing new tastes and ideas to an already vibrant food scene.  With Peru’s culture of distillation (Pisco), the mixology scene has exploded with a panoply of indigenous flavors reinterpreted by bartenders who challenge the rules.  Gaining a foothold in this influential market marks a triumph for New World Spirits, highlighting Solbeso’s authenticity as it expands to the global stage.  

Mango Pimenta @ Coppelia

Mango Pimenta

2 oz   Solbeso

1 oz   Mango Puree

0.75 oz   Fresh Lemon Juice

0.5 oz   Simple Syrup

Maraschino Luxardo Rinse 
Crushed Black Pepper

Rinse a rocks glass with the Maraschino. Assemble ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake and pour into rinsed rocks glass. Sprinkle the cracked pepper as a finish.