Your Holiday Spirits Guide Part 4: the Land of Misfit Toys
Click here for part three - whisk(e)y
Part of the fun of giving booze as a gift is surprising even the experienced drinker, hitting them with something new, something that surprises them but doesn’t disappoint. So consider mixing it up a bit. If you know a scotch drinker, give them a Cognac or a rum. A bourbon drinker might appreciate a mezcal. Swap gin and vodka. There is so much cross-pollination, experimentation, and teaming up going on that one shouldn’t feel bound to any one type.
Or you can give them something really out of left field. The following selections play the game a little differently, or they are often overlooked despite making fantastic gifts.
St. George Absinthe Verte ($58-60)
Now that absinthe is legal again, a lot of Americans have joined the Europeans in distilling spirit and infusing it with wormwood, anise, and other botanicals. The hallucinogenic effects have always been massively overstated, but it’ll still numb the tongue and make the goth in your life happy.
Corsair Quinoa Whiskey ($45-50)
Whiskey has to be distilled from grain, and while barley, rye, corn, and wheat are the most common, no one says you have to use just those. Corsair (2012 Tennessee Distillery of the Year in the New York International Spirits Competition) in Nashville, Tennessee, for example, uses quinoa, resulting in a surprising (and surprisingly good) whiskey with a rich, earthy texture. For more information on Corsair and what they're up to, please click here.
Barolo Chinato Cocchi ($43-50)
This Italian digestif plays like a dessert wine. Pair it with a fine dark chocolate (or whatever you get in your stocking) by the fire and you have one of the most sublime experiences for which you could ask.
Ginza No Suzume "Kohaku" Shochu ($30)
Shochu (or soju), made primarily in Korea and Japan, is similar to vodka in that it can be distilled from any number of sources: rice, sweet potatoes, sugarcane...even carrots. This one is a little more familiar, a Japanese shochu distilled from barley and aged in barrels that once contained Jack Daniels whiskey. The result is like a light, refreshing whiskey, with oak and a hint of caramel mixing with the earthiness of the spirit, all with a slightly Andes Mint flavored finish.
Amaro Montenegro ($27)
Amaro is a bittersweet Italian liqueur consumed before or after a meal, depending on the proof. Amaro Montenegro is one of the most popular brands. One mad poet, writer, and general of his own private rebel army Gabriele D’Annunzio called it "the liquor of the virtues." It’s sweeter than it is bitter, with a full-bodied texture and taste of orange peel, citrus, and grape.
When people love pumpkin, they really looooove pumpkin. This silver medal winner in the 2014 NY International Spirits Competition is the perfect gift to bestow upon that pumpkin-loving person. The price point is also just right to use it as an added accent to eggnog or wintry punch. Roundhouse Spirits, based out of Boulder, CO, makes it with their excellent gin (a great gift idea on its own) as a base, local fresh pumpkins and pumpkin baking spices.