Taking the 'Labor' Out of Labor Day
Labor Day has been in observance in the United States since the 1890s, designating the first Monday of September to celebrate the achievements of American workers by giving them an official day off. It’s the perfect opportunity to relax and recalibrate to prepare for the busy final months of the year, with that jingle jangle of holiday bells faintly audible in the distance. When I go out in my Brooklyn neighborhood, I’ll be sure to savor what could be my last brunch al fresco of the season in Leyenda’s back patio, or stroll over to Travel Bar for a Summer Manhattan, or go for a crisp glass of Muscadet wine with the impossibly silky squid with Romesco sauce at the newly opened Sunken Hundred on Smith Street.
At home, it’s the perfect excuse to enjoy those final lazy days with drinks that take minimal effort to come together! Laborious efforts were put into making these libations, so after all, it’s time to appreciate them while taking a breather. Here are some suggestions for what to sip to stretch out those summery vibes.
Lustau Palo Cortado “Peninsula” Sherry: Think of this lesser known style as a cross between the nutty, somewhat salty and oxidized quality of dry Amontillado and the richness of Oloroso. The flavors of this delicate fortified wine are the essence of relaxation - sip it chilled and you’re only one jamon and cheese plate away from forgetting all cares and fusses for the time being. $25
Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira (2016): Since we’re on a warm weather fortified wine kick, this is the perfect time to introduce this precious gem of a whisky. The latest release in the Islay distillery’s Cairdeas (“friendship”) series was selected from warehouse reserves aged in ex-bourbon barrels that get an additional siesta in casks that once held Madeira wine. What’s fun about this is it has a kind of snackish quality, with savory notes of cashews, lime peel, mint, rosemary and even movie popcorn butter, mixed in with softer flavors of cocoa and grape jam - all of which underlies that briny, beach bonfire smoke that is so very Laphroaig-esque. 51.6% ABV, $75
Cognac Augier L’Océanique: Although this Cognac estate has been producing eau de vie since the 17th century, it has rarely been sipped outside of France. In the past year, new non age statement expressions, which won them Best New Cognac Brand of the Year in the 2015 NY International Spirits Competition, have been released in the states, focusing on single grape varietals from a single growth and distillation. This one features Ugni Blanc grown on the Isle d’Oléron, which is on the outskirts of Bois Ordinaires and sees quite a bit of maritime influence from the Atlantic Ocean. The result is a very nuanced brandy with flavors of tart dates, raisins, milk chocolate and a briny taste of salted caramel that indeed suggests carefree thoughts of lounging by the sea. 40.1% ABV, $70
Booker’s Bourbon Batch 2016-04 “Bluegill Creek”: 7th generation Master Distiller Fred Noe happened to select the latest batch for this series on a hot summer day that reminded him of those spent fishing for bluegill with his dad, Booker Noe. It was aged for 6 years, 5 months and 28 days and selected from barrels from four different warehouse locations. At 64% ABV, expect a big, friendly and slightly fruity bourbon that could sure use a big ice cube for best enjoyment. $60
Cocktail & Sons Haymaker’s Punch: The last thing most of us feel like doing Labor Day weekend is, well, labor. Although most cocktail mixers feel a bit like cheating, this one is so delicious and balanced you won’t feel guilty about putting it in every ice cold beverage you can. It also fits into the holiday spirit since “haymaker” is the nickname for switchel - a drink consumed by colonial hay cutters (it happens to be a carbonated mix of C&S’s Switchel syrup with Coast Roast rooibos tea). Mix it with almost any base spirit - gins, vodkas, tequilas, rum and/or whiskey - for an easy, laid back and refreshing highball. $12 for a 4-pack of 12 oz bottles, sold online, or at stores in New Orleans and parts of Louisiana, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston.