It’s funny to be publishing this article two days after another major Nor’easter and a week after one of Europe’s most sweeping snowstorms, but this time of year, Mother Nature has a sense of humor. One day it’s yeti weather in thunder snow and the next it’s downright tropical. We store different layers of clothing for such unpredictable conditions, but we should do the same for what we drink. Here are some libations that can easily match the elements and mood.
Don Ciccio & Figli Cerasum: It’s cherry blossom season anytime with this new cherry-accented amaro from Washington, DC by way of the Amalfi coast. Using a family recipe that dates back to 1906, the folks at this ever-creative Italian-American outfit use an infusion of three different types of cherries from Michigan and local Sakura cherry blossoms, as well as various roots and herbs. The result is a delightful sweet-tart liqueur with just a hint of bitterness to round it out that’s delicious sipped neat in cooler weather. Serve it on the rocks, with a splash of tonic or soda when milder temps come out of hiding. It would also be a fabulous ingredient to lighten up Manhattan or Negroni variations for the season, or in a brunch cocktail added to good Prosecco. 23% ABV, $36
Dillon’s Cherry Gin: Or, for another twist on the cherry branch, try this juicy gin that won gold in the 2017 NY International Spirits Competition. Ontario rye-based and infused with Niagara cherries and botanicals, the company describes it as the “Farrah Fawcett of the bar cart” and they’re not far off. Maybe you don’t need a poster of it striking a pose in an orange swimsuit on your wall, but it’s fun, breezy, pretty too look at and surprisingly talented for a leading role in spring Martinis, G&Ts, Negronis, sours and rickeys. 35% ABV, $27
Akashi Ume Plum Whisky, Eigashima Shuzo: Amanda, we’ve known you for years now and you have never, EVER recommended a flavored whisky. What gives? If you know me, you know I am a lady of strong heart and open mind, and when I ordered this whisky at a bar out of curiosity because I trust the work of the producer, I was blown away. Hailing from the closest whisky distillery (“White Oak”) to the coast in Japan, this is a nod to ume-shu, a traditional plum liqueur. Late summer/fall-harvested tart plums and rock sugar are rested in the whisky for six months, which is just enough time to allow the best flavors and aromas of the fruit to mist delicately over the whisky without smothering it. Pour this over a large, clear ice cube into a rocks glass and you’ll be happy. 30.5% ABV, $35
Croft Pink Port: Ease into rosé season with this yummy Port! The meticulous vinification method involves extracting the juice from the grapes with minimal skin contact, much like traditional rosé, with fermentation occurring at cooler temperatures. This magenta-hued lovely is delicious served chilled with a lemon twist up or on the rocks, splashed into soda, or try it in an iced tea cocktail with some Owl’s Brew! It pairs splendidly with mixed nuts, olives and bacon-wrapped dates. 20% ABV, $20
Fruit Cider: Hard cider is a diverse option that goes beyond the autumnal apple and pear varieties. With citrus season coming to a close, Austin Eastciders Blood Orange and Ruby Red Grapefruit flavors keep things tangy. I added some mezcal (the deliciously balanced Creyente Joven) to the Ruby Red on the rocks as a makeshift Brooklyn Paloma to brighten my spirits during the Nor’easter and happily toasted the ice pelting against my window panes. I’m also a big fan of 1911 Spirits Raspberry Cider, which gets me in the mood for summer berry season ahead of schedule. It recently won gold in the 2018 NY International Beer Competition.
2015 Macrostie Chardonnay, Dutton Ranch: The Dutton family are legendary grapegrowers in the Russian River Valley. The grapes for this wine were harvested at Braughton, Hansen Hill and Mill Station – all zones where the Chardonnay grape has the ability to ripen fully without getting baked. The wine ages 10 months in barrel, with occasional stirring on the lees, and is aged in French oak, 26% of it new. The sweet smell of the season wafts out of the glass, with sophisticated nuances of stone fruits, and spring blossoms. Only a slight hint of salty butteryness comes through in the finish. Perfect pairing: Grilled shrimp Pad Thai or avocado toast. 14% ABV, $46
2015 Château La Croix St. Pierre: Most people associate Bordeaux blend wine with weighty layers, but the Côtes de Bordeaux region alongside the more famous vineyards is home to so many microclimates that it’s possible to create a blend, such as this one from the Blaye subregion, made up of Merlot, Cabernet and Malbec in a lighter feeling style. This juicy wine with fresh berry flavors would be the perfect accompaniment to both pizza takeout or a charcuterie and cheese plate. 13.5% ABV, $20
2015 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Adelaid Hills Pinot Noir: Great pinot noir need not hail from Burgundy or even Oregon wine country. Try this Aussie pinot that is vinified by talented winemakers from one of the best vintages in the Adelaide Hills region in recent years. The wine won gold in the 2017 NY International Wine Competition, and it’s easy to understand why. Sip and experience complex layers of black truffle, ripe strawberries and raspberries and a hint of spicy root beer. It’s perfect for that first night firing up the grill with some salmon, chicken or ribs. 14.3% ABV, $15.
Amanda Schuster is the Senior Editor in Chief of Alcohol Professor and the author of NEW YORK COCKTAILs available from Cider Mill Press. Certified sommelier, former retail spirits and wine buyer - she likes to think of herself as "bi-spiritual." Please don't ever offer her a Pickleback. Complete bio here.