Local Booze Is a Perfect Last-Minute Gift Idea
Got a few people left on your Christmas list? Don't sweat it. We've got you covered with this list of excellent local spirits that'll make everyone's holiday merry and bright.
We’re just a few shopping days out from the big day now, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve still got a few (read: all) presents to buy. The bad news is, we’re both probably too late for online ordering or picking up one of those fancy cars with the bows on top. The good news? The state stores are still open, and just about everyone can appreciate a bottle of booze in their stocking.
Local booze, in particular. And lucky for us both, we’ve got a wealth of choices now from distilleries both large and small. So for all the holiday procrastinators out there, we’ve put together this shopping list of the best local booze to pick up as a last-minute gift. Because no matter how late it gets, no one’s gonna be impressed by a bottle of Cuervo.
Five Saints Distillery — Blood Orange Liqueur
So we’re starting with one of the odder options, but also one of the best. Five Saints is a new distillery, with only a year or so in the game, and while they do a Tuscan gin, a vodka and some ‘shine, their real winner is the blood orange liqueur that they turn out. It’s got that traditional Italian flavor, but drinks clean, sweet and dangerously smooth. They market it as a mixer, but straight over ice is the way to go.
Cooper River Distillers — Driftwood Dream Spiced Rum
The pride of Camden, New Jersey — Cooper River has a rye, some excellent small-batch and collaboration whiskies and a white dog on their books, but they specialize in rum. Now personally, I’m not all that interested in rum. Never liked it much, and rarely go out of my way to find it. But then I tried their Driftwood Dream and was a changed man. It was one of the most eye-opening spirits I’d tasted in years, and I still like it a whole lot today— as will anyone that you introduce it to.
Connacht Whiskey — Brothership Whiskey
Local? Well, kinda. New Liberty’s Rob Cassell is also the master distiller at Connacht, and he conceived this collaborative, 10-year-old blended whiskey as a tribute to the Irish-American families who immigrated to the states from the Old Sod. Under normal circumstances, I’m not one to recommend a blended whiskey, but Cassell has a real talent for this (his New Liberty Kinsey blends are also very good), and the combination of smooth, aged Irish whiskey and the sweet, rich heat of American whiskey come together perfectly in this bottle.
Rowhouse Spirits — Nordic Akvavit
Look, Rowhouse’s gin is one of the best around. That’s just truth. Tough to get your hands on, but worth the searching as one of the most balanced, cleanest drinking, juniper-and-ginger-heavy gins around. But if you’re looking for something really interesting, try to find a bottle of distiller Dean Browne’s aquavit. It’s remarkable, flavored with carraway and dill, but tasting most powerfully of fennel. It’s made to be drunk neat and (to my mind), ice-cold.
Mountain Laurel Spirits — Dad’s Hat Port Wine Finished Rye
Dad’s Hat has been turning out lots of special bottles lately. They’ve been doing collaborations, putting branded barrels in restaurants, and trying all sorts of really interesting stuff. But if you’re looking for a dependable, local booze for the brown whiskey fan in your life, then go with their rye finished in port barrels. Dad’s Hat whiskies tend to run hot, but the port barrels lend a little sweetness and smoothness to balance that out.
Manatawny Still Works — Espiritu de los Dioses Tequila-Rested Gin
If you see this stuff anywhere, buy it. Don’t think about it, just buy it. Buy it and count yourself fortunate that you are now the proud owner of one of the best, most freak-ass distillery experiments in modern history. This is gin–herbal, powerful–rested in old tequila barrels, lending just a hint of smoky, stony edge to the liquor. It tastes like nothing you’ve ever tried before, but like something that should’ve existed for centuries–a true missing link. I’ll be giving this stuff out as presents this year, but you can be damn sure that I’m going to be keeping (at least) one bottle for myself.