The holidays call for a toast. Make a dozen toasts.
Yes, this is our 12 annual Christmas bottles – a weekend tasting tradition in which we have gift suggestions (or, if you prefer, bottles to give to yourself). As always, we try to cover all kinds of drinks – spirits, wines and beers – at all prices. Some of our picks play on the festive and flavorful nature of this time of year, but others are bottles that prove their worth throughout the calendar.
Of course, you don’t have to stop with this list. Consider our 12 Christmas Choice Bottles for 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.
Ah and happy holidays!
The red bottle
We love sorrel, a Jamaican drink, flavored with hibiscus and spices, which is a favorite during the holidays. But a sorrel liqueur doubles that idea, adding an alcoholic kick. And that’s why we love Sorel ($ 32.99), a red-hued liqueur – the color is naturally very seasonal too – made with a host of specialty ingredients sourced from around the world, including Moroccan hibiscus, the Brazilian clove and Nigerian ginger.
The Green Bottle (aka the Cameron Diaz Bottle)
In this case, we are not talking about the color (always popular during the holidays), but the idea of ”green” – that is, to be aware of the planet. Avaline, a wine label co-founded by actress and entrepreneur Cameron Diaz, has this as part of her mission. Its bottles are considered “clean”, which means that they are made with organically grown grapes and without added dyes, concentrates or unnecessary sugars. Pinot Noir ($ 26) is the label’s latest offering, but if you’re looking for something a little more giveaway, consider “Le Perfect Evening” ($ 84) a three-pack of French wines.
The bottle of gold
As with the green bottle, our gold is not about color. Instead, it’s gold as a symbol of luxury – in this case, a bottled cocktail taken to gourmet (and pricey) extremes. The Gold Fashioned ($ 150), created by award-winning bartender and spirits producer Robert Haynes, is an Old-Fashioned, but in this case, made with the finest ingredients. The whiskey which composes it is a blend of 8-year-old bourbon and 5-year-old rye; bitters include a blend of spices and flavors such as Ecuadorian cocoa, Seville orange peel and gentian root harvested wild in the French Alps; and the sweetness comes via a Malawian sugar. In short, not your typical cocktail.
The bottle of ginger
Ginger is an ingredient that goes into many Christmas recipes, but now you can have it in spirit form – specifically, Misunderstood brand Ginger Spiced whiskey ($ 32.99). The label rightly presents it as a sip of ‘whiskey on the front’ – rather than an overly sweet liquor – with a ‘delicate ginger finish’ that ‘leaves a slight warmth on the back of the palate’. It can be enjoyed neat or over ice, but it’s also suitable for any cocktail that requires, well, whiskey.
The Mexican bottle
Clase Azul makes tequila and mezcal bottles that are works of art in themselves – ceramic wonders worth displaying long after you’ve enjoyed the liquid inside. But sometimes the Mexican distiller takes it a step further: this is the case with its limited edition 1ml Día de Muertos tequila offering ($ 750), an all-black decorated bottle that’s meant to honor the party known as of “the day of the dead.” The tequila in the special decanter is also not to be taken lightly – it is a complex, aged (14 months and over), a single estate from a small locality of Mountain.
The Japanese bottle (uh, book)
Japanese whiskey has grown in popularity in the United States in recent years. The same goes for Japanese-style cocktail bars, which take the art of mixology to a whole new level of sophistication. One of the most famous of these drinking establishments is the Katana Kitten in New York City, run by Masahiro Urushido. Now, Urushido and veteran writer Michael Anstendig have teamed up for a book, “The Japanese Art of Cocktailing” ($ 18.60 on Amazon) which gives you a great overview of the country’s singular and detailed approach to the subject. of cocktail preparation.
The bottle of coffee
Of course, you can always buy a coffee lover a pound of their favorite brew or a gift card to their favorite coffee shop chain. But could we suggest Hochstadter’s Old-Fashioned Slow & Low Coffee ($ 26.99) instead. As the name suggests, it’s basically a bottled cocktail – an Old-Fashioned, rye-based one that adds delicious coffee to the mix. The infusion used is a blend of coffee from Ethiopia, Guatemala and Peru, courtesy of Intelligentsia Coffee.
The tea bottle
We’re not talking about a cup of tea, but tea like aroma in a premium spirit – Caravan Tea Gin by Coit Spirits ($ 46.99), which is made with the namesake tea which has a distinct, smoky flavor. . The Californian producer adds other herbs to gin, such as cardamom and long pepper. But you will also get the classic gin note of juniper. In short, a mouth-watering bite.
The apple bottle
True, apples are more preferred in autumn than in winter. But we suggest Journeyman OCG Apple Cider Liqueur ($ 15.99) as a great sip, even in the heat of summer. It tastes like fresh farm cider, but with an alcoholic boost (it’s made with unaged rye from the Michigan producer). No wonder it’s the label’s bestseller. (By the way, OCG stands for Old Country Goodness – a nickname that fits perfectly!).
When it comes to Russian spirits, we naturally think of vodka. But Zyr ($ 27.99) is in a class of its own among one country’s Eastern European giant’s vodkas. Made from non-GMO winter wheat and rye, it’s distilled five times, giving it what the brand calls an “amazingly clean taste.” It also doesn’t hurt that it’s made with naturally filtered water sourced from near the Finnish border. We don’t even bother to mix it into cocktails – it’s very delicious fresh and on its own.
The beer bottle (s)
There’s something about stout that speaks to the winter season – it’s a hearty, dark-colored brew that tastes so good when the weather gets colder. But there isn’t just one style of stout. As if to emphasize this point, St. Louis craft brewer Schlafly Beer has released a 12-pack winter sampler, the Stout Bout ($ 17.99). Included are bottles of Mexican Chocolate Stout, Vanilla Milk Stout, Salted Caramel Stout, and Oatmeal Stout, each very drinkable. Needless to say, the sampler is a great way to introduce craft beer newbies to the style.
The smoky (and super expensive) bottle
If you are looking for a scotch with a bit of peat, that is, the earthy and smoky quality characteristic of single malts from the Islay region, you can hardly do better than that from the Lagavulin distillery. But if you want a Lagavulin that delivers on multiple levels (think baked figs and toffee with the smoke) – and you’ve got the wallet to pay for it – go for the 26-year-old limited edition bottle (2399, $ 99) which was newly released as part of spirits conglomerate Diageo’s annual special release collection. But if you don’t want to spend two thousand dollars on a whiskey, the collection includes bottles starting at $ 114.99 – there’s also a 12-year-old Lagavulin for $ 149.99.
The 100% American (bonus) bottle
Yes, a 13e bottle! In this case, it’s good ol ‘American – Booker’s, a label specializing in classic bourbon, but made with a certain degree of finesse (and offered at uncut strength – typically over 120 proofs). Booker’s does not have a “standard” bourbon. Instead, each quarter, the label, which is part of the Beam family, brings out a new edition. The latest, Noe Strangers Batch ($ 89.99), pays homage to the legendary Master Distiller Beam Booker Noe and his penchant for making friends with strangers. It stands out for its aromas of vanilla and brown spices and its sweet taste.