What should you gift the home bartenders and spirits enthusiasts in your life? Upping their at-home bar game with the ultimate tools and accessories or our favorite cocktail glassware is one way to go, but there is also something classic and undeniably celebratory about showing up with an extra special bottle for the bar cart or the holiday party ahead. For inspiration this year, we turned to our team and some of our favorite drinks connoisseurs to ask: What is the one bottle you will be giving—or would be very excited to receive? Here’s what they had to say.
Growing up, there was always a bottle of Baileys at my family’s Christmas Eve celebrations, and my grandmother, who never really drank much, would enjoy an iced snifter of Irish cream before nodding off in her chair with a smile on her face. One way to channel the nostalgic holiday charm of Baileys, but with an artisanal spin, is with Five Farms Single Batch Irish Cream. Sold in a vintage-inspired black glass bottle with a ceramic swing-top clasp, the liqueur is made from fresh cream sourced and produced in County Cork, Ireland, fortified with Irish whiskey and flavored with vanilla, maple and butterscotch. This year I’m going to pick up a bottle or two to share—and keep one for myself. —Brad Thomas Parsons, author of Bitters, Amaro and Last Call
I am always on the hunt for interesting and expressive agave spirits, especially ones that expand my understanding of what Mexico has to offer beyond mezcal from Oaxaca and tequila from Jalisco. One of the standouts for me this year comes from Sonora, where a spirit known as bacanora has a denomination of origin protected status. Kilinga, a family-owned brand from Álamos, debuted in the United States earlier this year; the blanco is made with 10- to 12-year-old agaves, which are cooked in earthen pit ovens then crushed via a combination of mechanical shredder and tahona, fermented with natural yeast for three to four days, then twice distilled. It’s got a big, funky cheese (think triple cream) aroma—a characteristic that also leads the flavor before exploding in a firecracker of cooked agave splendor, with notes of bittersweet chocolate, dry charcoal ash and wild boar jerky. These fiery complexities mellow out into a soft, slightly sweet finish. A beguiling spirit, it’s a great gift for agave nerds who are eager to expand their horizons. —Emma Janzen, author of Mezcal: The History, Craft & Cocktails of the World’s Ultimate Artisanal Spirit
The first thing that struck me about Menaud’s spirits was their distinctive branding. (An art historian at heart, I drink with my eyes first.) With its Voss-meets-book jacket labels, this Québécoise distillery-microbrewery’s vodkas and gins are meant to be a reflection of this marshy, river-carved hinterland of Canada. The Camerise, a cranberry-hued “salty gin,” is made with haskap berries (aka northern blue honeysuckle), lending a fruity flavor and that pretty rosy color. I have yet to try any of Menaud’s bottlings, so crossing fingers someone puts one or two under the tree pour moi. —Leslie Pariseau, co-owner Patron Saint
Spoiler alert: If I’m coming your way this season, odds are, this is coming with me. I love Sangiovese in its many forms, but this organically farmed example from bright-eyed Chiara Condello in Emilia-Romagna is what everyone needs this time of year. Whereas Chianti Classicos can be somewhat aggressive with their acidity or spice, this one is gentler, with a cherry cordial core and this sort of confounding woodsmoke thing that I can only describe with a story. (Bear with me here.) A few years back, I was in Paris in November, having lunch at Stéphane Jégo’s L’Ami Jean, when a table nearby ordered a beef dish that came from the kitchen in an oval cast-iron pot with a pile of still-smoking oregano sprigs, the aroma of which filled the whole room. That’s what I’m talking about. Drink this on its own, drink it with your beef, but don’t drink it with me or you won’t get any. —Megan Krigbaum, contributing editor, Punch
Made in collaboration with Piedmontese producer Bordiga, Bar Agricole’s alpine amaro (as with the brand’s entire line of products) offers an antidote to the industrialization that plagues so much of the spirits industry. Sweetened only with honey and free from colorants, extracts, essences and of course industrial alcohol, the Golden Alpine Amaro reads like a mellower Suze. It’s easy drinking, gentian forward, and delicious on its own or simply topped with tonic or soda. —Chloe Frechette, senior editor, Punch
There are still precious few Australian whiskeys available in the United States, despite a huge number currently produced in the Land Down Under. Thankfully, one of the best local rye whiskeys is just a couple of clicks away for thirsty Americans: The Gospel Straight Rye. Made in Melbourne, Australia, by engineers—one native Aussie and one from South Carolina, who together designed and built their stills—The Gospel makes use of 100 percent unmalted Australian rye grain from a single farm. The result is a uniquely Australian rye that exhibits far more grain character than most American ryes for a spicy, fruity and intensely flavored whiskey that works perfectly in classic cocktails, mixed with ginger beer or simply on the rocks. —Fred Siggins, contributor, Punch
The first bottle I think of when it comes to giving and receiving for the holidays is, without a doubt, Sorel Liqueur. Both of my parents are from the West Indies, and I have been drinking sorel every single Christmas since I was a child. My parents only make it once a year, and I have distinct memories of my parents making large batches on the stove. While this liqueur is perfect year-round, it is incredibly familiar, nostalgic and a holiday staple. —Paige Walwyn, bartender at Chicago’s Queen Mary Tavern; Punch Bartender in Residence.
After a trip to Paris this past spring, I wondered, as Rebekah Peppler did for Punch, why we aren’t drinking more pastis. Ricard, of course, is the brand most associated with the anise liqueur, but there are a number of artisan brands now on the market, each of which makes a compelling case for the nuance captured within the category. My favorite comes from Bordiga, a distillery located at the foot of the Italian Alps, near Cuneo, that is responsible for some of the best bitter liqueurs and vermouths out there. Knowing a thing or two about herbal infusions, and with the bounty of the alpine foothills at their disposal, it’s no wonder Bordiga has figured out how to outdo the French here. While Marseillais have embedded pastis into the popular imagination as a summer drink, what I love most is the ease with which the liqueur slots into any season, and any occasion. It’s an easy bottle to bring to a party and, using whatever glassware your host has on hand, present a proper setup (glasses, chilled water, side of ice) for everyone to doctor their pastis as they wish. —Talia Baiocchi, editor-in-chief, Punch
Henriques & Henriques is hands down my favorite Madeira producer. I reach for their products whether I’m looking for a less expensive rainwater Madeira to use in cocktails or something special to serve at the holidays. This particular expression is 100 percent boal, which is the grape variety traditionally used to produce a medium-sweet style of Madeira. Though it has a pronounced sweetness—with notes of salted caramel, fig and baking spices—it maintains a beautiful acidity that keeps the sugar in check. Serve it with nuts and blue cheeses before or after dinner, or alongside a classic caramelized dessert like tarte Tatin or crème brûlée. —Al Culliton, contributor, Punch; founder, Al’s Cocktail Club
This year, I picked up Alma de Trabanco’s Quinquina en Rama after New York bartender Sarah Morrissey recommended it as a go-to vermouth to top with tonic. Though I first had it in the summer, it immediately reminded me of the holidays. Made with natural cider, to me, it recalls Martinelli’s, which remains the quintessential holiday drink in my family. Because of that, I think this bottle makes for a festive aperitif, with the ability to channel a lighter, brighter Calvados & Tonic. I’ll be gifting it to holiday dinner hosts for precisely that purpose. —Mary Anne Porto, associate editor, Punch
Distilled to 35 percent ABV, this is a slightly more robust imo shochu than most in the category. It is made from white koji–fermented rice and kogane sengan sweet potatoes, resulting in a maple-driven sweetness that balances out its expected earthier, carrot-like notes. This is the ultimate fall-meets-winter shochu, especially when enjoyed oyuwari style with a bit of hot water, but this also works surprisingly well in an Alaska cocktail variation with a tiny measure of yellow Chartreuse. —Brian Evans, director of bars, Sunday Hospitality
I love the idea of giving a gift that isn’t only special, delicious and versatile, but also allows me to brag a little about Brooklyn. Sure, Brooklyn’s not exactly an under-the-radar little town, but it’s still a nice surprise to have a top-notch amaro made here—you don’t always have to look to Italy. While St. Agrestis does other fun things like bottled Negronis and even nonalcoholic Negronis, the company’s amaro makes a particularly lovely gift. It’s smooth, spicy, a little sweet, perfect on its own and great in cocktails. Plus, it’s affordable at $40, and the bottle is chic, with a Vespa-through-Italian-streets vibe. —Courtney Iseman, contributor, PUNCH; founder, Hugging the Bar newsletter
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