'14 Holiday Cocktails+Contest

November 26 2014 - 1:58 PM

As the snow creeps closer, it reminds us of the imminent need for some cheering up. Sometimes good spirits are what’s needed to keep us in good spirits. Here are a few that we’ve found or that have been shared with us (when noted) that we think could contribute to your holiday season.

Flor de Caña 7 year old Grand Reserve was the call this past month in Mexico. The selection was limited but when tasted against the 3 and 5 year, it was preferred as it brought some more spice and seemed to be richer. Bacardi Solera was another option but it leaned on the sweet side. A dash of simple syrup with the 7-year Flor provided a sweeter taste without compromising the spicy heat. It’s no Zacapa but for $24ish a bottle it’s a nice sipper as well as a good cocktail rum for pineapple, coconut, banana, etc. caliche

Rum Caliche – A blend of rums, Caliche brings a significant amount of flavor to its clear spirit. A combo of solera method rum (a rotation of spirits in different barrels) adds some interesting notes of vanilla and barrel while maintaining a bright lean flavor and finish. Though this snazzy bottle was sent to us, it wouldn’t have broken the bank at around $20. It would be a great bar addition specifically for bright citrus cocktails, from lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit… even kiwi, mango. Think refreshing!

Citadelle Reserve Solera Gin – It’s the season for solera I guess. Leave it to the Cognac Ferrand folks to send us a taste of solera-aged Citadelle Gin. It’s light yellow, has some conventional notes of juniper and a few surprising touches of oak and spice. The taste is broad and carries vanilla, and some pie spices alongside some citrus zest. It’s a very sip-able gin with a unique personality. It would make for one heck of a dry martini, a light dose of Dolin Blanc and an orange twist.

koval_ginKoval Gin – Koval, on the North side of Chicago, is pushing out some amazing stuff. This small batch (organic and Kosher!) gin comes in at a stout 94 proof and in spite of the strength, boasts some extremely subtle flavors that all emphasize a verdant freshness: floral and citrus, conventional but fresh. Nothing perfumey or acrid at all. It’s a remarkable contrast to the Citadelle Solera Reserve and shows just how versatile gin is compared to vodka. I don’t typically get all into labels and design but when this showed up on my doorstep, it made an impression. Seriously, this is a world-beating die-cut label. It’s handmade in Chicago and for about $35 it’s one heck of a gift. This is a gin on the rocks opportunity but I will be playing with it and Chartreuse or maybe dry sherry.


slow-and-low-ryeSlow and Low, Rock and Rye – It was a buy back at a whisky bar. I saw the bottle and cringed expecting a lemon drop type thing. While it was sweet, it was certainly tasty. A sugared rye with hints of orange and spices. It’s one awesome cocktail in a glass. More than one might get a bit cloying but at 84 proof; it’s not a blended down drink. For $22 a bottle, I can see spending the day getting schnockered on these chatting with friends and family. And it’s made by teamsters.

Clyde May’s – If the rock candy in Slow and Low is too sweet for you, Clyde May’s straight Alabama whiskey will be a compromise. Though no added sugars, it runs sweet by whiskey standards but that might be just what you’re looking for. We didn’t spend the clydemays$35 bottle price as a bottle was sent to us complete with a goofy origin story about bootlegging and lawsuits. More importantly, out of the bottle, its flavors move from vanilla and caramel to a touch of pepper in a pretty nice finish. It’s more of a riff on bourbon but unique and worth a taste. It’s ripe for bitters or Campari and there’s enough going on to push its flavors through most cocktails. That said, for some folks, it’s certainly a sipper on its own.

SIA – SIA is a very different Scotch. It’s got a rep as the Kickstarter Scotch made by a woman in San Francisco but produced in, you guessed it, Scotland. We only had a taste but it’s light and bright and not very peaty or smoky. It doesn’t suggest Islay or Speyside or seem conventional in any way. Instead it is far sia-scotch-whiskymore neutral and reserved. It’s similar is some ways to the Japanese or Indian take on whiskey. It’s very ingredient-honest. You get a concerted shot of grain throughout but it’s remarkably bright and soft but has a lasting finish. It’s being marketed as a boutique spirit and it’s brand new so it’s coming in at around $50 a bottle. It is in much shorter supply and far more unusual than most other bottles at that price and while I’m not sure I would choose it over the Japanese brands, I would certainly go out of my way to taste it again.

Cutty Sark Prohibition – I remember my uncle drinking Cutty Sark so I have a soft spot for the brand. I have on occasion gone out of my way to order it but don’t see others clamoring so when Cutty sent me a bottle of their Prohibition I was somewhat excited because if it simply gets people to pick up a bottle of Cutty, that’s not a bad thing. It’s a good whisky that shouldn’t languish. At 100 proof, the Cutty Pro might be strong enough to wake up a few taste buds without burning them out because it is measured and rich without an inordinate amount of heat.  A lingering smoke and touch of apple pie might make this a great after-Thanksgiving-dinner sipper. Like regular Cutty it’s simply good neat. At 100 proof though the Pro might be a good opportunity, with some sweet vermouth, to introduce your Manhattan-obsessed cousin to the Rob Roy.

We all know what makes a cocktail special. It’s the ice. Tovolo is sponsoring our holiday spirits contest with the prize of a huge collection of ice molds from spheres, to giant cubes, to king cubes, to highballs. If you have a freezer and love cocktails, you can win the ultimate ice kit.

Simply, send us your favorite original cocktail recipe,, and the winner will get the entire Tovolo ice mold collection. Your drinks will be soooo fancy.