12 Cocktail-Friendly Spirits
Regardless of the type of beverage operation you’re running, the backbar is your principal and most effective marketing device. Especially with the increased popularity of cocktails and signature drinks, ensuring that it carries the right product mix for your bar is fundamentally important.
Despite the economic downturn, on-premise sales of top-shelf spirits remain robust, which, in turn, has brought about a steady stream of new brands to the market. If you happened to miss the fanfare surrounding their initial release, here are some of our favorite new cocktail-friendly spirits:
• COLD RIVER GIN — You haven’t tasted a gin like this. Small-batch Cold River Gin, 94 proof, is made in Freeport, Maine, from locally sourced potatoes and spring water from an underground aquifer. It’s precisely balanced with juniper in the lead and zesty citrus and cardamom spice on the finish. Viva la difference! (Maine Distilleries)
• COLLINGWOOD CANADIAN WHISKY — A handcrafted treat from start to Maplewood mellowed finish. The whisky is triple-distilled, matured in white-oak barrels and finished in toasted Maplewood casks. It’s blended with precision to produce tremendous depth of flavor. Guaranteed you haven’t tasted a Canadian whisky like it.
• CONJURE COGNAC — Affordable luxury has a new standard bearer. Made at the Cognac house of Birkedal Hartmann, Conjure is a blend of Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne, Fins Bois and Borderies eaux-de-vie married together in 50-year old Limousin Cognac barrels. Elegant though Conjure may be, its modest price and brilliant flavor make a compelling case for showcasing it in cocktails.
• DON CUCO SOTOL — Don Cuco Sotol is made at a small distillery in Chihuahua from a variety of agave. It’s an intriguing spirit with a velvety texture and tremendous depth of flavor. This sublime spirit is an unknown entity to most Americans; that is, until they try it — then it’s impossible to forget. Demand for Don Cuco invariably exceeds supply, so grab some while you can.
• EARLY TIMES 354 BOURBON — Whiskey aficionados have been waiting for this bourbon with great anticipation for almost 30 years. Early Times is the second oldest continually produced Kentucky whisky, but the famous brand technically isn’t bourbon. In this new release, master distiller Chris Morris has created an instant classic, a character-laden bourbon made in the Early Times house style.
• HUDSON BABY BOURBON — Tuthilltown Spirits in the Hudson Valley is New York’s first legal whiskey distillery since Prohibition. Among their growing range of small-batch whiskeys is Hudson Baby Bourbon, a single-grain whiskey made entirely from 100% New York corn and aged in small U.S. oak barrels. Each bottle is hand-numbered and sealed with wax.
• MUCHOTE REPOSADO — A skillfully crafted spirit that seems to be on every pundit’s roster of great tequilas retailing under $30. Muchote is made at the small family owned distillery in Arandas. Its high-altitude agaves are distilled in a copper pot still before being aged seven months in used Jack Daniels barrels. The essential beauty of Muchote Tequila is in stark contrast to its simple packaging.
• ORIGINAL GANGSTER XO BRANDY — If you’re in the market for a luscious French brandy that won’t sideswipe your wallet, look no further. Created by Ice-T and Aiko Importers, OG is a 10-year-old brandy with as much character and finesse as many Cognacs marketed at twice the price. It has marvelous fruit, great balance and acidity and finishes like a thoroughbred.
• PLANTATION RUM BARBADOS 5 YEARS OLD GRANDE RESERVE — Not everyone can jaunt off to the Caribbean, but sipping this exquisite rum may be the next best thing. The pot-distilled rum is barrel-aged first in Barbados before being shipped to France and transferred into used French oak barrels for further aging in Cognac Ferrand’s cellars. It’s a seductive spirit modestly priced under $20.
• RUMCHATA CREAM LIQUEUR — Who wouldn’t crave horchata-laced cream liqueur infused with Caribbean rum? RumChata is delicious and devoid of the cloying finish that plagues some cream liqueurs. If you can’t have fun with RumChata behind the bar, perhaps you’re no longer breathing.
• SQUARE ONE BOTANICALS — Square One Botanicals deserves to be sipped neat or slightly chilled. It’s a rye vodka infused with eight individually distilled botanicals, including pears, rose petals, chamomile, lavender and lemon verbena. Its light pear and floral notes are followed by the lingering flavors of chamomile, citrus and dried herbs.
• TEQUILA CORRIDO 100% DE AGAVE — CORRIDO offers a distinguished range of single-estate/single-barrel Highland tequilas. While the reposado and añejo are museum-grade, the cornerstone of the portfolio is limited-production Corrido Extra Añejo. The tequila is aged to perfection in charred white-oak barrels for a minimum of three years. All four expressions are top-notch.