Here are a handful of selections I really like that aren’t limited to either blending or solo sipping. In every case here, these beverages can be enjoyed in either manner. The cold weather can be alarming, but leaning on spirits will get you through the chilliest nights of the year.
Alberta Rye Whisky Dark Batch, $30
Whiskey is a category that has been growing by leaps and bounds for years now. The combination of Scotch, Irish whiskey, bourbon, Japanese whisky, and Canadian whisky have come together to take up more and more space on liquor store shelves.
The Dark Batch is a Canadian whisky blend made up of rye (91 percent), bourbon (8 percent), and sherry (1 percent). Aging took place in a combination of new, charred American white oak and ex-American Bourbon Barrels.
The bit of sherry makes its presence felt from the nose with bits of toasted hazelnut and mission fig, all the way through the finish where hints of brown sugar reverberate. In between, there is a smoothness to the palate which shows off plenty of dark fruits, spices, as well as bits of toasty oak and vanilla. This is an easy sipping whiskey that’s deepened by the addition of bourbon and sherry.
I like to enjoy it alone, but I’ve also tried a couple of cocktails by Jason Patz of Williams & Graham in Denver. I requested that he create something that had a savory element to balance the natural bits of sweetness Dark Batch has in its profile. To try Alberta Rye Whisky in a cocktail, check out the Cranberry Rosemary Smash recipe or the Piemontese Connection recipe.
Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth, $27
This vermouth is made from a recipe that has been unchanged since 1786. It’s produced from white wine and mountain herbs. Deep dried black fig, savory herbs, and bits of orange zest, all present on the big nose here. Orange peel flavors are the entry point to the wonderfully layered palate which also shows off a touch of balsamic along with wisps of rosemary.
A dollop of bitter chocolate emerges on the finish. The sour fruit notes reverberate on and on, bringing things to a beautiful close. Of course Carpano Antica can be sipped neat or on the rocks, with outstanding results. However the most classic way to enjoy it is in a negroni. Try it this way with the Carpano Antica Formula Negroni recipe.
Don Q Añejo Rum, $20
This añejo has been aged for three to 10 years in American oak barrels. Toasted pecan, date, and ripe banana aromas fill the nose. Molasses, copious spices, and continued toasted nut characteristics emerge on the palate. The finish, which shows off some dusty chocolate and continued bits of date, is persistent and lovely with just a touch of perceptible heat. This is the right price point for rums that I consider to be solid entry level sippers and it gets the job done nicely. Neat is how I tend to drink my añejo rums. In this case, I also tried making several cocktails with it. Try the Don After Dark cocktail recipe featuring this rum, courtesy of Don Q.
Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon, $30.99
This release marks the first flavored entry in the Knob Creek line. Big, boisterous maple syrup aromas leap from the nose of this bourbon. A bit of peat underlies it, but is quite subtle in comparison. There’s a rich sweetness through the palate. Tons of date, fig, and prune characteristics are in play along with wisps of macadamia nut. All of those elements continue through the finish, where they’re joined by a touch of black tea and a light sprinkle of milk chocolate.
This bourbon is delicious sipped neat or on the rocks. I also tried making an old fashioned using the recipe below that chef Michael Symon came up with. If you’d like to try it, check out the Knob Creek Smoked Maple Old Fashioned recipe.
Partida Blanco Tequila, $40
When I think of blanco tequilas, mixed drinks come to mind and Partida Blanco knocked me out. It’s anything but one dimensional. It has depth, precision, and complexity that belie the category. Sure, it’ll be a great component in a margarita or other cocktail, but try it alone — it’s a revelation.
The nose is laced with fruit aromas including orange zest, bits of lemon ice and a touch of savory herb such as thyme. The palate is clean, crisp, and loaded with a bevy of fruit and spice flavors. The finish is long and memorable with citrus elements continuing to make their presence felt. Drink it neat or try the La Paloma cocktail.