New Year’s Eve is upon us, and those who want to avoid a “prosecco smile” (you really don’t want to know, but if you must…) might want to consider an artisanal spirit instead. If you like that idea, check out one of these exceptional spirits, many of which are only available for a limited time.
For those people who typically resolve to be healthier in the new year, why not start early by celebrating New Year’s Eve with the healthiest alcohol of all: tequila. I don’t know how that can possibly be true based on my last tequila hangover, but scientists say it is, so make the morning after worth it with an organic, triple-distilled, extra añejo made by a seventh-generation master tequilero. This limited-run tequila from Casa Noble is made in small batches, aged in delicately charred French white oak barrels, and then sold in hand-numbered bottles. Sip the spirit straight to enjoy striking notes of caramel on the roof of the mouth and a slight vanilla finish. Like the 2010s, these single-barrel tequilas won’t last long, so don’t, um, miss your shot.
If skipping the bubbly is a non-starter, mix things up with a sparkling sake. Asahi Shuzo brews DASSAI, which might be the best mass-produced sake in the world. Made with a mix of modern technology and traditional hand tools, the clean-tasting sake features pristine mountain water from Yamaguchi brewed on the southern tip of Honshu. DASSAI only produces premium Junmai Daiginjo sake, and the company plans to limit the availability of Sparkling 45 in the new year, so there is no time like the present. Otherwise, those who don’t mind skipping the bubbly should opt for the brand’s flagship sake, DASSAI 23, with the highly milled rice producing a refreshing aroma of pineapple, melons and peaches.
Southern California may evoke images of deserts, beaches and freeways, but the northern half of the state beams with gorgeous forests and parklands. Located near San Francisco, St. George Spirits pays tribute to Golden State greenery with its earthy Terroir Gin. The dozen or so botanicals used in the aromatic gin include Douglas fir, coastal sage, roasted coriander seeds and California bay laurel and juniper berries that are vapor-infused in a basket. The result is a distinct forest-driven taste that’s best enjoyed chilled or on the rocks. For those who don’t want to wait until New Year’s, the company notes, “The Douglas fir in this gin immediately triggers an association with Christmas.”
George W. Bush took up painting after his White House stint, and he didn’t even use his fingers. The original George W., however, had something different in mind: He made whiskey! His Mt. Vernon distillery became one of the largest whiskey producers in 18th-century America, and the O.G. prez left a handwritten recipe that calls for 60% rye, 35% corn and 5% malted barley. Earlier this decade, his Mt. Vernon estate started making the premium spirit in small batches and selling it exclusively at the distillery on a very limited basis (sign up for notifications). For those who prefer an easier route to whiskey history, a few bottles from a 2013 partnership with Hillrock Estate can still be found online. Either way, George Washington whiskey is a fitting way to celebrate a new year that features a presidential election at the top of the marquee.
Vodka is so 1990s, and Brooklyn is so 2000s, but both are still relevant at the Industry City Distillery. Many vodkas strive for a neutral taste or stink it up with strange artificial flavors (Van Gogh’s PB&J comes to mind), but this Sunset Park-based distillery crafted a vodka that boasts a natural flavor without the medicinal smell or aftertaste. Their creation, Industry Standard Vodka, is made with sugar beets on custom, handmade equipment in their Brooklyn facility. Or as the distiller puts it, “We use a highly tuned fermentation process to create flavors and textures unusual in vodka. We then use a laboratory-grade still — built in-house — to separate out those flavors into 30 different distinct groups, taste each one, and blend only the best into each batch.” With a lightly fruity and floral flavor, Industry Standard is best served chilled without mixers.
When a former C-suite exec from CuraLeaf and Curio Wellness launches a spirit company, at least a few offerings should have some connection to cannabis. Connecticut-based SoNo 1420 — a name that pays tribute to the state’s 14-to-20 vote against Prohibition a century ago — produces gin, vodka and whiskey, including a “hemped” rye partly made with hemp seeds. The spirit is made with 75 percent rye, 15 percent corn and 10 percent milled hemp seed, and it features notes of honey, pepper and dried fruits for a smooth transition into 2020.