Liquid Lunch Presents: Your Booze-Fueled (but Bourbon-less) Holiday Gift Guide

Tequila Tapatio Blanco, $36
For 75 years, Tequila Tapatio was an insider’s secret, only available south of the border. In 2012, the cult favorite began to show up in American liquor stores, when Charbay—a family-owned distillery and winery (and now importer)—struck a deal with Tapatio’s Carlos Camarena. Concerned that tequila is out of season? Worry not. If there can be Christmas in July, surely there can be margaritas in December.
Koval Dry Gin, $35
When it was founded in 2008, Koval became Chicago’s first distillery since Prohibition, and it has been producing award-winning whiskeys and liqueurs ever since, leading the grain-to-bottle movement. Last month, Koval introduced its latest release, an overproof dry gin that boasts a tongue-tingling combination of earthy botanicals. Perfect for holiday-party martinis, this is a great addition to an increasingly crowded gin market—and to any liquor cabinet.
Cielo Rojo Bacanora, $62
As with Tequila Tapatio, you’ll be excused for not knowing about bacanora, a pure agave spirit from Mexico’s Sonora region that was outlawed in the U.S. and Mexico until late last century. Make up for lost time with a bottle of Cielo Rojo, the first premium bacanora to make it (legally) across the border. With a subdued smokiness, like a less-aggressive mezcal, Cielo Rojo offers a clean yet grassy drinking experience that intrigues from start to finish. It’s terrific neat or in a cocktail.
Brenne, $65
A French single malt by way of Manhattan, Brenne is the brainchild of Allison Patel, an enterprising New Yorker whose love of the brown stuff led her on trips around the globe. Developed with a third-generation Cognac producer and distiller, Ms. Patel’s product has a surprising taste profile, with soft notes of orange Creamsicle. Some have called it feminine, due to its delicate, fruit-forward complexity. But make no mistake, like any well-made whisky, Brenne will put hair on your chest.
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Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye, $27
The latest from Allen Katz and the other wizards at New York Distilling Company, this is not your typical whiskey—because it’s a liqueur. Made from a combination of rye whiskey and rock candy (among other bit contributors, like sour cherries and orange peel), Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye registers at 65 proof and marks the resurrection of a pre-Prohibition barroom staple. Pour a splash for post-meal sipping. Or add bitters, and consider it a bottled Old-Fashioned.
Balcones Texas Single Malt, $70
With an overflowing trophy case, Balcones has become one of the country’s most distinguished craft spirits producers. And yet, there’s a battle brewing down in Texas. Investors have allegedly been trying to oust founder and genius distiller Chip Tate, who allegedly threatened to shoot an investor (a charge he denies). So grab a bottle of the Waco-based distillery’s flagship whisky (while you still can), and be glad your holiday-table quibbles don’t require a conceal carry permit.
The Macallan Rare Cask, $300
If you’re buying scotch based on age—and age alone—then you’re going to miss out on The Macallan Rare Cask, a new release from the Speyside brand, and that would be a shame. This high-end single malt is a showcase of the carefully selected sherry casks in which it matures, but you’ll find no age statement on the bottle. On the palate, Rare Cask delivers a refined (and spiced) woodiness, with a warm finishing bite. Ideal for cold winter nights.
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Tesseron Cognac Extra Légende, $500
After a century of serving as supplier for large Cognac houses, the Tesseron family—led by present-day patriarch Alfred—decided to launch its own label in 2003. This year, the company introduced a Signature Collection. More investment than gift, Extra Légende amazingly only represents the collection’s middle rung. Produced exclusively from the Grand Champagne region, and aged at least 25 years, the resulting Cognac is deep and rich and will make you question everything you thought you knew about brandy.

Don’t get us wrong—there’s never a bad time for bourbon. (Umm, egg nog, anyone?) But when you’re cruising the liquor aisle for something special this month, don’t settle for whatever Kentucky small-batch happens to be on discount. A good bottle of booze—especially one intended as a gift—should be a conversation starter, both before and after you take your first sip. Here, a few of our favorites.

 

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