A Beginner’s Guide to Mezcal: Part 1

Some friends and I just returned from an amazing long weekend in Mexico City and I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the Mezcal culture there. Although I’ve been a fan of the smoky, earthy, agave-based spirit for a while now, experiencing the charm of D.F.’s endless Mezcalerías these past few days solidified my obsession.

Seeing as Mezcal is the darling du jour of the craft cocktail world, I thought I’d share some 101 knowledge on the obscure cult spirit. In partnership with Thirty3Club.

Distillerista-Mezcal-KK{The traditional way to enjoy mezcal: neat, slightly chilled, with an orange slice & chili salt}

What mezcal is NOT:

– Low class tequila
– Made from cacti
– Related to psychedelic mescaline
– Any bottle with a worm in it
– A liquor that will kill you or blind you

So, what is mezcal?

Mezcal is a spirit made in Mexico, from any of the more than 30 different types of agave. The vast majority of mezcals are made from a quick-growing, high-yield version called Espadin (Es-pa-DEEN). Mezcal can be made in one of 8 different states of Mexico, but the heart is undoubtedly the southern, mountainous state of Oaxaca (Wa-ha-ka).

Tequila, on the other hand, is a mezcal, just a specific type (like how all bees are insects but not all insects are bees). Tequila must be produced in one of 5 designated states, with the vast majority coming from the western state of Jalisco, home of the town Tequila. Additionally, tequila must be made from a specific type of agave, blue weber.

How mezcal is cooked

Tequila producers (the good ones, anyway) steam their agaves in brick ovens for 24-48 hours, while mezcal producers dig a pit, and smoke their agaves over underground coals for up to 10 days. This is why most mezcals will have a smoky, sometimes rubbery, or meaty character, in intensities ranging from “oh, that’s interesting” to “OHMYGOD.”

How mezcal is distilled

Almost all spirits in the world are distilled to a high proof, and then watered down before bottling, which makes it smoother and milder. The higher the spirit is distilled, the more flavor is removed.

Mezcal has one of the lowest distillation proofs of any spirit in the world, traditionally between 45% and 52%, and is bottled however it comes out without adding water. Because of this, mezcal is an incredibly — startlingly — full-bodied and character-driven spirit. In other words, literally no effort at all has been made on the part of the distiller to make the product “mild.” They want as much flavor as can fit in the bottle.

What are other sprits distilled to?

– Bourbon ~70%
– Rum ~90%
– Vodka ~97%
– Tequila ~55%

What Does This All Mean For Taste?

Mezcal is an artisanal and dynamic product, that depending on how and from what it is made, can be earthy, smoky, fruity, creamy, or any combination thereof. It is monstrously flavorful, which is simultaneously a barrier to entry for the uninitiated, and the favorite trait of aficionados. Put simply: if it’s your first time drinking mezcal, it will be unusual and a little challenging. But like most acquired tastes, it’s worth it.

Stay tuned for part two next week! Until then, I leave you with this little gem of Oaxacan wisdom…

“Por todo mal, mezcal, y por todo bien también” — “For everything wrong, mezcal, and for everything right, mezcal as well.”

{ This post originally appeared on cocktail subscription service Thirty3Club’s blog // top image via }

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Artisan Spirit Feature + Distillery Name Unveil

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Artisan Spirit Magazine‘s fall issue has arrived and it includes a timely and relevant article, How To Get Into Distilling Without Having to Own the Joint, featuring yours truly! Click here to flip through the digital issue and head to page 101 for the full story.

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Spoiler alert! We’ve officially given our upcoming operation a name: YOU & YOURS DISTILLING CO. I’ll be unveiling the logo and other creative, plus the inspiration behind the moniker soon so stay tuned!

Thanks a million, zillion times to the wonderful Jeanne Runkle for including me in this piece! Check out more of her work here and here.

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Five Favorites: Barrel Rested Gin

 

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I love dark liquor – especially rye and wheated bourbons and whiskies – but as you could probably guess from recent posts (here, here, and here), gin is my usual adult beverage of choice. The rise of craft distillers giving their gin some time in the barrel is the best of both worlds for me. I get those botanical juniper and spice notes that I’ve grown to love, plus a little bit of that sweet, smoky complexity I look for in an aged whiskey or tequila añejo.

Aged gin may seem like a weird concept but whether you’re a bourbon or a gin guy (or gal), this aged gin trend is something you can get behind. The majority of these barrel rested gins tend to be aged for a short amount of time, 3-6 months at the most, so the dark caramel, vanilla-y characteristics are subtle, yet do some really interesting things to those botanical flavors. If you haven’t already, give this craft distilling trend a try in your next G&T, martini or manhattan. These complex, oaky twists on the old London Dry are just the ticket for the upcoming cooler temps. Here are five of my favorites plus a few honorable mentions…

1. Barrel Gin | Spirit Works Distillery | Sebastapol, CA

The husband and wife team behind Spirit Works make delicious vodka, gins and whiskies in the heart of California winemaking country. Also in their lineup is a rare authentic sloe gin. Both their sloe and barrel aged gins are great in any cocktail in which you would use a traditional gin.

2. Barrel Aged Gin | Corsair Distillery | Nashville, TN & Bowling Green, KY

Corsair distillers are, like, the unofficial kings of experimental spirits. Their barrel gin is no joke with deep smoky notes and all the warm fuzzy feelings. Corsair experimental batches are elusive though so keep an eye out! They go fast.

3. Old Tom Gin | Ransom Spirits | Sheridan, OR

Ransom Spirits’ Old Tom gin has to be one of my favorite expressions of this aged gin trend. Old Tom-style gin, the original pre-prohibition gin for mixing cocktails, starts with a malted barley mash. This gives the gin a super sweet, grainy nose that I just love and insane complexity. A handful of months in  the barrel finishes this gorgeous spirit off perfectly. Try on the rocks with an orange peel.

4. Barrel Gin | Few Spirits | Evanston, IL

Few Spirits are pumping out some wonderful craft liquor and this barrel gin tops the list for me. This gin has so much complex spice and gourmet vanilla-type sweetness it could easily be mistaken for a genever. Try in your next classic martini.

5. Dry Rye Reposado Gin | St. George Spirits | Alameda, CA

St. George is the OG American craft distillery so you can pretty much bet your life on the fact that anything they release is going to be amazing. Their Dry Rye Reposado gin is no exception. A staggering twelve months in barrel makes this ideal for an Old Fashioned.

Also wonderful… Single Barrel Gin from Krobar Craft Distilling in Paso Robles, CA and Distillery 209’s Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Reserve Gins.

Have you tried an aged gin? What did you think?! Let me know in the comments below.

Also: A Beginner’s Guide to Western Gin

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Infused Book Review + Lavender Provençal Lemonade

Infused-Book-Review-Lavender-Lemonade-1{ Infused: 100+ Recipes for Infused Liqueurs and Cocktails | Susan Ella MacNeal, Leigh Beisch }

You know your parents have you pegged when your Mom and Dad – unbeknownst to each other I might add – gift you a spirit infuser contraption and Infused, a coffee table book full of different at-home infusion ideas, respectfully, for Christmas. As was the case this past holiday season, and I have to say, both gifts have come in very handy. I tend to come up with random ideas on a whim and not surprisingly, they don’t always work out well. (Candy Cane Vodka, Lime-cello *cough*, *cough*) Thankfully I can now just consult Infused and quickly reference the book’s tips on how long to infuse different ingredients in different spirits. It’d make a great gift for any budding mixologist (21 and over, of course) or even a bride and groom putting together their first home bar. In addition to pages and pages of infusion ideas, Infused also includes several chapters of customizable cocktail recipes in which to use your newly made flavored spirits. Get the book here, then whip up one of my favorite recipes, Lavender Provençal Lemonade, made with some Lavender-infused London Dry Gin. The perfect end-of-summer treat.

Lavender-Gin-Distillerista{ Sempli Spirit Incanter | Anthropologie Tumblers }

Lavender Infused Gin or Vodka (page 21)

Ingredients:

  • 1 750 mL Bottle Gin or Vodka
  • 3 Tbsp Dried lavender buds
  • 1/4-1 C Simple syrup, optional (I most often choose not to add sugar to my infusions, as it tends to mask the flavor(s) I’m trying to procure)

Directions: In a clean glass bottle or a spirit infuser such as the Sempli Spirit Incanter shown here, combine spirits and lavender. Seal tightly and let infuse, away from heat or direct sunlight, for 2-3 weeks, tasting every few days or so for preferred intensity. *I only left mine for 3-4 days and the lavender flavor was delicate but definitely there, so be sure to taste regularly!* Once the right flavor is achieved, strain out lavender and add simple syrup if desired. (Keep in mind the longer you let the lavender infuse, the more simple syrup you might want to add to balance the flavor) Using a funnel, store liquid in original or other glass bottle. Keep away from heat and direct sunlight and enjoy for up to 1 month!

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Lavender Provençal Lemonade (page 77)

Makes 1 drink

Ingredients:

  • 2 Oz Lavender-infused Gin or Vodka
  • 1/2 C Fresh lemonade
  • Ice
  • Dried lavender buds and/or lemon wheel to garnish

Directions:

  1. Pour Gin or Vodka into a chilled collins glass
  2. Add ice and top with lemonade
  3. Give it a few stirs and garnish with lavender and/or lemon
  4. Cheers & enjoy!

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Lavender-Lemonade-Gin-Cocktail

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Thanks to Megan of Shortography for the photos!

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Five Favorites: Western Gin

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With the rise of craft distilling in America inevitably comes a wave of rebellion against the traditional way of things. Case in point: Leave it to us Americans to take the juniper-bomb London Dry Gins of yesteryear and turn them on their head. Distilleries like 209, Brooklyn Gin and Greenhook are pumping out gorgeous new styles of Gin using juniper berries as a connective tissue if-you-will to enhance other botanicals, as opposed to juniper acting as the dominant flavor component. As is also the case with the rise of craft spirits, the “big guys” love to come around and make their presence in these new niche markets well known. As a devoted Gin drinker, here are five of my favorite status-quo abolishing gins, including a few from the giants and a few regional craft offerings. P.S. “Western-style” can be used to describe any Gin where juniper is not the overwhelmingly dominant flavor. P.P.S. You could say that Western Gins aren’t technically Gins at all, as by law a Gin must have juniper as the “main characteristic flavor,” according to the Federal Government’s Beverage Alcohol Manual. Oooooh, sneaky!

1. Hendrick’s | Hendrick’s Gin | Scotland

Okay okay, although technically one of the “big guys,” no article on Western-style Gins would be complete without mentioning Hendrick’s. Hendrick’s has challenged the notion that Gin should have a strong, juniper-forward flavor profile from day one. This spirit has earned a cult following thanks to refreshing cucumber and rose petal notes up front and a myriad of other delectable floral notes on the finish. Hendrick’s Gin is a great intro into the worlds of both Gin in general and Western Gins.

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2. Tanqueray No. 10 | Tanqueray Gin | England originally, now made in Scotland

This is a perfect example of a big-budget, traditionally London Dry brand offering a modern take on the traditional to keep up with changing times. Supposedly made in their No. 10 experimental still with fresh citrus, Tanqueray No. 10 definitely delivers a lighter, more approachable flavor profile than that of the original. This, along with Hendrick’s, is one of my favorite spirits to keep on hand.

3. Aviation | Aviation Gin | Portland, OR

Aviation was one of the original American craft distilleries to offer a Western-style Gin. Using notoriously hard-to-get-it-right botanicals such as lavender, Aviation paints a picture of their native Pacific Northwest in every bottle. Their proprietary mix of botanical makes a great Martini or G & T.

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4. American Dry Gin | Greenhook Ginsmiths | Brooklyn, New York

Greenhook’s American Dry Gin is something of a hybrid between a London Dry and Western-style Gin. Lush and aromatic botanicals like elderflower and chamomile get you on the nose and up front, followed by spicy cracked black peppercorn and a generous dose of both cinnamon and juniper notes to round everything out. A unique, attention-grabbing Gin to try. I also recommend picking up their Beach Plum Gin Liqueur – great for champagne cocktails or drizzling over gelato.

5. Brooklyn Gin | Brooklyn, New York

Brooklyn Gin is another delicious and ultra-refreshing citrus-forward Gin. By using 100% fresh citrus peels – cut by hand before every distillation – and freshly cracked juniper berries, the makers of this addictively juicy spirit help to solidify Brooklyn as a major hub for American craft distilling. Good enough to drink on it’s own, or with a splash of tonic.

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Give one of these non-traditional Gins a try in your next cocktail. And be sure to share snaps of your drinks with the hashtag #Distillerista. Cheers!

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The Best Tequila for Every Budget

Welcome to a new Distillerista series, Booze For Every Budget. Besides the fact that today is very conveniently National Tequila Day (!!!), I chose to feature Tequila first because it’s one of those spirits – at least in my opinion – that you just don’t want to get on the cheap… Seriously, I wouldn’t wish a shot of shit tequila on my worst enemy but that’s just me. Luckily good quality doesn’t necessarily translate to pricey when it comes to Tequila. To prove it, I’ve rounded up some great options for todos los budgets. Enjoy!

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Under $20: Cien Años On my first trip to Baja I asked a local to recommend me a good bottle of tequila at a reasonable price. He answered with Cien Años and I’ve been a fan of this value Tequila ever since. For a cool twenty bucks or less, it has a surprisingly smooth finish and is a great option for parties or big batches of margaritas

Under $30: Espolón About three years ago, Espolón started winning mad awards and consequently flew off shelves, not to be seen again for quite a while. Thankfully it’s back on the market and just as delicious as ever. The Blanco and Reposado are both conveniently between $25 and $30 if you prefer one style to the other.

Under $40: Herradura The Herradura brand is old favorite of mine. Consistently full-bodied and rich, it’s the perfect foil to tart grapefruit juice in a Paloma. Like Espolón, both the Silver and Reposado are under the forty dollar mark.

Under $50: Casamigos Blanco Casamigos is a relatively recent find for me. I usually don’t go for celebrity-endorsed brands, but Casamigos’ flavor profile stands on it’s own, with or without George Clooney’s laser-printed signature on the label. I prefer the Reposado if given the choice but the Blanco clocks in at just under fifty bucks and has great character for a silver tequila.

Splurge: Tequila Ocho Reposado ($60) Tequila Ocho seems to be the current darling of the “craft” Tequila brands. Bottled in a shape one would most associate with Vodkas, Tequila Ocho’s packaging oozes class. It comes as no surprise the liquid in side does too. This would make for an ideal birthday, hostess or wedding gift.

Ball Out: Fortaleza Anejo ($80) Fortaleza was recently named Men’s Journal’s Best Premium Tequila in the World, and for good reason. Sadly I find it hard to spot this elusive Tequila around town so if and when you do see a bottle, be sure to snap it up. And for the love of God, do not make Margaritas with it. This liquid gold is best enjoyed neat in a Brandy snifter.

Any great Tequilas I missed? Let me know in the comments below!

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The Best Alcohol Delivery Services

Distillerista-Alcohol-Delivery-Services

Hands up if you’ve been in one of these three scenarios…

  1. You’re in the thick of an epic house party and all of a sudden, you realize the hosts’ve run out of booze. You shuffle through the fridge looking for any straggling cans of beer, pilfer through someone you don’t know’s room looking for a lazy half-drank bottle of vodka, aaand you come up short.
  2. You’re semi-bored, home on a Friday night, possibly with roomates. No one necessarily wants to go out but that doesn’t mean no one wants a tasty adult beverage to go along with that take-out, side of Netflix. But wait, you’re already in your yoga pants and embarrassing middle school theatre camp t-shirt and you’re out. of. draaanks.
  3. You show up to a get together thing that you did. not. know was BYO and feel more than slightly awkward asking that guy you think you know from class if you can have a splash or five from his bottle of Captain.

All of these scenarios are painfully annoying and – thank Bacchus! – remedied by the same thing… Alcohol Delivery Services! To save you and your fellow imbibers, should any of these aforementioned sticky situations creep up on you again, I’ve crafted the definitive guide to Alcohol Delivery Services across the country! You’re Welcome.

1. Ezra’s | Although not app-based like most of the other services on this list, Ezra’s is up first because their mission holds a special place in my heart. As a distiller myself, I appreciate a company who’s main goal is to increase the information channels between distiller and end-consumer. This provides a huge leg-up for small craft distillers who may be struggling due to our three-tier dominated industry. In addition to their focus on craft spirits, I love that their emails update you in real time when high-demand products come back in stock. And they ship country-wide! While not technically an on-demand delivery service, I highly recommend using Ezra’s if you’re planning a dinner or cocktail party at your place and want to impress with some lesser-known boutique spirits.

Get 5% off your Ezra’s order with code distillerista. But be quick about it – code limited to the first 30 readers!

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2. Drizly | Drizly is one of the fastest growing on-demand alcohol delivery services. They work with the top liquor retailers in each state to provide consumers the best selection and price on their favorite beer, wine and liquor with delivery in less than an hour (and on average closer to 20-40 minutes!). They service 16 major metropolitan cities. Click here to see if yours is on the list.

The first 50 California readers (Drizly currently delivers in L.A. and Orange County only) get delivery fees waived on their first order with code DISTILLERISTA Offer Ends August 31st, 2015

iPhone Shot, Get the Door

3. Saucey | Saucey is an app, available for download on iOS or Android, that delivers beer, wine, and/or spirits to your door in less than an hour. Currently servicing the west coast in San Fransisco, L.A. and San Diego, Saucey is also planning expansions to Chicago and Dallas very soon. It’s easy as (1) Open the app, drop a pin and choose from a menu of beer, wine, spirits, cocktails and snacks (2) A Saucey driver will be on their way and get to you in about 20 minutes (3) Take delivery and enjoy anywhere, even the beach(!!!)

Get $5 off any Saucey order with code DISTILL

Saucey

4. Minibar | Minibar, another app, provides on-demand delivery of wine, spirits, beer & mixers. Minibar gives users a better way to shop by connecting them with local liquor stores to offer the best selection of products. What sets Minibar apart for me is that they also provide tasting notes, pairing recommendations, cocktail recipes, an option to send gifts for special occasions, AND they feature a “Party Planning Tool” which allows users to quickly determine how much of each spirit is needed for the perfect party. Super useful and convenient! Currently servicing 19 major metropolitan cities. Scroll down to the bottom of their home page to see if yours is included.

MiniBar-Distillerista

Get $10 off your first Minibar order with code DISTILLERISTA

5. Thirstie | Thirstie is a leading national on-demand wine, beer and spirits delivery service that delivers in under an hour and provides curated cocktail recipes. It is redefining the way consumers shop and discover the best wine, beer or cocktail with its innovative editorial platform, The Craft. The Craft redefines the way consumers shop and discover the best wine, beers or cocktails and elevates the overall consumer experience by getting people “Thirstie” through curated and original content engagement.

The Craft (2)

Use code DISTILL10 for $10 off your order. Expires August 31.

6. DrinkFly | DrinkFly was started by two brothers in a suburb of Chicago. They’ve now grown into seven cities and continue to add more as they expand.  Drink Fly’s unique selling point is that you have the option to select the specific liquor store from which you buy.  This let’s you get your hands on some booze, quickly, AND support local business.  Win-win!

Get $5 off your first DrinkFly order with code distill5

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7. Klink | Klink is a liquor-store-to-your-door service on steroids. They strive to take the experience one step further by adding a little something extra. Whether they’re delivering liquor-infused cupcakes, sending mixologists along with larger orders to help serve drinks or partnering with a hand-crafted mixer to turn customers’ spirits orders into artisanal cocktails, they’re constantly going above and beyond.

Free delivery on two Klink orders with code distillerista 

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Recap: After downloading each app, playing around with them a bit and emailing with the various apps’ media teams, I can genuinely say I’d happily use any of the above services. As I live in Southern California, not all of them cater to me so I couldn’t actually try every service for myself. I’d advise clicking through their websites, making note of which apps deliver in your city and going from there. Enjoy the discount codes and let me know your experience. Personally,  I can’t wait to try out the Saucey app on my next beach day! Whooop whoooop!

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Seasonal Peach Craft Spirits + Matching Cocktails

With peak peach season right around the corner (July & August are when they’ll be sweetest at your local farmer’s market), I had the idea to round up a few peach flavored craft spirits for your summer cocktail making pleasure. While I love having a bottle of Leopold’s Peach Whiskey on hand for a sweet night cap, I was only recently introduced to the sheer bliss that is High West’s 7000′ Peach Vodka. My third pick, Prichard’s Peach Mango Rum, caught my eye in an article on the revival of rum making in the American south. I haven’t had a chance to taste it yet, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some and whip up a batch of Peach Dark & Stormy’s.

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1. 7000′ Peach Vodka | High West Distillery | Park City, UT

This vodka is a dream. Peaches are fresh picked the day of, de-stoned, macerated, and soaked in High West’s award winning 7000′ Vodka. The peaches are then removed and thrown in the still to distill out the remaining alcohol. The resulting peach distillate is then combined with the peach-steeped vodka to create a truly one-of-a-kind real fruit spirit.

{ Would be perfect in this pretty Peach Collins for a brunch or shower | Cupcakes & Cashmere }

2. Sweet Georgia Belle Peach Mango Rum | Prichard’s Distillery | Kelso, TN

This tropical fruit-spiked rum, along with Head Distiller Phil Prichard’s more traditional offerings, are inspired by colonial-era rums. I can’t help but think how good this would taste splashed into iced tea or an Arnold Palmer.

{ Use it to make a batch of Peach Mojitos for your next BBQ | Southern Living }

3. Rocky Mountain Peach Whiskey | Leopold Bros. | Denver, CO

If you stick around long enough, you’ll catch on that Leopold Bros. is one of my all-time favorite distilleries. Everything they make is delicious and they were recently named Distillery of the Year by the American Distilling Institute. Their incredible fruit whiskies are made by blending their American Small Batch Whiskey with fresh juice, squeezed right in the distillery – in this case from tons of fresh Colorado peaches. P.S. They make a Georgia Peach version too!

{ Whip up this summery Peach Mint Old Fashioned on a hot night | Cook Like A Champion }

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Bar Basics: Spirits to Keep On Hand at All Times

Bar-Essential-Distillerista-4-Header

One of the things I was most excited about when moving into my first solo apartment was stocking a beautifully curated bar. I have a bit of an obsession with bar carts – there may or may not be an entire Pinterest board to prove this – so I knew I wanted to make mine the focal point of my first big-girl living space. This obsession of mine is so well known that my Mom bought me the gorgeous bar cabinet in these photos as a house warming gift. It’s still one of my favorite pieces of furniture to this day. Here are the must-have spirits I keep stocked at all times for easy entertaining.

Hangar 1 Straight Vodka ($38) // Vodka is my family’s go-to spirit and this is the one we’ve been drinking for years. Made from a blend of wheat-based spirit and grape eau de vie, it has virtually no bite and a gorgeous floral quality. If you can’t find Hangar 1, go for Prairie Vodka or Tito’s in a pinch.

Hendrick’s Gin ($40) // If I’m having a cocktail these days, there’s a good chance it’s made with Gin. As a result, it’s worth it to have my favorite around, even if a bit pricey.

Flor de Caña Rum ($20) // I don’t drink a lot of Rum, but when the mood for a Mojito or Dark & Stormy strikes, I make sure to have both dark and light. Captain Morgan or Bacardi will do the trick for the light stuff, whereas I prefer to have at least a semi-decent dark rum like Flor de Caña or Zacapa on hand for guests who enjoy it on the rocks.

Casamigos Tequila ($57) // Tequila is a must. Whether it’s for weekend margaritas or a quick shot before heading out to a bar (you know you do it too), never be without it. Blanco or Reposado, whatever you prefer. Funny enough, the Kirkland brand Silver and Reposado options are bomb, and a great value too. If I haven’t been on a Costco run in a while, I go for Casamigos, or Fortaleza when I can find it. They’re premium and definitely priced as such, but cheap Tequila can be painful and drinking should not be painful.

Bulleit Bourbon ($28) // This is, hands down, my favorite mainstream Bourbon. Even though I’m pretttyyyy sure it comes from a factory distillery in Indiana, it’s still the best-tasting bang for your buck these days. If you like something a bit spicier, their Rye is also fantastic.

Carpano Antica ($36) // Several of my friends and family enjoy a well-made manhattan so I make sure to keep this vermouth (plus brandied or maraschino cherries) stocked. It also makes an excellent night cap neat or on the rocks.

Wild Card – Hangar 1 Kaffir Lime Vodka ($38) // I’ve gotten so many friends hooked on this spirit, I can’t keep count. Although a little weird (read: surprisingly floral) at first, you’ll quickly decide you don’t ever want to drink anything else. With club soda or in a gimlet, this real-fruit infused vodka is always a hit.

{Exact prices may vary by city and state.}

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I’m curious, what are your favorite every-day spirits? Let me know in the comments below.

Again, thank you to Megan Burgess of Shortography for the gorgeous photographs!

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Five Favorites: American Craft Vodka

Top 5 Craft Vodkas Distillerista

Although considered a bit of a black sheep in the craft cocktail world, Vodka happens to have several redeeming qualities, at least if you ask me. Besides the conveniently low calorie content, Vodka has a mellow flavor profile and is therefore an ideal neutral base for at home cocktails. Notice I did not say odorless or flavorless. In my opinion, any Vodka worth drinking should have both a subtle aroma and a nuanced flavor profile when tasted straight. Here are five of my craft Vodka favorites that fit that bill.

  1. Silver Tree Vodka | Leopold Bros. Distillery | Denver, CO

Arguably one of – if not THE – finest American-made vodkas actually being made from scratch these days. Head Distiller Todd Leopold uses a blend of wheat, potatoes and malted barley to get a final product that goes down almost too easily.

  1. George Spirits All Purpose | St. George Spirits | Alameda, CA

St. George originally made Hangar 1 Vodka (next up on the list) but have since sold the product line to Proximo and recently completed their contract to keep producing it for them. Now they’ve launched a new and equally delectable line of their own. The current lineup includes a straight “All Purpose” version they make from a corn-based spirit and pear Eau de Vie, as well as Green Chile and California Citrus options.

  1. Hangar 1 Straight | Hangar 1 Vodka | Alameda, CA

Now made by one of the few female Head Distillers in the country – Caley Maker – from a blend of a wheat-based neutral grain spirit and a grape Eau de Vie that softens the heat perfectly. One of my all-time favorites.

  1. Spring 44 Vodka | Spring 44 Distilling | Loveland, CO

Spring 44’s claim to fame is where they get their water. It’s supposedly collected from a Rocky Mountain artesian mineral spring in Colorado’s Buckhorn Canyon. Personally, I take slight issue with using water as a marketing ploy, seeing as it really only comes into play in the final proofing stages of distilling, but you simply can’t argue with the smoothness of Spring 44. Also not to be missed is their Honey Vodka made with Colorado honey straight from the comb.

  1. Prairie Organic | Prairie Organic Spirits

Heads up, I’m throwing in something a little more commercial. The jury’s out on the actual “craft-ness” of this so-called craft vodka, seeing as there’s seemingly no physical distillery location to speak of. Nonetheless, I’ve noticed that if a a bar manager isn’t a fan of vodka but still has to stock it, this is the one they most often choose to have on hand. It also happens to be pretty damn good and easy to find nationwide.

Honorable Mention: Woody Creek. This 100% potato vodka received double gold at this year’s World Spirits Competition in San Fransisco a.k.a. like, the Oscars of distilling.

Are you a Vodka drinker? Have you tried any of these? If so, let me know your favorites in the comments below!

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