Celebrate Every Season With These 5 Unique Spirits
By John Dunham & Alison Blackman
While some people are lifting champagne flutes to ring in the new year, others are bypassing the “bubbly” and celebrating with their favorite spirits, including run, vodka and tequila. Spirits make marvelous mixers and are a fun way to try new cocktails, as well as drink straight up. Just as with the wine and beer segments of the adult beverage marketplace, there has been a huge expansion in the number and types of spirits that are now available. Here are 4 products you may not have tried yet, but we think they’re terrific choices for celebrations every day of the year! We’ve even included a recipe for each product, to get you thinking about your own creations to come.
Platinum Tequlia from DeLeón is just one in a new collection of premium tequilas from a new collaboration between between entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs (aka P. Diddy, Puff Daddy) and Diageo. All of the tequilas in this line have a stunning presentation as well as a very pleasant taste. As with Mr. Combs’ Ciroc Vodka, you get the sense it’s something special, even before you open the bottle. The square bottle is made of a heft chuck of glass, engraved with bold initial “D” (is that for DeLeón or Diddy?). It looks much more like a perfume bottle with a jeweled top, expensive and luxurious. The topper is a highly detailed silvery ball, hand-carved by a jeweler from a one pound solid ball of sterling silver (the topper of the actual tequila bottle is silvery metal for the higher end tequilas, and plastic for the others).
All of the DeLeón tequilas are made from high quality 100% highland Blue Weber agave sourced from the Los Altos region of Jalisco. The agave is slow roasted in traditional brick and clay ovens, combined with slow fermentation under the guidance of DeLeón’s master distiller, and distilled twice. For the aged tequilas, the tequila sits on a combination of American Oak and fine French wine casks. We tried the DeLeón Platinum Tequila (80 proof at the entry level of $60.00). We really liked what we tasted. The color is crystal clear, and the aroma is slight, with hints of citrus. Like Diddy’s Ciroc Vodka, there is more taste than the usual in this tequila, which was smooth, warm, and inviting. We drank it unchilled and straight up with no burning in the back of the throat, but with a delightful, long finish. Even at this entry level for DeLeón, it is a sipping tequila, not something you chug fast with lime and salt our use in a ready-made margarita mix. (although of course, you can do that as well if you wish).
Even the entry level Platinum we tried isn’t the stuff of cheap “tequila shots.” The aged tequilas are even more high end: DeLeón Leóna ($850.00), is a private reserve anejo tequila finished in French Sauternes casks. There is also the DeLeón Extra Anejo ($350) which is 108 proof and aged for 36 months; DeLeón Diamante ($150),blending anejo and blanco tequila.There’s also three more traditional tequilas under the DeLeón Ultra-Premium line: DeLeón Anejo ($70.00); Reposado ($65.00) and the Platinum we sampled ($60.00).
1 oz. DeLeon® Platinum
o.5 oz. ancho chile liqueur
1 oz. apple cider
0.5 oz. fresh lime juice
Shake ingredients vigorously with clean, cold ice. Strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass rimed with the smoky salt.
With a name like “Crystal Head” these unique vodkas, poured into glass skull bottles, show their unique style before you even take a sip We were able to sample Crystal Head Vodka at The Secret Lounge in the White Street Restaurant in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood. This little lounge in the basement of the restaurant was the perfect place to try the original Crystal Head Vodka and Crystal Head Aurora, a new offering from Crystal Head Vodka. The original Crystal Head vodka was developed by actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd and aritist John Alexander. The glass skull bottle was designed by an artist because the creators felt this bottle was worthy of one of the world’s purest vodkas. The original Crystal Head Vodka is made from corn and, as one might expect, has some sweet notes up front with a subtle vanilla finish. The new offering, Aurora, which comes in the crystal skull as well, but this version gives off reflections of color similar to the aurora borealis. The product is distilled from English wheat, and while still sweet up front has a bit more fire on the finish. Aurora also has some distinct cucumber notes mid palette that make it an excellent choice for pairing with bitter cocktails.
At the event we sampled two holiday cocktails made from the vodkas. The new Aurora is extremely smooth, and was used to create a bitter herb-y cocktail using saffron and apricot tea infusion. The cocktail had an obvious saffron nose, and was bitter across the palate. However, the finish was very refreshing, reminiscent of clean laundry (in a good way). The original Crystal Head Vodka was used in a gimlet, with cucumber and lavender. The cocktail was quite refreshing with a tart but smooth finish. It paired extremely well with marinated salmon. We would probably have used the Aurora in this cocktail to bring out the cucumber notes, but the mixologists who designed them suggested it might be too much. The scent of just a few bits of genuine lavender was so unique and festive, we’re including the recipe, below.
Crystal Head Lavender & Cucumber Cocktail (Photo on the left)2 oz original Crystal Head Vodka
1 oz herbes de Provence syrup
1 oz lime
Shaken and strained into a martini glass
Candied lavender garnish
The original Crystal Head vodka sells for about $40 .00 a bottle and the Aurora for about $60.00 The skull head may look smaller, but they’re full 750 ml bottles.
“You’ll learn to do this, the Peppermint Twist” sang Joey Dee and the Starlighters in their hit “Peppermint Twist” back in 1962 ( some of you might remember it). We think it’s time to “twist again” but this time, with SMIRNOFF™ (limited edition) Peppermint Twist Vodka, a fun flavored vodka that tastes like peppermint. The bottle is so festive it hardly needs wrapping if you’re still giving gifts for Christmas. There is a “scratch and sniff” feature if you rub the outside of the bottle you won’t release a genie, but you will get the smell of peppermint.
This looks like serious fun (who doesn’t like candy canes and peppermints) and the striped bottle is sure to add a smile to the faces of your host/hostess if you hand them one as a gift. However, it’s a serious, adult, alcoholic spirit. Smirnoff Peppermint Twist Vodka is triple distilled and filtered ten times so you get a smooth, “adult” candy cane treat to your mouth no matter how you drink it (check out all the Smirnoff peppermint Twist drink recipes-we have one below) . SMIRNOFF Peppermint Twist Vodka is infused with natural flavors and 30% Alc/Vol. Even better, it contains just 78 calories per 1.5 oz. serving, delivering a satisfying peppermint taste to enhance whatever you want to mix it with (or drink it over ice as-is). If you aren’t into peppermint, no worries as SMIRNOFF has several other dozens of flavored vodkas!
Smirnoff Peppermint Martini
1.25 oz Smirnoff Peppermint Twist
0.5 oz Baileys Original Irish Cream
Shake ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg and a mini candy cane.
Tasting vodka at the Cosabella lingerie boutique in Soho was quite a unique way to show off everything “Italian” including light bites inspired by Italian food, and the Punzoné Vodka Holiday 2015 cocktail collection and their trio of tasty vodkas: Punzoné Organic Vodka; Punzoné Blood Orange Originale and Punzoné Lemoncino The creators of Punzoné enthusiastically told us that these vodkas are organic and naturally flavored. They are also apparently Gluten-Free (they can’t officially claim that yet but they say it’ is true).
While we didn’t taste all of the cocktails (designed for Punzoné by lifestyle expert and sipteaze.com founder Nicole Young), what was clear to us was that these organic and naturally flavored vodkas are good on their own without anything at all in them, and also with fruit, spices and more (use your imagination). The bottles are frosted and elegant, We enjoyed checking out the lingerie from Cosabella as well. With Valentines’ Day coming up, a gift of Cosabella lingerie (get her a gift certificate so she can get the right size) and a bottle Punzoné Vodka would be a most romantic gift. Make one of the Punzoné Organic Vodkas a “guest” at your next holiday gathering.
Punzoné Lemoncino Sangria
2 parts Punzoné Lemoncino
1 part Punzoné Vodka
1 part Pineapple Juice
1/2 orange freshly squeezed
Splash of club
Garnish with Cherries
For more information visit punzone.com and their “where to buy ” link
Wicked Dolphin Rum: That’s such a sexy name we had to try it! Rum is festive, especially when it comes in flavors. Our favorite is coconut because it mixes so nicely with other things, or can be “as-is” for purists. Wicked Dolphin Coconut Rum (approx. $27.00) is a white coconut rum from Cape Coral, Florida. The family owned distillery uses 100% Florida cane sugar to produce small batches of spirits using an American copper pot still. The coconut rum is redolent with coconut on the nose and is extremely smooth, though sweet enough to charm even those who don’t like plain rum. It is a great rum to drink alone or to blend into citrus based cocktails. Be a bit “wicked” and serve this for New Years Eve, or emind yourself that even if you can’t get to the tropics, Summer will eventually be here! This unique product can be an excellent gift as can the distillery’s spiced or “silver” rum (aged in bourbon barrels( or “spiced” rum (oranges and vanilla).
Try a Mojito with Wicked Dolphin Coconut Rum:
2oz Wicked Dolphin Coconut Rum
Fresh Mint Leaves
Squeezed Lime Juice
Fill with Club Soda
Garnish with lime