The best new cocktails now come in a bottle
The boom in batched cocktails has had a side benefit for the home bartender: Leading mixologists and distillers have begun bottling their customised drinks, taking advantage of professional techniques such as barrel ageing or slowly infusing spirits with fruit, spice, or even candle wax.
These bottled cocktails have nothing in common with those artificial-tasting drinks sold on supermarket shelves; they are made with premium spirits and natural ingredients with the care one would expect from those whose reputations are on the line.
When served at the right temperature in a properly chilled glass, it is hard to believe they were poured directly from a bottle.
Fluid Dynamics Dry Martini, 1850 Cocktail, Rye Manhattan, & St. Nick
Craft Distillers in California, best known for its Germain-Robin brandies, makes this line of aged cocktails based on its fine spirits.
The 80-proof Dry Martini — a perfect balance of Russell Henry London dry gin and Vya extra-dry vermouth, aged in stainless steel for six weeks — is crisp and redolent of juniper and pine, with an earthy brine on the palate.
The barrel-aged cocktails, from about 65 to 78 proof, include the festive St. Nick, a ruby blend of Germain-Robin brandy and Clear Creek cranberry liqueur; the 1850 Cocktail, a Sazerac variation made with Germain-Robin brandy, Low Gap whiskey, and Germain-Robin absinthe; and a Rye Manhattan with Low Gap rye.
In each case, the quality of the spirit is enhanced by careful cocktail making. $US64 (about $A89) per litre. (craftdistillers.com)
High West Barreled Boulevardier & the 36th Vote Barreled Manhattan
The distinct flavours of bourbon and rye shine through in these barrel-aged drinks from the Utah distiller High West.
The 72-proof Boulevardier (bourbon, Vya sweet vermouth, and Gran Classico amaro) mellows for 120 days in oak, while the 36th Vote, a classic 74-proof Manhattan whose name commemorates Utah's deciding vote to end Prohibition, languishes for 90 days.
Both make a strong case for the benefits of the barrel. $US55 (about $A74) each. (highwest.com)
Mr Lyan's Spotless Martini, Candlelit Manhattan, and Rainy Day Spritz
Ryan Chetiyawardana, owner of the innovative London bars White Lyan and Dandelyan, continues to push the envelope with his bottled drinks.
The 61-proof Spotless Martini is like sipping a garden of citrus, flowers, and juniper berries and is made with his London dry gin, vermouth, and essences of olives and lemons — no need to garnish, no chance of altering his perfectly calculated ratios.
The 55-proof Manhattan, a blend of his bourbon, vermouth, and bitters, gets an alluring softness from wax — the bottle is lined with it. And his Spritz, a 33-proof mix of raspberry eau-de-vie, vermouth, and bitter rhubarb liqueur, is a light libation poured over ice, or the basis for a spritz with a splash of Prosecco or white wine.
This Ohio microdistiller makes a savoury, 70-proof cocktail with its small-batch bourbon, raw sugar, cherry juice, and bitters.
The drink spotlights the high quality of the spirit and has a spicy, woodsy character, rather than the fruity sweetness we expected from a bourbon drink enhanced with cherry.
Hochstadter's Slow & Low Limited Release Rock & Rye
A recent release from Cooper Spirits Co. — which put the liqueurs St-Germain and Crème Yvette on mixology's top shelf — is a revival of the Rock and Rye.
This 100-proof bottling blends 8-year-old rye whiskey, air-dried navel oranges, raw honey, Angostura bitters, and rock candy. At that proof, it begs to be poured over ice for a little dilution. $US35 (about $A47) (drinkslowandlow.com)
Bully Boy Old-Fashioned** **
Boston's first craft distillery released its version of an old-fashioned last year. Made with Bully Boy's American Straight Whiskey, sugar, and a hefty dose of bitters, the 71-proof drink is a festive version of the cocktail, with a pinkish tint and notes of peppermint and gingerbread. US30 (about $A40) (bullyboydistillers.com)
Courage and Stone Black Manhattan and Whiskey Old-Fashioned
Aisha Tyler, actress and co-host of The Talk television show, has collaborated with New York Distilling Co., maker of Dorothy Parker American gin, on a line of bottled drinks debuting this month.
Tyler has long batched cocktails at home and prefers drinks that are "familiar and classic, with a small special touch." The first two releases are just that: The Black Manhattan combines rye, bitters, and a well-placed accent of morello cherry, while the old-fashioned tastes as if a twist of orange has just been snapped over the glass. $US50 (about $A67) each (courageandstone.com)
Crafthouse Cocktails Paloma
In 2013, the James Beard Award–winning mixologist Charles Joly became one of the first to get into the premium bottled-cocktail business, with the Crafthouse line of premixed drinks.
The sparkling, 25-proof Paloma is the standout: a bracing blend of dusky blanco tequila, house-made grapefruit soda, and lime. Joly suggests pouring it over a tumbler of ice, garnished with a salted rim and a grapefruit slice or lime wedge. $US20 (about $A27) (crafthousecocktails.com)
Om Organic Mixology
These 30-proof liqueurs, made in Michigan with a base of sugarcane vodka, can be sipped straight over ice or mixed with other spirits to make a stronger cocktail.
The flavours, created by mixologist Natalie Bovis, seem inspired by the era of the Cosmopolitan and Chocolate Martini, and include cranberry and blood orange, Meyer lemon and ginger, and dark chocolate and sea salt. $US25 (about $A33) each (omspirits.com)
Plantation Pineapple Stig** gins' Fancy Rum **
This infused dark rum — named best new product at this year's Tales of the Cocktail and made in collaboration with the cocktail historian David Wondrich — is modelled on a 19th-century "sipping rum" and makes a fine drink served neat or on the rocks.
Its syrupy, citrusy aroma gives way to juicy pineapple flavours mingled with rich, 80-proof Trinidadian rum. It avoids cloying sweetness with a hint of the fruit's natural acidity and greenness — the result of infusing the pineapple rinds separately from the fruit. $US35 (about $A47) (plantationrum.com)