Ah! The crisp fall air has finally arrived and here at Swig, we’re looking for warmer cocktails and interesting small batch liquors to warm up chilly days or spice up the night.
We’ve scoured from coast-to-coast and discovered some interesting, high-quality and tasty small batch spirits.
Starting on the West Coast, Milwaukee is known more for its beer origins than liquors, but wait until you try these spirits. Some are artisan, small batch distillers, while others are small batch liquors or whiskeys at larger distillers. Plus, we threw in one small batch liquor just for fun.
Great Lakes Distillery – Milwaukee Wisconsin
These folks are Wisconsin’s original small batch distillery, and they produce a variety of interesting and unique small batch liquors and whiskeys. If the holidays are on your mind, consider the Cabernet-Franc finished limited reserve Kinnickinnic Whiskey. They take their flagship whiskey and age it in Cabernet Franc cooperage from Wisconsin’s Von Stiehl winery for an additional year and seven months. The resulting color and flavor is as unique as they come. If you’re interested, move fast, as they only produced two barrels this season. Also, they offer two different types of absinthe and a number of liquors including rum, vodka, gin and the like.
Pictured is the better way to ‘rock’ your whiskey. If you still prefer ice despite the chilly times, just use one cube or one layer, so as not to ruin one’s flavor discernment of the whiskey.
Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey
Stranahan’s is popular for a reason. They are full distillers producing small batch liquors using Colorado Rocky Mountain Water, mountain-grown barley and a special wash to produce their signature flavor. They combine their distinctive liquor with local libations to produce signature cocktails in their Whiskey Lounge, which is open on the weekends. Want to try a special edition? Their special Snowflake release prompts wee-hours-of-the-morning camping just to get in line for a taste. Now that’s no biggie in more temperate climates but camping out in Colorado in December requires passion! Their Snowflake batch release is set to occur on December 5th and you can check out their Facebook page for cool contests and updates. Regardless, their whiskey is good neat for those of you who like a stronger sip, or try a little water if you must. Tracking it down is not the easiest task if you’re not in the area, but keep in mind that small batch quality doesn’t always produce in the same volumes as huge conglomerates, so it’s worth the trouble to give it a shot! Try Google Shopping for the 750 mL size, and a larger size is sold only onsite.
Woody Creek Distillers – Colorado
Colorado boasts some 70 or 80 distilleries, but we would be remiss to pass over Woody Creek Distillers.
These folks grow their own potatoes just to make their signature vodka. One in particular hails all the way from Poland! This tuber is the Stobrawa and is prized for its higher starch content and ability to impart some complexity to the finished vodka. This is what goes into their award-wining Woody Creek Reserve Vodka, another one to keep in mind as family gatherings draw near. They also make their flagship vodka from their own potatoes with local varieties, and craft a straight-rye and a gin from their stills.
Knob Creek – Booker Bourbon – Kentucky
If bourbon is more your style, there are plenty of choices! Bourbon has been hailed as “America’s Native Spirit” since legislation by President Lyndon B. Johnson more than 50 years ago. Most bourbon producers have been around for at least a few decades if not a century or so! But this one is truly unique, as it is made from the last few barrels of Knob Creek founder Booker Noe set up to age before his passing in 2004. They’re bottled at barrel strength- 121-130 proof, and it’s serious stuff. Check it out while you can!
The Brother’s Vilgalys – North Carolina
Lastly, just because we like it, have you heard of Krupnikas?
The beverage is not new, and Baltic-style spirits may be more popular in places with larger Lithuanian populations, as it hails from those environs. But these gentlemen set up shop in Durham, NC and the spirit has caught on like wildfire. The liquor is made with honey and neutral grain spirits, including a unique blend of spices and herbs that are absolutely delicious in cocktails and heated beverages. Their liquor is available in a number of locations. They’re also bottling 4 new forays – Beebop, Jabs, Zaphoo and Beatnik are prowling the counters. For now, area and regional restaurants can’t get enough of it and regularly run out. The Little Dipper, a fondue restaurant in Durham, recently put together a cocktail called Durham’s Finest using Krupnikas, the new Durham Distillery’s Conniption Navy Strenth Gin and Solerno Blood Orange liqueur. It also works wonders in classic hot toddies and drinks like the White Russian or coffee-inspired drinks. Look for more Krupnikas-spliced cocktails on the eastern seaboard as the spicy and sweet concoction finds it way into homes and bars alike.
Have a favorite small batch liquor, whiskey or liqueur? Let us know! Check the websites or social media for any of these listings to stay in the know.
Here’s hoping your days are de-stressed and your nights are warm and cozy. Cheers!
Top image via The Brother’s Vilgalys