March Toward the Booze, Ye Thirsty Citizens All!

These fine tipples may be precisely the slaking fortress you seek

Who said anything about St. Patrick’s Day? Who said booze is all about the Irish, or that the Irish are all about booze?

Stop with the reinforcin’ o’ the stereotypes, already. Stop, we say, and prepare your favorite glasses to receive, any day of the year, a generous splash of some fine and spirited beverages – of which we’ve provided five examples below.

1. Still Austin: Cognac Cask Rye Whiskey

We’re starting off with a local, because they’re so damned good, and because, although we could get various iterations of Still Austin’s exemplary spirits in package stores all over this bustling city, it gives us an excuse to visit their cool distillery-and-bar in The Yard. You know that this company tends to sell out all their special editions quicker’n you can say water-of-life? And you know that they don’t sell the stuff beyond state lines? We sat across from Still Austin head honcho Chris Seals at the recent Full Circle Sustainable Steak Dinner and, to our surprise, he confirmed that eventually selling their whiskeys and gins outside of Texas is maybe the lowest priority in the history of low priorities. Good lordy, do we pity the other 49 states – especially as Still Austin’s newest, the Cognac Cask Rye Whiskey, is distilled from 100% rye grains and finished in French cognac barrels. So, a sort of cognac inflection to the rye? “Offers aromas of pear, honey, and fig, with a spicy rye palate of whipped cream and apricot jam,” is what they’re saying. It’s definitely a subtle flex – but, yeah, they ain’t kidding. Bonus: Austin-based muralist Zuzu created the labels for this expression, spray-painting every bottle by hand.

2. Lucky Stash

“What is this, a center for ants?!” as Derek Zoolander once exclaimed. In a similar manner, we are made to inquire, “What is this, a tequila infused with cannabis!?” But it is, modern and socially enlightened human, it is indeed. It’s a product “founded in Austin,” they tell us, by the alcohol-forward stalwarts of Frision – the creators of one of the most successful tequila brands in Mexico. Now they’re blending their agave distillation with macerated herbs, per usual, and then adding the herb and some natural terpenes. Voila: Lucky Stash! I dunno, though. Cannabis is all well and good, and it’ll likely end up in many a cocktail in the coming years, but this Lucky Stash? The green liquid in that pear-shaped bottle topped with a bongtastic sort of chromed skull? Pixy Stix. No shit, not kidding at all: This Lucky Stash tasted so much like Pixy Stix that it made one of our partying taste-testers flash back to her candy-coated childhood. We’re not even going to say if that’s good or bad – hell, Killina liked the stuff, and her fellow quaffers exsanguinated that pyriform vessel in less than a hour – but, ah, there it is. Pixy Stix.

3. Kástra Elión

Never say όχι, citizen! We’re far beyond the bounds of Texas now, no Tito’s in sight, but there’s no denying the fine quality and complexity of this spirit called Kástra Elión. It’s a new vodka, distilled from Greek olives harvested in the Nafpaktos region of that myth-riddled land and blended with premium grains to achieve its smooth, almost buttery flavor. Listen: We recently polished off half a bottle with a couple of pals who’d spent all day making baklava, and we were as pleased as we were relaxed – and stuffed with that multilayered pastry. Good vodka, this. And, bonus, because packaging is important, after all: The solid, opaque white bottle of this brand is like a streamlined version of some ancient amphora, except without a pointy end that would make it impossible to stand up. We reckon that’s a bottle of vodka that’s perfect for gifting to a stylish friend. And, since you are a generous person like that, you should also know that Kástra Elión can be delivered as part of an ultraposh gift collection. Verdict: Some Greeks bearing gifts should be welcomed with open arms.

4. Hendrick’s Neptunia

Again with the innovation? Again with the never-satisfied-with-the-status-quo? Yes: Even when you’re Hendrick’s – arguably the world’s best gin – you refuse to rest on your laurels, botanical though those laurels may be. Market’s competitive, after all. Fierce newcomers joining the boozy fray every other week, it sometimes seems like. Got to keep moving – like a shark, right? Like a steam-distilled, florally infused shark? Well. Last time ‘round, these legendary distillers released a variation called Lunar, which featured a faint citrus overtone to their liquid juniper jubilation (note: we reviewed that one right here). And now they’ve released this new Neptunia, the latest creation from master distiller Lesley Gracie’s “Cabinet of Curiosities” series. “You have that distinctive fresh character from coastal herbs,” says that Gracie, “and a depth of flavor from the sea botanicals, and an unmistakably clean, bright citrus finish that lifts in a round, refreshing way that makes it Hendrick’s.” Of course she’d say such a thing: She’s a company woman, right? But. Our own experience, after breaking into this Neptunia, corroborates that her description is spot-on. And a couple cocktails later, we’re just about launching into sea shanties of hallelujah.

5. Tullamore D.E.W.

On the other hand, as if contrary to the well-intentioned assertions in our opening paragraph, some Irish citizens are all about the booze. The people behind Tullamore D.E.W. – the No. 2 best-selling Irish whiskey on this planet – started out in 1829, after all, and we daresay 193 years of continually honing one’s liquid assets toward perfection is evidence of a certain, almost obsessive, dedication. The smoothness and deep flavors of the revered company’s triple-distilled spirits bear this out in glass after glass after glass. Neat, perhaps? On the rocks? “Ice is civilization,” as the ill-fated Allie Fox intoned at the beginning of Paul Theroux’s The Mosquito Coast, but of course YMMV. And if you’d like to infuse a cocktail with such amber brilliance, we’re happy to suggest the Gold Rush as interpreted by Tully ambassador Gillian Murphy. Ingredients: Two parts Tullamore D.E.W; .75 part fresh lemon juice; .75 part honey syrup. Process: Add all those ingredients to an ice-filled shaker; shake and strain into an ice-filled glass; garnish with a lemon twist. [In a further variation, your Chronicle reporter will whisper “Who cares if Jameson sells more bottles per year?” and flip a bird before taking the first sip; but maybe that’s just us?]


BONUS: CANNED COCKTAILS

We’ve already told you about a variety of canned cocktails. It’s such a rapidly expanding category in the beverage industry, that we’ve more recently told you about such products here, too. But this spinning world we’re purposely or inadvertantly destroying is nothing if not a consumer’s paradise, right? So let’s take a thirsty gander at two more brands of convenient cocktails.

Golden Rule

These guys – James Mauk and Hunter Sprole: two cousins out in San Francisco – take a page from the ol’ Tip Top and Dashfire books, tinning up their tipples in tiny cans that reveal, within very attractive packaging, flavorful and well-balanced delights sure to send the most planned or impromptu parties into your friends’ happiest memories. They’ve got only two offerings on the market so far – the Margarita and the Old Fashioned – but, enjoyable as these classic, high-quality quaffs are, they’ll probably add more soon enough. Well, almost soon enough? Like, we’re not watching the goddam clock or anything, but we’d love a Golden Rule Manhattan, say, whenever they get around to it. Until then, these margaritas … *slurp* … we mean … *slurp* … oh yeah, we reckon a certain Mr. Buffet himself would well approve.

SunDaze

Okay, orange juice canned cocktails? To be specific, cocktails of a 100% Valencia orange juice blend, made using “an exclusive fermentation process to transform fruit juice into alcoholic refreshment”? That’s what these SunDaze from Arthur Gallego are, alright, and served up in tall cans that pack your entire daily vitamin C requirement into each delicious cocktail. Suggestion: Start off with the SunDaze Classic (that’s those boozy, mimosa-like Valencia juices), then school your palate with Botanical Citrus (wherein rosemary and ginger root have been added to enhance the bright flavor) and that surprising Spicy Citrus (which is supercharged with jalapeño and Thai chiles). We’d never tell you these should be enjoyed only during brunch … but who says you can’t have brunch at 10pm, if you feel like it? This is America, by jingo, and we’ll have brunch – and these Sundaze canned cocktails – whenever we goddam please.


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