Just because you’re not inviting people over this holiday season, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a well-stocked, top-notch home bar. NEWS FLASH: YOU DESERVE NICE THINGS. Check out these picks for delicious, locally-made liquors to make your bar the envy of all—even if the “all” is just you.
Let’s not fuck around; bourbon is a must-have for any self-respecting liquor cabinet. I’m an eternal fan of Bull Run Straight Bourbon Whiskey, whose smooth vanilla and caramel notes with a touch of spice mixes great in your Manhattan, Hot Toddy, or Irish Coffee. You also can’t go wrong with Burnside Oregon Oaked Bourbon from Eastside Distilling, where oak, vanilla, and cinnamon play on the tongue before warmly sliding down your thankful throat with a kick. Honorary mention: Freeland Bourbon, from the women-owned Freeland Spirits, that has all the vanilla/spice you need with a hint of terroir thanks to a good, final soak in an Oregon Elk Cove Pinot Noir barrel.
Whether it’s for a Mistletoe Martini or the Moscow Mule (my fave), a good bottle of vodka will perk those holiday blues right up. Try Clear Creek Vodka from Hood River’s Clear Creek Distillery, a 100 percent fruit-based spirit made with glacier-fed water, whose apple notes and nose put a fruity spin on this home bar classic. For more standard fare, Bull Run’s Medoyeff Vodka features a subtly sweet, spicy tang on the tongue—but without the familiar burn you get from vodkas of lesser quality. I’m a big fan of Bendistillery’s oh-so-smooth Crater Lake Vodka, too!
While most home bars have a London Dry on hand, have you tried its sweeter cousin in the gin family, Old Tom? Aviation American Old Tom Gin has hints of vanilla and pine with just a skootch of sweetness. If you’re a “nose” person, you’ll love Freeland Spirits' Geneva—a gin that’s lush and smells of spice, citrus, and garden herbs. Both will go smashingly in your G&T, Autumn Fizz, or Ginger Cranberry Martini. ‘Tis the season, after all.
Holiday drinks without rum? Are you freaking kidding me?? Whether it’s Eggnog, Christmas Punch, or Hot Buttered Rum, you’ll want to stock up on both the light and spiced varieties. I recommend New Deal Spiced Rum—a new addition to their limited workshop series that smells how the holidays feel: rife with vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove. Also try a taste of Calhoun Brothers Aged Rum from Hillsboro’s Big Bottom Distillery, which won a gold medal at the 2015 Great American Spirits Festival and boasts a full, round, satisfying finish.
“I don’t need brandy in my home bar, thankyouverymuch.” Oh, really? Then I suppose you’ll have to suffer through the holidays without such delish cocktails as the Brandy Alexander, Tom and Jerry, Sidecar, or a Brandy Eggnog! New Deal Brandy is a perfect choice for all of these classics, featuring Hood River Bartlett pears that give it a bright, fruity flavor with a touch of earthiness at the finish. And while you may be tempted to give Clear Creek Pear Brandy as a gift (it has an actual pear inside the bottle!), this award-winning spirit has a clean, tingly taste with a full fruity character—so why not pick up a bottle for yourelf? (Not a pear fan? They also sell brandies in the cherry, plum, and raspberry variety.)
Tequila may be considered a dark horse addition to the holiday cocktail lineup, but not when you’re armed with such mouth-watering recipes as the Christmas Margarita, Tequila Holiday Punch, and the La Santa Old Fashion. Make these drinks extra festive with Batanga Blanco from Hood River Distillers—an excellent silver tequila that pings with guava, pineapple, cinnamon, and clove—or Azuñia Blanco from Eastside Distilling, a peppery, bright tequila that, if you’re anything like me, grants you the magical power to ride a unicycle when you couldn’t before. (Individual results may vary.)