When you were a kid, you looked forward to running down the stairs on Christmas morning and ripping open presents. These days, you just wonder what booze you’ve got handy help you deal with all the chaos of relatives, mall crowds and awkward office holiday parties. Enter these 10 tasty liquors, as curated by Patrick Dacy, owner of Brooklyn-based artisanal liquor shop Duke’s Liquor Box. Thankfully, they’re all pretty easy to track down. —Words and photos by Will Levith
10. Owney’s Vanilla Bean Rum This limited-edition rum from Brooklyn-based distillery the Noble Experiment NYC comes in a convenient 200-milliliter bottle (i.e., flask size). Relatedly, Duke’s sells a custom-made leather sleeve ($25) that fits the Owney’s bottle snugly. Tastes like: Full-flavored vanilla. Price: $21.
9. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram Don’t let the “allspice” fool you. This goes down in syrupy-sweet fashion. According to Patrick, it’s most commonly consumed as an after-dinner dessert drink—or for spiking eggnog, rum or non-flavored whiskey. Any of which will keep Grandma on point. Tastes like: Cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Price: $23.
8. Enlightenment’s Maple Wine Straight outta Clintondale, New York, this maple wine is “dry, unfiltered and 12-percent alcohol,” says Patrick. What that means in layman’s terms is it won’t knock you on your ass. Use it for a cozy, fireside sipping session. Tastes like: Maple syrup meets sour apple. Price: $24.
7. Sorel This Caribbean-styled spiked punch is rich with sweetness, holiday spice and everything nice. Enjoy it as an after-dinner nip, add it to a cocktail or slow-roast pork belly in it. Calling it versatile would be an understatement. Tastes like: A gingerbread house in liquor form. Price: $30.
6. Letherbee Gin: Autumnal Produced in Chi-town, this is the first of two spirits we tasted in which we got a little wood. And by that, we mean the gin has shades of actual timber—in this case, ancient pine smoke. Add it to eggnog or cider, says Patrick. Tastes like: Mushroom, mace, smoke and a subtle hint of pine tree (it’s pretty amazing, we promise). Price: $42.
5. Vermont Spirits No. 14 Distilled in Quechee, Vermont, this bourbon whiskey has Christmas-morning breakfast written all over it. In fact, our first reaction was, “I want this on my pancakes.” Tastes like: Spiked Vermont maple syrup. Price: $47.
4. Clear Creek Distillery’s Eau De Vie of Douglas Fir This Oregon-based liqueur is meant to taste like a big, juicy Douglas fir tree. But don’t be put off by that thought. It’s actually one of the cooler things we’ve ever tasted in our entire life. Tastes like: A sap-filled chunk of wood. In a good way. Price: $51.
3. Mezcal Vago:Espadin Mezcal gets its smoky flavor from how it’s produced: in a smoky earth oven. Now picture your own kitchen’s oven, a juicy rib roast inside and you sipping this while Christmas carols crackle out of the radio. Or, sure, the Jambox. Tastes like: Signature tequila, with a very strong, almost barbecue-y aftertaste. Price: $52.
2. Balcones Rumble Call this a quadruple threat. The Waco, Texas-based spirit has hints of tequila, scotch, young cognac and rum. Plus, it has a great holiday tie-in: one of its ingredients is mission fig. Drizzle this over some figgy pudding and go to town. Tastes like: Honey, fig and bold booze. Price: $59.
1. Schlenkerla Smokemalt If Santa ever took shots of booze while riding in his sleigh, he’d take shots of this. It’s a German “distilled beer” that tastes like a smoky whiskey. According to Patrick, it’s often used as a sidecar to a glass of beer in Deutschland. Tastes like: Whiskey, beer and chimney smoke. Price: $110.
Bonus: Van Brunt Stillhouse: Age Your Own Whiskey Kit What’s that, you’re the DIY type? Then you’ll like this make-your-own-whiskey set. It’ll take three to twelve months to mature, but you’re supposed to take weekly nips to see how it’s coming along. So it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Tastes like: Heaven, dammit. Not to mention victory, because you made it yourself. Price: $175.