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January 2010


WINE & SPIRITS

Au Courant Tippling
By Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave

LET'S RAISE OUR ROCK GLASSES TO 2010 WITH THE LATEST LIQUOR OFFERINGS

T his year, as you settle into a new decade—yes, it's already 2010!—why not make over your bar instead of your wardrobe? The mixology craze that's been gripping American cities of late has inspired spirit producers to release an astonishing bumper crop of artisanal hooch. With these potent potables flooding the market, generic bottles of booze have become just as dated as flare pants and overalls.

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To help you along with your revamp, check out some trustworthy guides. Many of the country's top cocktails writers—Dale DeGroff (The Essential Cocktail), Gaz Regan (The Bartender's Gin Compendium), Jill DeGroff (Lush Life), Simon Difford (The Encyclopedia of Cocktails)—have released impressive new tomes that are all great places to start.

This year's most illicit spirit is coca-leaf based AGWA de Bolivia. Like absinthe (yesterday's news), it has an inspiring backstory and an eerie green hue. According to the lore, coca leaves picked in the high Andes are shipped to Amsterdam under armed-guard protection, where they are apparently stripped of their narcotic properties (or are they?). The producers recommend consuming the stuff in shots after biting a lime—in so-called "Bolivian Kisses."

While the bitter spirit may be an acquired taste, tequilas from up north in Mexico keep getting smoother. If you haven't already traded in your generic bottles of cheap Jalisco distillate for more premium stuff, 2010 is just the time to do it. Three brand-new small-batch releases, all in gorgeous heavy glass bottles— triple-distilled 901 Silver (owned by heartthrob Justin Timberlake), Don Roberto Plata (from one of the few remaining Mexican-owned distilleries) and powerful, peppery 1800 Select—will help banish the ghosts (but maybe not the hangovers) of frozen Margaritas past.

And your vodka, too, could almost certainly do with an update (unless you've been keeping pace with the countless new ultra-premium releases). Double Cross, among the most impressive new entrants in the overstocked category, comes in one of the most distinctive bottles to hit the market in years. The etched-glass rectangle, and lush liquid inside (filtered through diamond dust), are both made in Slovakia. Both are the brainchild of a handsome young New York doctor. Double Cross is a clean, classic, 80-proof vodka with hints of lemon and pepper. But if you're searching for something with more bite, try the new 100-proof Belvedere Intense. The world's first high-alcohol ultra-premium vodka, it has spicy notes that make it a great base for Bloody Marys.

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