It's the most wonderful time of the year... And although the weather outside may be frightful, some fancy liqueurs and spirits may be just what you need to stay warm. We have some great recommendations for the holidays -- whether you need a unique gift for friends or family, or would like to enjoy a cocktail in front of the fire. Jerald O'Kennard of the Beverage Testing Institute and
Tastings.com , says Macallan Amber Liqueur is one drink you should not be without this holiday season. "The liqueur is a nut liqueur -- with walnut flavor, maple flavor and the base of it is Macallan scotch whiskey. It's made by the Macallan scotch distillery, which is a great single-malt distillery -- although this is a blended scotch. Really rich, long-lasting flavor, it's just really delicious," he says.
Perhaps the most notable characteristic of the Amber Liqueur is the overwhelming scent of maple syrup that wafts from the bottle.
The Scotch Blog says the maple flavor is so strong that "it will take a little skill to come up with a nice cocktail that isn't dominated by the maple, but once you figure out the balances, you'll have a staple ingredient in your bar." "But it doesn't stop at cocktails," The Scotch Blog says. "Amber could certainly bring the average cup of latte up to a new level. I could also see this being added to a number of foods -- pour Amber on your pancakes and transform them into a gourmet breakfast. Or as a dessert -- over pears or good vanilla ice cream."
The Best Liquor for Gift-Giving
For another interesting choice this winter, Jerald recommends Castries Peanut Rum Crème. The tall, wavy bottle resembles bubbles stacked on top of one another. It reminded me of Bailey's Irish Cream, but with hints of peanut; Tastings.com describes it as having "peanut brittle, roasted peanut, cream, and delicate spice flavors. Finishes with a long, creamy crushed peanut, salt, and coconut cream fade. Delicious and lush." Castries Peanut Rum Crème retails for about $29.99. For a unique twist, O'Kennard suggests mixing the spirit with a raspberry liqueur, such as Chambord, for a grown-up a peanut butter-and-jelly treat. For an unusual gift, Jerald suggests Bong Spirit Import Company's Bong Vodka. Coming in an extraordinarily shaped bottle, "it almost looks like contraband, but it's vodka," Jerald says. "Last year this came across my desk and I was like, 'You know, this is a pretty remarkable package -- I wonder what it tastes like.' But the vodka is really, really good, so it's kind of a winning combination." Ryan Mayer, director of business development for Bong Spirit Import Co., says the bottle is "a pop-culture icon ... it's a conversational piece." A gold-medal winner of the International Review of Spirits Award, the vodka is described by Tastings.com as "intriguing and elegant" with flavors of "delicate tarragon, anise and white chocolate toffee." A 150-year old recipe never bottled before, from five generations of master distillers, the 100% grain alcohol is six times distilled and four times filtered. It's offered only in a one-liter size bottle and retails for about $37.99. Mayer says a 750 milliliter bottle will be available starting on Feb. 1, for $28.99. "It's a Holland vodka that's very smooth, and it's an unbelievable package," O'Kennard says. "I mean, it's just going to start a conversation -- or end one, I'm not really sure," he jokes. While some of these selections are new to the market, O'Kennard says most of them are nationally distributed brands and should be fairly easy to find. "They make great gifts,
they're very unique," he says. "You're going to enjoy what's in them as well as looking at them, and feel very confident in your gift." Which brings about the real question -- when it comes to these gifts, is it better to give or to receive? Either way, enjoy -- and have yourself a merry little cocktail.