Restock and Refresh Your Bar for 2022: Wines and Spirits to Breathe Life Into Your Liquor Cabinet After the Holiday PlunderJan 27, 2022 12:53PM ● By GINA BIRCH
With the holiday season officially zipped up for another year, this is time for rest, retrospection, and restocking. Between holiday celebrations, and visits from friends and family, hosting can be draining in more ways than one. Not only does it chip away at your physical and mental energy, your liquor and wine supplies likely take a hit as well.
Consider restocking with new brands for the new year. Here are a few bar basics, which upon closer inspection, really aren’t that basic after all.
It never hurts to have something besides mixers in your bar for nondrinkers or those giving their bodies a reprieve after the holidays. Dhos Spirits comes from an organic farm and distillery in Oregon, crafted to taste and smell like a botanical gin, but without the calories or alcohol. Just add tonic. $24.99
Vodka is one of those spirits that can be mixed with just about anything, and it’s distilled from everything from rye and corn to potatoes and grapes. From California, Corbin Cash uses sweet potatoes in its distillation process, billing its products “farm-to-bottle” spirits. The sweet spuds add a sweet touch to this vodka, which is particularly nice with Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic. $30
Rum is a quintessential tropical spirit. White or silver varieties are good to have on hand for mixing rather than sipping. Dark, barrel-aged rums can also be used for cocktails, sometimes as a substitute for bourbon, but are perhaps best when sipped neat or over ice.
From the Dominican Republic, Brugal 1888 is aged in used bourbon and sherry casks. For the first time a woman is at the helm of this third-generation rum-making family. A sophisticated rum, Brugal smells like dried fruits and cinnamon. Cinnamon is also present on the palate along with cloves, vanilla, and honey. It lingers nicely. $40
Bourbon is a bar staple that can be used for a variety of cocktails such as Manhattan, old fashioned, hot toddy, and more. It is also perfect for sipping on cooler evenings or after a good meal.
Brother’s Bond Bourbon has star appeal. It’s new from actors Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley, known as the Salvatore Brothers from the TV series The Vampire Diaries. They became fans of the spirit while filming, and when the show ended, partnered in crafting their own. The actors are hands on and very proud of the smooth yet spicy blend they’ve created using 65 percent corn and 22 percent rye. Under $40
Wine is an essential part of entertaining, for sipping and socializing, pizza night, or dinner parties. No doubt you have favorites, but consider stepping out of your comfort zone with wines from different regions.
When people think of Italian wines, the small northern region of Alto Adige isn’t typically top of mind. Its wines have names that look foreign and hard to pronounce, but they are outstanding and among the best-kept secrets of the country. White wines make up the bulk of production, including some of the best pinot grigios in Italy. Gewürztraminer from here is also outstanding.
For the reds, try Huck Am Bach, a fruity, youthful blend of schiava and lagrein, in the $20 range. J. Hofstatter pinot nero has floral notes and lots of red fruit like cherry and spice. Under $30.
The Bordeaux wine region of France is famous for high-priced wines from subareas that many find hard to understand. That’s where the Légende brand comes in. Produced by the world-famous Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), this series of wines was created to offer entry-level wines of great value to help the average consumer understand and appreciate the most prestigious areas of Bordeaux.
From Saint-Emilion, Pauillac, and Medoc, the wines are approachable blends of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The Bordeaux Blanc is a mineral, fruity blend of sauvignon blanc and sémillon, ideal for Southwest Florida’s climate and cuisine. $19-$54
Don’t Discount Merlot
This often-maligned grape is one of the most planted in the world, and in Bordeaux it’s revered. October was Merlot Month, during which I was able to taste a variety for the Grape Minds wine podcast. Some favorites include Duckhorn ($65) and that wine’s secondary label, Decoy Wines ($25). Duckhorn was one of the first Napa Valley wineries to make merlot, and it has a lot of finesse. Decoy is a superb value and easy to find.
From Washington’s Columbia Valley, L’Ecole No. 41 has a little cab franc and petit verdot for spice, color, and power. $30
St. Supéry also has a bit of petit verdot in the blend along with some cabernet sauvignon. It’s a bit dusty with nice acidity. A good food wine. $62
Markham Vineyards is the fourth winery in Napa to make merlot and has been doing great things with the grape since the 1980s. The Hopper House merlot is a great example of how elegant these wines can be. $65
For a delicious splurge try La Jota Vineyard Co merlot. Mountain fruit is all the rage, and this explains why. It’s a little leaner, with great structure. $85
Moscato is wildly popular and not always cloyingly sweet. Centorri Moscato is a great example. This one comes from the Brangero family in the Piedmont region of Italy from third-generation female winemakers. It’s effervescent and lively with flavors of peach and stone fruit. Superb with spicy food. This wine is not in stores but is shipped through Dalla Terra Winery Direct. $10
Cheers to new discoveries in the New Year.
Gina Birch is a regular TOTI contributor. A lover of good food, good drinks, and a fun time, she is also a well-known media personality in Southwest Florida.