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Smooth, refined, and eternally classic sipping spirits call to mind evenings of glamor and smart conversation
There are alternatives to cognacs and brandies for after-dinner sipping pleasure. Small-batch bourbon and rye, single malt Scotch whisky, tequila, and other highly refined spirits offer complex, nuanced tastes that satisfy when relaxing with a cocktail after the evening meal is in order. With these specialty spirits you don’t have deviate from your favorite libation—you’ll just up the ante on quality.
Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
Single barrel bourbons are aged in and bottled from one single barrel, intensifying and deepening their flavors. Handcrafted Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon has a slightly woody, floral nose, full of caramel and vanilla. Its palate is full-bodied and mellow with hints of plum and cherries.
The Macallan Fine Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky
The Macallan Whisky Distillery was founded in 1824, and its product is recognized as being one of the best single malt whiskies. (Note: Outside of Scotland, “whiskey” is spelled with an “e” but that letter is eliminated in Scotch “whisky.”) The Macallan’s Fine Oak whisky ages from 10 to 30 years using a triple-cask process that includes aging in a combination of Spanish oak sherry casks, American oak sherry casks, and American oak casks seasoned with bourbon whiskey. The combination yields a complexity of flavors and aromas that become more pronounced with time. They include hints of honey, heather, malt, and oak.
Casa Noble Crystal Tequila Blanco
“Tequila blanco” refers to clear tequila that is bottled just after distillation and is primarily used for cocktails. While aged tequilas, such as añejo and reposado, are considered “sipping” tequilas, Casa Noble’s Crystal Tequila Blanco has a more complex aroma and smooth finish that make it an appropriate choice for drinking neat or on the rocks as a light after-dinner drink. It has delicate notes of citrus and pepper, and a buttery, spicy taste, flavors that are emblematic of the mature agave plants from which it is distilled.
Teeling Small Batch Whiskey
Irish distilleries fell on hard times during the 1900s, and by the turn of the new century only a handful of distilleries remained in operation. Stephen and Jack Teeling are reviving a centuries-old tradition originally started by their ancestor Walter Teeling in 1782 by reestablishing the Teeling Distillery in Dublin. Teeling Small Batch Whiskey is aged in select barrels, then transferred to barrels that formerly held rum for further maturation. Its nose is full of vanilla and spice while its taste mingles rum, woody undertones, and pepper. Over ice, a chocolatey finish emerges.
Originally produced and bottled in Templeton, Iowa, during Prohibition, and a favorite tipple of Chicago gangster Al Capone, Templeton Rye has made a comeback among cocktail aficionados. Some controversy swirls around the Templeton revival story; today, the recipe has been updated to meet modern whiskey production guidelines, and the rye is distilled in Indiana and shipped to Iowa for bottling. The spirit of the spirit survives, however—you’ll find slightly delicate wood notes, rye spice, brown sugar, and caramel.
Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum
Don Juancho Nieto Meléndez, inspired by both the flavors and the distilling processes of rums produced in Jamaica and the Antilles, began producing the spirit in his native Venezuela in the late 18th century. Today, his rums are one of that country’s most treasured exports. The Reserva Exclusiva is aged 12 years and is almost a dessert in itself: flavors of raisin, fruitcake, cinnamon, clove, chocolate, and toffee predominate.
Match the quality of the glassware to the quality of the spirit you pour into it. There’s something deeply satisfying about the weight and size of a hefty double old-fashioned glass—an old world, drinks-in-the-library kind of feel. Here are four glasses we’d be glad to find on our bar cart.
All of these after-dinner sippers can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks—whatever is your personal preference. But today, bartenders, or “mixologists” as they have become known in more sophisticated establishments, are just as picky about their ice cubes as they are about their alcohols. Large ice cubes not only look cool (pun intended), they won’t melt as fast and dilute your drink. Using purified water to make the cubes also eliminates additional mineral flavors that come from tap waters.
Here are two ice-cube makers from Tovolo that produce perfect frozen globes and squares: Sphere Ice Molds, set of 2, $11; silicone King Cube Ice Tray, makes 6 cubes, $9.