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Holiday Spirits: Be the Life of Any Party with One of These New Local Boozes 

Tuesday, Nov 25 2014

If you're friends with discerning drinkers, there are few nicer things to bring over to their house during the holidays than a high-quality bottle of local booze — especially something that they wouldn't buy for themselves. (Conversely, if your hosts are less picky about their spirits than you are, bringing your own bottle will ensure that you have some of the good stuff to drink.) We asked Chris Clark, of celebrated FiDi bottle shop Cask, which new local releases he's excited about this season. All should be available at Bay Area shops like Cask, K&L Wine Merchants, Healthy Spirits, D&M, Alchemy Bottle Shop, and more; check out the distillers' websites for individual bottle info.

Anchor Distilling's Christmas Spirit ($49.95)

Last year marked the first in a now-annual experiment of Christmas Spirit (formerly called White Christmas), a white whiskey distilled from Anchor Brewing's annual Christmas ale. Each year's batch is slightly different: The dark, spiced 2013 Christmas Ale beget 2014's spicy, slightly floral whiskey. Anchor also recently released an Old Tom gin, a sweeter style of gin good for cocktails, and you can never go wrong showing up with a magnum of 2014 Christmas Ale.

Jardesca Apertiva ($28.99)

Impress your guests (or hosts!) by starting off the meal with this herbaceous, wine-based aperitif from former San Francisco bartender Duggan McDonnell. It's made in Sonoma from California grapes, and its botanicals include pink peppercorn, grapefruit peel, and bay laurel. Serve it on the rocks, blended with Prosecco, muddled with mint, or with soda and a splash of grapefruit juice — and the pretty, flower-adorned bottle ensures that you don't even need to gift-wrap it.

Mosswood Barrel-Aged Whiskey ($43.99)

Started on Treasure Island but moving into bigger digs in Berkeley soon, this local American-style distillery makes light whiskey, meaning it's distilled at a higher proof than usual. Mosswood's real secret, though, is in its aging: The whiskey sits in barrels that used to house things like Germain-Robin Apple Brandy and Four Barrel Coffee, resulting in sweet blends that have whispers of other flavors like the ghosts of Christmases past.

Seven Stills whiskey ($35.99)

For those who want a truly local product, the newish Seven Stills is doing all of its distilling in San Francisco. Right now the repertoire only includes a couple of whiskeys and a vodka, but by using ingredients like Pacific Brewing Labs Double IPA, Smoked Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, and non-GMO corn, the spirits the distillery is making are something special.

Spiritworks' Barrel-Aged Gin ($50)

Fans of Dutch genever and other hearty gins will appreciate Sonoma's Spiritworks' first barrel-aged gin, an amber liquid distilled from California Red winter wheat. It works especially well in cocktails, says Clark, because it adds the woody notes of whiskey without the smoke. The female-run distillery also makes one of the only sloe gins in the country made from whole sloe berries.

St George Spirits' Apple Brandy ($60)

The Bay Area's biggest distillery continues to turn out great products, including a new apple brandy made with fruit sourced from an orchard within 150 miles of the Alameda headquarters. Its honey and cinnamon flavors should cut through any postprandial slump, but if brandy doesn't do it for you, Clark suggests looking out for the distillery's new aged agricole rum or harder-to-find single-malt whiskey.


About The Author

Anna Roth

Anna Roth

Anna Roth is SF Weekly's former Food & Drink Editor and author of West Coast Road Eats: The Best Road Food From San Diego to the Canadian Border.


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