BRING BACK A LOCALLY-MADE SPIRIT FROM YOUR TRAVELS
Sure you can travel the world with just one click and buy all kinds of unique products online, but it really pales to going to the actual source and bringing home a memory of your trip.
Here are drinkable souvenirs that the Pros think are worth “hand-importing.” Some, like Havana Club, are not sold in the U.S., so bringing it home in your luggage is the only way you’ll get it.
Brooklyn, NY | Sorel Liqueur
“It's a garnet red hibiscus and island spiced liqueur that has origins in the Caribbean. It pairs naturally with rum, but I've also been using it with tequila and gin. It seems an obvious choice for spring/ summer cocktails and punches, but I've also made a few warm drinks using it. It's got a lot of flexibility.”
- Bartender Sother Teague of Amor y Amargo in New York, NY
New York, NY | Tomr’s Tonic Syrup
Barman Tom Richter created Tomr’s Tonic Syrup because he saw the need for a better, richer, more balanced tonic to pair with all the great gins available. He searched out recipes, but wasn’t happy with any particular one. He took the qualities he liked of each recipe and combined them into his own. His goal was to create something closer to the original version of tonic. He intended it simply for the Tonic and Gin, but it’s being used as a potable bitters also.
The Berkshires | Berkshire Mountain Distillers Ethereal Gin
A limited edition gin distilled in Great Barrington, MA. Each batch emphasizes different botanicals and profiles and has a different label. They’ve also started barrel-aging the gin for a mellow, rounder flavor.
“It’s made locally and it’s delicious with a pine-y quality.”
- Restaurateur / Mixologist Nancy Thomas of Mezze in Williamstown, MA
Quebec | Clos Saragnat Ice Cider
Cider maker Christian Barthomeuf is the pioneer of ice cider (cidre de glace) production. He makes small scale, organic alcoholic cider, by fermenting the juice of apples that have been left to freeze on the trees in frigid Quebec. His recommendations for enjoying the cider: “It’s great on its own as dessert. It also pairs beautifully with certain cheeses. Some would say foie gras, but I’m a peaceful guy and I like ducks.”
Washington, DC | Wasmunds Single Malt Whiskey
Rick Wasmund is the Master Distiller at Copper Fox Distillery. He’s the only person in North America hand-malting the barley which is then smoked using apple and cherry woods. The spirit created from the copper potstill is non-chill filtered.
“Rick Wasmund has got it dialed in and he makes amazing single malt whiskey.”
- Bartender Todd Thrasher, PX, TNT in Alexandria, VA
Nashville, TN | Corsair Artisan Distillery Whiskey & Gin
They are the first distillery to start distilling within the Nashville city limits since before Prohibition.
Triple Smoke Whiskey
“It's a smoked American whiskey, which is not something that happens very often. It’s peat-smoked, which means it's like Scotch, but American. It’s not as bulky-flavored as a Scotch and they use three fractions of malted barley. They're smoking with cherry, peat, and beechwood.”
“Is has a really soft flavor, without a lot of backbone. When you make cocktails, you need whiskies with a strong flavor and a lot of spice and pepper to them. The Quinoa whiskey is not necessarily something I would use in cocktails, but it’s a cool thing.”
“They start with their own gin and they barrel-age it in their spiced rum barrels. It has a cinnamon quality to it, which is really unique for gin, because you don’t normally associate gin with cinnamon at all.”
- Bartender Matt Tocco, Pinewood Social in Nashville, TN
Asheville, NC | Troy & Sons White Whiskey
“Owner Troy Ball uses a locally milled Southern heirloom white corn called Crooked Creek Corn. It doesn’t grow anywhere else in North Carolina. The moonshine has some vanilla and oak notes.”
- Bartender Maggie Ruppert of Halcyon, Flavors From the Earth in Charlotte, NC
“Technically, it’s not moonshine. It’s really white whiskey, but they call it moonshine. We use it in a few different cocktails. We really try to embrace as many local producers.”
- Chef Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner in Raleigh, NC
Charleston, SC | Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Tonic & Grenadine
Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. is the brain-child of barman Brooks Reitz, owner of Leon's Oyster Shop and formerly barman at The Ordinary and FIG in Charleston, SC. The company is named in honor of his great-grandfather and he is reinventing forgotten classic mixers of the American bar using all natural ingredients.
“I use it quite a bit at home. It's really incredible for a gin and tonic. The grenadine is also really awesome. We’ve used it to pickle corn. It adds a bright red color and a pomegranate kind of flavor.”
- Chef Josh Keeler of Two Boroughs Larder in Charleston, SC
Miami, FL | Miami Club Rum
“They are putting out a very stellar product. What they are trying to do is use Florida cane to make their rum. Right now they are outsourcing. They do a charcoal filtered rum that is similar to Bacardi or Flor de Caña. It’s very textured.”
- Bartender Trevor Alberts of Orange Blossom in Miami, FL
“It’s a unique rum that is made right in the middle of Miami in Wynwood, which is an up and coming arts district.”
- Bartender Ben Potts of The Blackbird Ordinary in Miami, FL
St. Augustine, FL | St. Augustine Gin
A small batch New World Gin made with whole, fresh herbs that they hand-grind with a vintage burr mill. It has strong citrus and spice notes.
"It's locally-made and perfect for a gift."
- Barman Gene Zimmerman of The Courtesy Bar in Orlando, FL
Austin, TX | Paula's Texas Spirits
Created by local Texan Paula who is passionated about Italian food and drink. She’s producing lemon and orange liqueurs inspired limoncello.
“It’s an orange and lemon liqueur. They have such great essence and mix-ability.”
- Bartender Matt Perry of Belly and Trumpet in Dallas, TX
Denver, CO | Leopold Bros
A family run small batch distillery in Denver focused on environmentally sustainable practices, creating gin, vodka, whiskey, absinthe and fruit liqueurs.
“The Leopold Brothers from Colorado are amazing. I'm most excited about working with their Maraschino, which is just something that doesn't exist. We don't have anything like it and how they make it.”
- Bartender Daniel Shoemaker of Teardrop Lounge in Portland, OR
Berkeley, CA | Small Hands Syrups
"They make fantastic products all the way around. I'm most excited about Jennifer Colliau’s Crème de Cacao and Crème de Menthe, having ingredients that have notoriously been inferior since we've been mixing. A Stinger is a fantastic cocktail, if you have a good creme de menthe, a properly sourced mint.”
- Bartender Daniel Shoemaker of Teardrop Lounge in Portland, OR
Portland, OR | Clear Creek Distillery
The artisanal distillery uses traditional European pot stills and produces a wide variety of eau de vies, grappas, brandies and fruit liqueurs. An obvious place to start would be the Williams Pear Brandy or the Kirschwasser (Cherry Brandy) for comparison to the European classics. For a local twist on something a little more obscure, you can take a cue from chef Gabriel Rucker and opt for the Douglas Fir.
“I keep it in my house all the time. It’s just so well done. It’s right in my wheelhouse for what I like as far as spirits, like the Eau-de-Vie and the Grappa and the pear brandy. They have an Evergreen Spruce Liqueur [Douglas Fir] which is amazing! It’s very balanced. It sounds like something that might be kind of scary, but it’s really floral and tastes like the forest, but not in like a potpourri way.”
- Chef Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon and Little Bird in Portland, OR
“They make beautiful Eau de Vie.”
- Salt Purveyor Ben Jacobsen of Jacobsen Sea Salt in Portland, OR
Vancouver, BC | Havana Club Rum
Bartenders Arthur Wynne of The Union Bar, David Wolowidnyk of West and Shaun Layton of L’Abattoir recommend picking up a bottle of Havana Club Rum, which you can’t buy in the United States.
Vancouver, BC | Taboo Absinthe, Schramm Vodka, Victoria Gin
Bartender Shaun Layton also suggests checking out the great line of Gifford products from France. For local Canadian products, he likes Taboo Absinthe, Schramm vodka and Victoria gin.
Vancouver, BC | Victoria Gin
“I love its bold flavor profile. When I drink a gin, I want it to taste like gin, not vodka.”
- Zeb Stewart of Cafe Colette, Hotel Delmano and Union Pool cocktail bars in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
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