Thu | Aug 24, 2017

You can have your Christmas pudding ... and drink it, too!

Published:Thursday | December 10, 2015 | 12:00 AM
The bottle of Christmas Spirit, the spirit of Christmas past, at the Gotham Club in San Francisco. The white whiskey is released by the Anchor Distilling Co.

Do you need a little Christmas spirit? And would you care to have said spirit served over ice or in a festive cocktail?

You're in luck. Following in the footsteps of craft beer's seasonal offerings, liquor producers are rolling out limited-edition releases aimed at making spirits bright this holiday season.

Anchor Distilling Co in San Francisco hits the trend from both the beer and spirits side. Sister company Anchor Brewing releases an annual Christmas Ale, holding back some of that beer which is then distilled and sold the following year as a white whiskey under the catchy label of Spirit of Christmas Past.

First released in 2013, the spirit changes each year because Anchor's Christmas Ale uses a different recipe each year, says head distiller Bruce Joseph. He recommends trying it in an old-fashioned for an "old fashioned white Christmas."

Though year's end traditionally is a time of brown spirits, gin is on track seasonally with its juniper notes. The Edinburgh Gin Distillery has taken that characteristic a bit further, distilling their Edinburgh's Christmas Gin with frankincense and myrrh. They recommend serving it in a classic gin and tonic or in a Negroni.

Other possibilities include Jack Daniel's Winter Jack, which combines Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey with apple cider liqueur and holiday spices. It's best served warm. Pinnacle, the vodka of many flavours, has a peppermint bark edition out, and Kahlua has pumpkin spice and peppermint mocha versions.

Cleveland Whiskey, which has made waves with its rapid ageing process using chopped-up barrels in pressurised tanks, has a Christmas Bourbon. Founder and chairman Tom Lix says he was inspired to make it after looking at all the different craft seasonal beers compared to the typical liquor offerings - generally limited to seasonal packaging or boxes including branded glassware.

"We thought we could do better, a bourbon with a unique holiday aroma and flavour, something where, if you closed your eyes and took a small sip, you'd almost hear the reindeer bells in the background," he says.

A lot of experimenting went into the bourbon, most of it on the kitchen stove mixing various spices. The release, now in its third year, mixes well with warm apple cider, makes eggnog "even better" and can also be sipped straight or mixed into a Manhattan, says Lix.

For those times when only bubbles will do, Chandon has risen to the occasion with a Limited Edition Blanc de Noirs, which comes wrapped in white and gold labelling and is printed with sentiments such as 'Life of the Party' and 'Bestie Wishes.'

And if your thoughts are turning to a white Christmas, consider High West Distillery & Saloon in Park City, Utah, billed as the world's only ski-in gastro distillery. Located at the bottom of the Quittin' Time run in Park City Mountain Resort, the distillery is in its third year of releasing A Midwinter Night's Dram as a seasonal offering.

"In Park City, we consider whiskey to be an indispensable part of making it through our long, cold winters," says founder David Perkins. "When I first tasted what was to become A Midwinter's Night's Dram, the first words out of my mouth were 'This tastes like Christmas.'"

A Midwinter Night's Dram is a limited release of High West's Rendezvous Rye finished in port and French oak barrels - port for a touch of plums and dried fruit, French oak for spices. According to Perkins, it tastes "like a proper Christmas plum pudding".

Of course, if you really like Christmas pudding - and who doesn't? - you might want to scout around for Christmas Pudding Gin, which comes from Sacred Spirits, a microdistillery set in the London home of founder Ian Hart.

This year's release began with about 100 pounds of Christmas pudding made according to Hart's Great Aunt Nellie's recipe - you'll find the recipe printed on the bottle label - which then were macerated with English grain spirit and redistilled. Sacred spirits recommends serving with tonic and a slice of orange, in a Negroni or straight out of the freezer as an alternative to Christmas pud if you're just too stuffed to face the dense delight.

Sounds like the dickens of a plan.