Aw, the utility belt: the source of power for Batman, savvy ninjas and practical handymen the world around. As the last Bar Tab of the year and to help you get through the festive season like the superhero/repairperson/life-of-the-holiday-party that you are, here are a few editor-selected drinks to strap into your utility belt this Christmas.
The Pre-made Cocktail.
Thanks to some recent legislature, ready-made, or pre-mixed, canned cocktails are making their foray into the Oregon cocktail and distilling scene. First up is Astoria’s Pilot House Distilling, whose founder Lawrence Cary worked directly with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to release his canned Astoria Mary. The pop-top concoction is the distillery’s spicy jalapeño-lime vodka combined with the house-made Bloody Knuckles Mary mix and is sold in shareable four-packs of 355-milliliter cans. Ready-made and available by the milk jug, Sun Liquor‘s aged eggnog returned to the Seattle drinks scene last month to hordes of fans. This year’s rendition includes barrel-aged rum and bourbon from Sun Liquor plus an apple brandy the producer distilled from Seattle Cider Co.‘s cider. Another handy hooch option is Glacier Distilling‘s Little Cottonwood — the semi-sweet herbal liqueur from the Montana distillery that is perfect served neat or mixed into a minimal ingredient cocktail.
The Spiced Cider.
No, we don’t mean apple juice with cinnamon sticks heated on the stovetop. We mean cider — the fermented juice of apples — that is infused with spices (and other goodies) and served chilled. From Corvallis, Oregon, 2 Towns Ciderhouse‘s seasonal hit is the Nice & Naughty, a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove added to the fermenting apple juice batch. Like homemade pie in its liquid incarnation, this “imperial” cider also packs a punch a 1o.5 percent ABV. Another higher octane cider, Cockrell Hard Ciders in Puyallup, Washington, bottles a limited run of its Colonial Winter, a New England-style cider (which typically includes the addition of raisins and sugar plus barrel aging) with ripe, baked fruit potency. On British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse makes Wassail, its winter seasonal, with orange peel and clove, in an ode to the English wassailing tradition of drinking spiced cider and singing to the trees in a winter apple orchard.
The Fantastic Fizz.
Making sparkling wine is all the rage today in Oregon and British Columbia wine countries, where classic Champagne varieties Pinot Noir and Chardonnay reign supreme in these specific growing climates. But in Washington, Syrah grows pretty damn well and bubbles-only house Treveri Cellars captures its boisterous essence in this bottle of effervescence. The Yakima Valley winery’s Sparkling Brut Syrah is dark and yeasty, full of bold fruit that could align with a great Lambrusco. Back to Oregon, Anne Amie Vineyards produces the 2011 Marilyn Reserve Brut Cuvée, a dazzling sparkler of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown at its Twelve Oaks Estate in the Chahalem Mountains. Up north, Summerhill Pyramid Winery‘s Cipes Brut is a laser-sharp, apple-forward sip that showcases Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc in a true Champagne light and crushes it next to some washed-rind cow’s milk cheese.
The Seasonally Astute Beers.
Arguably holding the crown as King Winter Beer in the PNW, Deschutes Brewery‘s Jubelale is a local snowy weather staple. The “festive winter ale” also sports an annual update of its label by a local artist and is celebrating its roasty, toasty 30th anniversary this year. If you want to go big or go home, Icicle Brewing‘s Decline Barley Wine comes from the Leavenworth, Washington, a mountain-town with folks that knows a thing or two about keeping warm in the winter. The rich seasonal ale is also barrel-aged for eight months and sits around 11 percent ABV. Also not unfamiliar to the winter chill, No-Li Brewhouse in Spokane, Washington, recently released its Wrecking Ball imperial stout in cans. Dark and malty, with a kick of hops, this bold beer might require a ride home if opening a second can at 9.5 percent ABV.