By now, the booze you’ve amassed from the Duty Frees of the world should be drying up. Yep, even that Absolut Limited-Edition-Something vodka you don’t remember buying. Was it a gift? Who cares? It gave you Moscow Mules when you needed them the most—on days when ennui sets in during this Circuit Breaker and everything feels so… meh.
It's about time your home bar needs a restock. Mayhaps, it is time to rebuild one that is interesting yet respectable. Something that shakes up your cocktail routine and enliven a conversation amongst your guests when they are allowed in (keep it to five visitors and less!). We suggest some of these ice-breakers, these strange, off-kilter spirits that no one has heard of from online alcohol retailer SELECTS.
There’s whiskey, gin, vodka, rum, and tequila. And then there’s Empirical Spirits. What Wired called “the Noma of wonderful booze”, Empirical is a Danish distillery that puts flavour at the centre of its radical creations. Helmed by Noma alumni Lars Williams and anthropologist Mark Emil Hermansen, the company makes their category-defying spirits using different brewing and distillation techniques from all over the world. Every bottle is like nothing you’ve ever tasted.
Take the Fallen Pony Blend. Made from a base of quince, barley koji, Belgian Saison yeast and pilsner malt wash, it smells like a lusciously sweet Japanese melon, tastes something like a ginger-peach kombucha, and goes down smoothly with a slight burn in your throat. The folks at Empirical recommend serving with tonic water and lemon peel as a garnish, but we think it’s equally delightful when sipped neat.
Japan has been making excellent whiskies for something like a century. But it wasn’t until when the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 was named the world’s best whisky in 2015 that saw the meteoric rise of labels not just from Japan, but from Asia. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to put the best of the region in a bottle, try The Orientalist Spirit’s Dragon Whisky—which also happens to be the world’s first all-Asian blended malt firewater. Aged eight years in bourbon barrels and finished in sherry oak casks, this amber-hued locally-owned spirit is spicy but goes down easy. Think vanilla and raisins on the nose, dark chocolate and stone fruits on the palate, and just a hint of smoke and buttery toffee emanating from underneath.
Hard times call for stiff drinks. Drinks that can be made in minutes, but only if we’re feeling fancy. Otherwise, just hit us with a solid number straight from the bottle—because who has the energy these days? Which is what makes Sunday’s Spirits Coffee Shochu so appealing: you get a kick out of the 5pm slump from the caffeine while starting to unwind after a long day with booze.
The brains behind this ingenious bottle hail from Hong Kong—the same folks who operate Yardbird and Ronin—but the magical contents are Japanese through and through. With rice shochu from Tsubosaka Brewery in Hyoga, beans from Kobe’s Beyond Coffee Roasters, and “a special Japanese rock sugar”, this is a strong cuppa Joe that finishes sweet. Cheers to putting together two of humanity’s best beverages together.