In the magically liminal last week of December, when anything seems possible just a few calendar squares from now, Skurnik Spirits team members from the East, West, and South look to the coming year, and it seems that wishes for old and new are intertwined.
Old in the form of classic cocktails, revisited like dear friends whose company we haven’t enjoyed for far too long, and new represented by excitement for categorical evolution and exploration, exuding a near giddiness for adventurous education—an impressively evergreen quality of the inimitable hospitality industry. Consistent throughout the below submissions are themes of admiration for fine spirits and those who make them, and gratitude for our ability to personally enjoy these distillates and to then share them with others—a promising energy with which to start a new year.
Good spirits may not be the answer to every problem, but they can certainly be a vehicle for goodwill, so with that earnest intention in mind, here’s what the Skurnik Spirits Team is drinking in 2024…
Micheal Craig-Reed—Spirits Specialist, California
I’ve been drinking more Calvados these days since I love all brandy, especially those from France, and of late, the journey has led me off the beaten path to (drumroll please): Pommeau de Normandie. This low-proof delight is made by taking the fresh-pressed harvest apple juice and arresting it with a good dose of properly aged Calvados brandy. Then you continue to age the blend for another year or so, et violà: a vibrant winter potable with the ABV of a sherry.
The best part? No mixing required. No dilution required. Keep the bottle chilled and pour it into whatever glass you have on hand. But don’t worry, Pommeau de Normandie is quite mixable if you’re itching to make it more complicated. Try adding Lemorton Pommeau de Normandie to your Old Fashioned; or make a ‘Norman’ Mule (Montreuil Pommeau de Normandie, ice, ginger beer); or if you waited until summer to read this, mix your pommeau with tonic and a little lemon juice for your porch-bound guests (if Emmanuel Camut’s “Ambrosia” Pommeau is available, you can delight your visitors even further with its rich profile). Keep your bottle fresh, and your spirit will follow.
Jared McGuire—Spirits Portfolio Manager
Yet another year draws to a close, raising that eternal question, “Where does the time go?” In 2024, I resolve to take my time. And what better spirit to set the pace than Chacolo Ixtero Amarillo, an unsurpassed labor of love, craft, commitment and, yes, time, brought forth by the Partida family of Zapotitlan de Vadillo in Jalisco. There is no moment in the making of this thrilling destilado de agave, from harvest (four years capon!), to fermentation (up to 26 days!), that is not fully lived in. And no result in the glass that better affirms adherence to a tradition imbued by the spirit of five generations: An impossibly complex nose of scrub grass, rose water, and parmesan rind leads, on the palate, to texture that unfurls in fractals ad infinitum, as if pinching time by its very corners and stretching it like taffy, demanding our focus and drawing us back to the present moment.
Miguel Ángel Partida describes chacolos as “happy people who love to get together, dance, and drink mezcal.” This new year, I’ll revel in chacolo fashion, and take my time with this time-wrought spirit. Get together. Dance. Drink mezcal! And Happy, Happy New Year.
Anne Robinson—Spirits Specialist, New York
Hangovers got real in 2023, so I think I’ll turn to a trustworthy friend for my drink of choice in 2024: the gentler half of my beloved 50/50 martinis, VERMOUTH. Not only will this delightfully fortified wine whet my appetite for cocktail hour, but it will be relatively low impact on my traitorous body and mind.
Lustau’s new Vermut Dry, produced with Manzanilla sherry and sweetened naturally with orange peels, tastes like an airier version of a Bamboo, one of my old standby cocktail orders. Slightly earthy and crisp, I’ll gladly enjoy this Spanish vermouth solo over ice or spritzed with a nice sparkling wine.
Antica Torino Vermouth Bianco, a steady Skurnik favorite, will easily be refreshing splashed with club soda. Trading the acidic, and often messy lime wedge from my Gin & Soda days for a sweet and tangy grapefruit twist will smell delicious, look classy, and keep my fingertips clean. A smart move for any imbibing adult in 2024, even the lucky ones who don’t suffer from hangovers!
Brian Tasch—Spirits Content & Education Coordinator
Why would I ever want anything other than a Daiquiri? With such an impressive selection of rums within the Skurnik Spirits portfolio, there’s a Daiquiri for every season, for every mood, for every day! One of the most exciting new additions to the portfolio is independent rum bottler Holmes Cay. Blended for the Daiquiri diehard and showcasing a trio of Caribbean rums from Barbados, Martinique, and Venezuela, the Holmes Cay Heritage Blend is an easy call for the everyday Daiq’.
- 2 oz Holmes Cay Heritage Blend Rum
- .75 oz fresh lime juice
- 2 tsp cane sugar
Stir/swirl lime juice and sugar in a mixing tin until integrated and add rum. Shake with ice, strain into a chilled coupe, drink, repeat.
And were I to stray from the path of the Daiquiri, Holmes Cay’s entire core range of blended and single-origin rums provides unexpected twists to familiar classics—the Fiji Single Blended Rum makes for a killer Mojito, the Réunion Island Rum Agricole a downright beguiling Ti’ Punch, and some Réunion Island Grand Arôme a mind-blowing Mai Tai.
Pete Stanton—Spirits Specialist, New York
Worthy Park Rum-Bar Overproof is what I’m drinking in 2024.
This overproof is an instant portal to a tropical realm. Rum-Bar White Overproof is dangerously easy to drink, packed with tropical fruit overtones, citrus, overripe banana, caramel, and vanilla notes. This overproof is a blend of three Worthy Park marques with varying ester concentrations, composed of molasses from estate-grown sugarcane. Utilizing a double-retort pot still, it artfully displays bright complex overtones with classic Jamaican heft.
As you add water or proof it down in a cocktail, even more flavors emerge, with citrus peel and a saline finish that puts you right on the beach. The utility of this rum is boundless, leaving an unapologetic Jamaican footprint in all the rum classics, especially in a Daiquiri, Ti’ Punch, and my personal favorite, Rum & Ting. Beyond the obvious, Rum-Bar Overproof can add depth to several builds outside the tropics: use a dash or bar spoon to enhance a Negroni or Old-Fashioned; Espresso Martinis move from the banal to exotic with Rum-Bar’s floral overtones and rich, headier body, adding texture with estery fruits that bounce against the bitter espresso.
As bartenders look to build ever-more exotic flavor constructions, Rum-Bar Overproof proves just as dynamic as any esoteric bitter or herbal liqueur. Moreover, lo-fi drinks become transcendent with Rum-Bar Overproof delivering a potent, technicolor base.
James Pellingra—Spirits Portfolio Manager, Whiskey
Though I’ve traditionally favored American whiskey and Scotch whisky, it’s time to redirect my attention to the expansive world of Japanese whisky. While I’ve always admired this category, full immersion—whether for crafting cocktails or daily enjoyment—has eluded me. I’m eager to explore the diverse applications and distinct flavor profiles that Japanese whisky offers.
Justin Lane Briggs—Spirits Portfolio Manager, Mexico
Believe it or not, next year I’m excited to drink more Espadín! It’s deeply thrilling and inspiring to encounter mezcal from new (to me) agave varieties, or from regions I have yet to explore, but recently I’ve been struck and humbled time after time by the diversity and complexity of mezcal’s most commonplace species: Agave angustifolia. The permutations are endless within Oaxaca alone; examples from the northern mountains (like Tosba Espadín) and the southern valley (like Nuestra Soledad ‘Lachigui Miahuatlán’) seem to be as far apart stylistically as they are geographically. Just imagine the possibilities when we move beyond Oaxaca’s borders and taste examples of the agave from Puebla, Jalisco, Durango, and even Sonora. It’s truly limitless. Hell, it’s even the ancestor of tequila’s Blue Weber.
All of this to say, this may arguably be the most important agave species on the planet; it’s made an awful lot of dreams possible. I’ve been chasing down new flavors and new kicks from rare species and distant regions, but next year I’m excited to dig back into the roots, study the heart of the matter, brush up on the baseline—I’m excited to spend some quality time with A. angustifolia.
Aidan Kassel—Spirits Specialist, California
My eyes light up when I see a beautifully clear milk punch or a tall leaning meringue, but in 2024, I’m leaving all the tech to the many incredible bartenders behind the stick. I’m not fussing around at home with clear ice, nut milk bags, or methylcellulose. I’m sticking to my comfort classics. I still find so much joy in swapping out ingredients, re-jiggering, and rethinking tried-and-true classics. Next year, I’m looking for a low effort, high reward, silky, smooth, stirred cocktail like one of my all-time favorites, the Hanky Panky.
Try this modified recipe with some exciting gin and amari from our friends at Sông Cái, who use a ton of incredible Vietnamese botanicals! It’s herbaceous, minty, and an excellent nightcap.
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice until chilled and diluted. Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora or coupe, and garnish with a grapefruit or pomelo twist.
Jon Miner—Spirits Assistant Portfolio Manager
In the first few weeks of cold weather, my nightcap was a mug of hot chocolate. Always with a little something extra, but always hot chocolate. I had a plum liqueur + shiso bitter variation that was a big hit. Another with the cinnamon roll punch of an amburana-finished bourbon. I tried a cup with a shot of espresso and a shot of Caffo Clementino—I shouldn’t have done that before bed. And this went on for many evenings.
My favorite was a simple classic: the Verte Chaud, a classic apres-ski drink of Green Chartreuse poured into hot chocolate. But I subbed in another, domestic amaro with the same intensity, heft, and herbal greenness: Brucato Chapparal. I’m still coming to terms with it, but for this drink, I prefer Brucato to Chartreuse. The high-yet-balanced ABV and bright flavors of spearmint marry perfectly with cocoa, even in richer preparations. I prefer whole milk as a base with 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa, and I skip the cream that some recipes suggest. Then I simply stir 2 oz of Chapparal into the mug.
Winter is far from over, so I foresee many more hot chocolates in the beginning of 2024. After that? I’ll be playing with Brucato in a couple dozen Last Words.
JB Bernstein—Spirits Specialist, Pennsylvania & Southern New Jersey
When it comes to imbibing, agave spirits have always been the nearest and dearest to my heart. But after trying Milpa’s Ambar Whiskey de Maiz, things have certainly shifted a bit. One of the first true corn whiskies from Oaxaca (produced in Cuicatlán), Milpa is helmed by French native Arnaud Fressonet and made by fifth-generation master distiller Alex Krassell. Krassell sources all the indigenous Creole blue corn used in distillation from the Sierra Norte Mountains. He then malts and ferments 50% of that corn and ferments the other unsprouted grain separately. Both mashes are distilled separately in copper pot stills, blended to taste, and aged for three years in ex-bourbon barrels.
The result is something truly unique, funky, and just crazy good as a sipper or in any whiskey-based cocktail. That fresh blue corn smacks you right in the nose at first introduction, followed by a terroir-driven earthiness and a clean, silky finish. It’s dang delicious.
Harry Webler—Spirits Specialist, Indiana & Kentucky
As passionate as I am about fine spirits of all types, the real reason I do what I do has roots in Calvados. Years ago, I was presented with a bottle of 18-year-old cask strength, unfiltered juice from a small producer in Normandy. It was juicy and almost gooey on the palate, the nose and stewed-fruit flavors exploding from the glass. I was smitten…
It’s no wonder that what I’m drinking in 2024 is from Manoir de Montreuil. Going back 12 generations to the 1700s, the family is still a defender of the old apple varieties, though they result in lower yields and have more volatility. Montreuil’s trees are naturally fertilized by Norman cows that graze the land as they’ve always done. Cider is fermented sur lie for an entire year before it’s ready to distill. A truly terroir-driven spirit, Montreuil Selection has notes of baked apples and apple pie leaping from the glass, giving way to more complex nods to historical production in the form of funkier flavors, demonstrating its prolonged fermentation and introducing you to the unique microbiome of the region.
- 2 oz Manoir de Montreuil “Selection” Calvados
- .5 oz Valdespino Amontillado Medium ‘Contrabandista’ Sherry
- .5 oz passion fruit liqueur
- .75 oz fresh lemon juice
- 3 drops saline solution
- 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing tin, shake with ice and strain over the rocks in a highball glass. Garnish with an apple slice.
Jake Cahill—Spirits Specialist, New York
I am currently reconnecting with some old favorite cocktails of mine. As someone who was almost exclusively drinking whiskey neat 12 years ago, it should come as no surprise that whiskey drinks are what I first started exploring when I dove into the world of cocktails. Many a frigid winter night in NYC, I would sit at a bar and order whiskey-based classics with the mission of trying them all and learning everything. And while I still love trying new things over a decade later, I’m comfortable making my tried-and-true favorites that I KNOW will put a smile on my face.
In 2024, these standards of mine will be in heavy rotation, especially as we kick things off with the coldest months of the year:
This is a scotch-based, peaty old-fashioned variation created by Sam Ross (author of so many of my fav cocktails) at Milk & Honey. It is boozy, aromatic, and a slowwww sipper that shakes the chill out of any frozen bones.
- 1.25 oz MacLean’s Nose Blended Scotch
- .75 oz Port Askaig 8 Yr Islay Single Malt Scotch
- 1 barspoon honey syrup
- 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass. Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a lemon and orange twist.
The Rattlesnake is a very classic cocktail—almost 100 years old. It is a sour-style cocktail, and for me, the texture and froth that comes from the egg white is perfect for the cooler months. Refreshment from the citrus…warmth from the rye…rich mouthfeel from the froth. Burrrrrfect combo.
- 2 oz Roulette Rye
- .75 oz fresh lemon juice
- .75 oz simple syrup
- 1 egg white
- Kubler Absinthe for a rinse
Combine ingredients, except absinthe, in a mixing tin; shake without ice to incorporate ingredients and emulsify the egg white. Add ice and shake vigorously; double strain into a coupe that has been rinsed with absinthe. Garnish with a stripe of Angostura Bitters across the foam.
Cliff Oldfield—Spirit Specialist, Northern New Jersey
For 2024, I’ll be drinking more American single malts. While everyone knows all about the amazing single malts from abroad, the American single malt category is still very new and underappreciated. There is some great malt whiskey in the States, including some amazing offerings from our portfolio. My favorite of our American single malts is the newly released New Riff Sour Mash Single Malt. While limited, this is an excellent bottle, a blend of 6 different mash bills aged 7 years. It’s a truly unique whiskey that I’m excited to see in the market, and I think it’s doing a great job in helping accelerate enthusiasm for the category.
Another compelling option from our book comes out of Arizona in the form of Hamilton Distillers’ Whiskey Del Bac. Hamilton Distillers has been making American single malt since 2011 and is combining its southwestern roots with Scottish distilling influence to produce some awesome sippers. Here’s hoping 2024 is finally the year we have a legal classification for the category. Drink more American single malt!
Krista Farrell—Spirits Sales Manager
Creamy, decadent, and dare I say…refreshing?
At the close of every year, I get a hankering for creamy-based delights. Warm drinks are a classic pairing for the great outdoors, but when I’m fireside roasting—like a chestnut—call me crazy, but I want a perfectly chilled holiday tipple. While the Grasshopper is a decadent choice, I often choose a more bracing riff that calls for a scant ounce of Cognac, resulting in a boozier sipper. Whether to kick off a long winter evening or aid digestion with a sweet treat, enjoying a hopped up ‘hopper is your best bet for starting 2024 off on the right foot!
Is it a Grasshopper if it’s not green? We’ll let you be the judge!
GUSTINGS’ (WHITE) GRASSHOPPER
- 5/6 oz. Cognac Park Cognac VS, ‘Carte Blanche’
- 5/6 oz. Giffard Menthe Pastille
- 5/6 oz. Giffard Crème de Cacao Blanc
- 5/6 oz. half & half
Combine ingredients in a mixing tin and shake with ice. Strain into a coupe.
John Calascione—Spirits Specialist, New York
If you can’t get a hold of those super-rare, aged whiskeys that all the blogs are talking about, then I’d suggest you join me and drink “The Judge” from High N’ Wicked. It’s a high-corn-mash Tennessee straight bourbon (84% corn, 8% rye, 8% malted barley) aged 14 years and then finished for 6 months in two high-Puttonyos Hungarian Tokaji casks. Generally, I don’t cocktail with this whiskey, but since it’s barrel strength (at 52% ABV/104 Proof), I do prefer to drink it with a large rock and sip on it slowly as the melting water opens up its aromas and flavors. The nose is full of candied fruit, holiday spices, and cocoa, with caramel, orange peel, and chocolate on the palate. I think I like this whiskey so much because it’s so unique for a bourbon of this age statement. Often, I’ll find anything over 10 years to be far too oaky for my preference, but The Judge’s finish in Tokaji casks softens those tannins and adds a gentle sweetness that just makes it the one of the easiest-to-drink high proof bourbons that I’ve ever had.
Tim Miner—Spirits Specialist, New York
This year I’m going back to classic cocktails. Specifically, I’m going to be revisiting one of my all-time favorites, the Stinger. This is the cocktail you order at a steakhouse when you’re finished with dinner. (I’m looking at you Gage & Tollner!) It is entirely spiritous and on paper, looks similar to a Manhattan or Martini spec, but the drinking experience couldn’t be more different. Technique plays a strong hand here. Despite containing neither syrup nor juice, this cocktail is traditionally shaken rather than stirred. Dare I say James Bond might approve? But who cares! Go mix one up for yourself. The Stinger: it is bright, it is bracing, and it is amazing! This cocktail breaks the rules and will blow your mind.
Combine ingredients in a mixing tin and shake with ice. (I told you it breaks the rules!) Strain into a frozen cocktail glass. Enjoy!
Adam Schuman—Spirits Portfolio Director
After two years of consistently consuming Barrell Craft Spirits Seagrass, with all its seductive power, things have come full circle and I am back on the mezcal; specifically, Nuestra Soledad’s Lachigui. From the magical mountains and municipality of Miahuatlán, and the hands of Tio Pedro and his family, this vibrant Espadín is kaleidoscopic in its tropically cooling flavor arch, serenading my soul in falsetto like Frank Ocean: “A tornado flew around my mouth…” —”Thinkin Bout You”, adapted for Skurnik.
Amanda Elder—Spirits Content & Education Manager
The more years I spend in hospitality (no need for an actual count, ahem), the deeper my respect grows for canon cocktails, both classic and modern. These elegant elixirs persist not only because of their simple recipes, but because they reflect the palate’s perennial hankering for strong, bitter, and sweet in perfect proportion, and do so, decade after decade, with very little need for adjustment to match the times.
But while the pared-down mentality of the pandemic solidified some beloved Martini and Armagnac Old Fashioned habits for me, I think 2024 should be the year of the Brooklyn and its many riffs. The Brooklyn, a frilly cousin of the Manhattan, incorporates maraschino liqueur and amaro into its sultry rye-and-vermouth dance. With the accessibility of bitter liqueurs that blossomed in the early 2000s, riffs named for every neighborhood withing the borough abounded, invented by the generation of bartenders to whom I would turn for my own cocktailing education, including one of my personal mentors, Joaquín Simó. Joaquín’s own contribution to the catalog of Brooklyn riffs, the Carroll Gardens, reflects his famously chilly disposition towards maraschino, calling for a mere teaspoon in the mix. These cocktails carry the indelible fingerprints of their makers, offering an intriguing sub-context of professional exchange during a prolific and massively influential period in cocktailing history.
I’ve always admired this branch of the stirred-and-bitter cocktail tree but rarely make its offshoots. As Skurnik continues to grow in its rich selection of whiskeys, amari, and liqueurs, it seems the right time to methodically visit these district-driven drinks and to settle on my own preferred iterations. And who knows? Maybe there’s room yet for one more neighborhood-inspired concoction. The Greenwood Heights, anyone? (Hint: one of the ingredients would be a dash of haunted remanence, no substitutes allowed…)
- 2 oz Fort Hamilton Single Barrel Rye
- .5 oz Antica Torino Vermouth Dry
- .5 oz Caffo Maraschino
- .25 oz Bigallet China China Amer
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice. Strain into a coupe.