Winter holidays and the use of mind-altering substances have been the norm ever since Laplanders put on their finest crimson pajamas, drank a gallon of mushroom liqueur and went whooping through the icy forests on reindeer back, inadvertently giving rise to the Santa Claus legend. At least, that’s what my mother told me as she poured herself another glass of nog and swatted away imaginary elves. There’s something about being in close quarters with a gaggle of posturing relatives for a week away from work that makes a person naturally reach for a bit of liquid cheer. And then maybe a bit more liquid cheer. Until finally everyone is gathered around, holding hands and singing carols to the turkey or the goose or the ham or whatever animal most recently gave its life in the name of family togetherness.
But these happy times require some preparation. You don’t want to get stuck making a last minute run to Walgreens for a plastic jug of mezcal on Christmas Eve, do you? No, now is the time to hit the good places, the classy liquor stores, like Jubilation and Kelly’s and stockpile the good stuff. Not to mention the fact that many people appreciate a fine bottle of spirits as a gift in and of itself. And while you’re loading up your grocery cart like Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas, why not consider grabbing a few of these locally-made goodies? They’re guaranteed to impart a lively New Mexico flavor to the intoxicated fog you’ll nurture over the next few weeks.
Rum is one of the hardest working holiday libations, finding a home in egg nog, hot toddies and maybe even a tipple straight from the bottle when grandma’s not looking. Horsethief, with its molasses richness and subtle flavor profile, is versatile enough to suit any of these purposes and, if you have any left come the New Year, will also carry you through the spring with rum daisies and mojitos with equal aplomb.
Left Turn Distilling
If you prefer a rum with a little more essence of the Southwest, however, seek out Rojo Piñon rum from Left Turn Distilling. The piñon flavor gives it a unique woodiness which makes it perfect for mixing into eggnog or the hot cocktail of your choice, and sipping it straight is sure to evoke memories of a New Mexico autumn and the rich taste of the fruit of our official State tree.
Apple Brandy or Atapiño
Santa Fe Spirits
A little apple brandy can be a very refreshing way to start a cold-weathered evening inside, especially when warmed and taken beside a roaring piñon fire. The apples in Santa Fe Spirits’ offering are grown in Tesuque, N.M., so you’ll be doing your local farmers a solid as you down your glass.
For a more intense regional flavor, check out the Atapiño, a liqueur created by infusing SF Spirits’ single malt Silver Coyote whiskey with piñon nuts, pine resin and sugar. It’s a sweet and aromatic glass of all the best parts of a Southwestern winter.
Silver Coin Tequila
Santa Fe Tequila
The go-to method for imbibing tequila is via margarita of course, but if you need a little warmth to bolster your wintery vacation days, a Mexican coffee will definitely do the trick. Silver Coin from Santa Fe Tequila is one of the best 100% agave tequilas available at the price point, and comes in a lovely bottle perfect for catching the sparkle of the cold winter sun. Or try the añejo for a more oaky flavor.
The Bitter End Bitters
Cocktail culture demands a variety of flavors and ingredients, not the least of which is that provided by bitters. If you’ve got a budding mixologist in your life, the bitters produced by The Bitter End in Santa Fe will add an intriguing variety of unusual accents to their creations. How about a margarita with a touch of curry? Or a sidecar that tastes like BBQ? Or a Sazerac made spicy with Mexican molé? With these little bottles of flavored tincture, there’s no limit to cocktail pizzazz.
Why settle for giving a single bottle of Casa Rondeña’s wonderful wine when you can instead give a Clarion membership? For $46, your gift recipient can choose two bottles of their favorite Rondeña varieties, have access to complimentary tastings for two whenever they visit the North Valley vineyard and get discounts on any purchases. If they like being a member, they can renew it every other month and get two bottles of wine each time.
St. Clari’s Winery
There’s nothing like a holiday brunch with the family, and Soleil’s mimosa will give you a drop of sunshine with which to start your day. I’m not sure if a mimosa is the traditional drink of choice for Christmas morning, but I am sure that I want one.
A six-pack never makes a great gift, except for a few select people, but they’re always a welcome find in the refrigerator. Marble, La Cumbre, Tractor, Kelly’s, Santa Fe Brewing Company and Sierra Blanca all offer a number of their products in can or bottle form, making it easy to stock up for an influx of family and friends. Also, a stopover at any taproom will let you take home a half-gallon of your favorite beer in growler form. The Four Winds travel center also offers up eight taps of local brews for growler filling, meaning you can get a different one for each happy beer drinker on your list.
True Brew Starter Kit
Victor’s Grape Arbor
For the true beer lover, the next step after discovering the world of local microbrews is to dip one’s toes into brewing up your own. If you’ve got a hophead on your Christmas list, then a True Brew starter kit from New Mexico’s oldest home-brew supply store is a no brainer. It comes with everything they’ll need to embark on one of the world’s oldest hobbies.
Vintner’s Best 1 Gallon Equipment Kit
Southwest Grape and Grain
Naturally, there’s a kit for making wine, also. This one from Southwest Grape and Grain is perfect for whipping up one’s own household vintages with a minimum of fuss. It comes with everything you need, including recipes, yeast and a jug for fermentation.