Photos by Chris Kessler
$35 AT OTTO’S, SENDIK’S, DISCOUNT LIQUOR
Organic, small-batch spirits are Twisted Path’s specialty, and the best way to describe them is finessed. New to the Twisted product line is a chai spirit, made with black tea, vodka, cane sugar and spices subtly reminiscent of the Indian tea often enjoyed as a latte. That should give you a cue on how to mix it – with milk, cream or coffee. Feeling plucky? Try it in a gimlet.
4-PACK $9-$10 AT TOTAL WINE & MORE, WOODMAN’S
The Second Street distiller of everything from vodka and whiskey to flavored brandies took on the competitive hard seltzer market this year with a vodka-based water. Called Hard2O, the smooth, low-ABV product comes in four flavors, including a refreshing dragonfruit pear.
$22 AT BITTERCUBE.COM
Over a year ago, Milwaukee-based Bittercube – which was founded in 2009 and distributes its line of craft cocktail bitters across the U.S., Canada and other parts of the world – moved its headquarters from a Bay View warehouse to a midcentury building on 48th and Lisbon, where it can concentrate on making and growing its line and give its shop and cocktail bar/science lab room to flourish. If you’re making cocktails at home, Bittercube’s bitters are a worthwhile investment. And if you could have only one, it should be Trinity, which marries cherry bark vanilla, orange and Bolivar bitters in a floral-fruity but not overpowering way. It’s excellent in an old fashioned, a Sazerac and anything bourbon-based.
$32 AT GLORIOSO’S, RAY’S, DISCOUNT LIQUOR
The longtime (almost 16 years), small-batch Walker’s Point distiller is likely the best known locally. While you may hear more about its gin (which uses botanicals from central Wisconsin) or vodka (made from Wisconsin red wheat), the real gems here are red and green absinthes, made with anise, wormwood and fennel. Di erent botanicals give them their color. Absinthe’s high alcohol content (each is 126 proof) should make you refrain from chugging it. Try an ounce with cold water (the mixture will get cloudy) and add a teaspoon or so of simple syrup. Sip slowly.
FOUR-PACK BOTTLES $6.50 AT WHOLE FOODS
This fall, Top Note’s production of nonalcoholic sparkling mixers and aromatic tonics moved from Pennsylvania to Octopi Brewing Co. in Waunakee (near Madison). The Milwaukee-based beverage company’s line is the bomb for teetotalers who appreciate complex, full-bodied flavors. And those who imbibe can enhance their cocktails with deeper shades of bitter, tart and piquant. Win-win. Another win is Top Note’s bitter lemon tonic, which imparts a buffered sharpness that blends well with club soda and a lemon wedge. You’ll want to drink it all day.
$22 (750 MILLILITERS) AT OTTO’S, WOODMAN’S, DISCOUNT LIQUOR
The rum-based cream liqueur made a splash when it was released in 2009. Manufactured in Pewaukee, this spiked horchata hybrid – like the Latin almond milk beverage, it’s sweet and cinnamony – is delish just served over ice. A liquid dessert. But rumchata.com has loads of decadent recipes. Think RumChata martini!