Warm up with new libations this winter

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Between holiday parties, late-night gift wrapping and tolerating loved ones, there's plenty of reasons to imbibe this winter. We're not saying go full-on "Bad Santa," but if you're going to have a nip, make it a quality one.

We've crafted a list of new brews and boozes that will warm you up until the spring gets here. And because these libations are all new to the market, giving them as gifts will make you seem as in-the-know as you are generous.

New Michigan-made spirits and beer

Founders Brewing Co. Big Lushious: Part of Founders' Backstage Series, this chocolate raspberry stout has notes of roasted malts, dark chocolate, tart raspberries and burnt coffee grounds. The Grand Rapids-made beer is 7.8 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) and is sold in 750 ml bottles for $16.99.

Liberator Old Tom Gin: Award-winning distillery Valentine Vodka has taken its Liberator Gin and aged it in American oak barrels for two years. It's worth the wait, too. The gin's juniper and pine flavors are complimented nicely by the smoky wood notes given from sitting in the barrel. The World Gin Awards named it "Best Cask Gin in the World" this year. Find at Valentine Distillery's cocktail lounge at 161 Vester in Ferndale. If they're closed, pick up a bottle at nearby Paradise Liquor at 3237 Hilton. It runs about $50.

Atwater Brewery's Lebkuchen Christmas Ale: This Detroit brewery's motto is "we drink all we can and sell the rest;" luckily, they saved some of the Lebkuchen Christmas Ale for the masses, because it's a fine holiday beverage. It's not as heavy on the seasonal spices as some Christmas ales (though they're there), and although it's named after a German Christmas cookie, it's not too sweet. At 8 Degrees Plato at 611 W. Nine Mile in Ferndale find it for $11.99 a six pack.

Johnny Smoking Gun: From Corktown's Two James Distillery comes this American blended whiskey made with corn and rye. Find it at the distillery's tasting room (2445 Michigan), or pair it with a delicious ramen dish when dining at nearby Johnny Noodle King, 2601 W. Fort. Find it in well-stocked liquor stores for $49.96.

Griffin Claw booze: Just in time for the holidays, Birmingham's Griffin Claw Brewing Company has started selling its house-distilled spirits by the bottle. Visit the tap room at 575 S. Eton, pick up a $20 750 ml bottle of Griffin Claw Black Strap Rum, botanical gin, grain vodka or potato vodka. Also available to-go: Krupnik honey liqueur ($20) and Oblivious Wheat Wine ($17).

New products from around the globe

Macallan Rare Cask: Beautiful in color, aroma and taste, this Scotch is a no-age-statement whisky, which mean the bottle doesn't advertise how long it's been sitting in a barrel. Macallan wants the consumer to focus on the quality of the product and skill of the maker, rather than how many years it's been aged. At $300 a bottle, it's perfect for special occasions and makes a very nice gift.

Patrón XO Cafe Incendio: This truly unique spirit is Patrón tequila blended with hot chilies and chocolate. It's not exactly right on its own, but seems to lend itself to mixing with coffee (see recipe), or try pouring a shot over vanilla ice cream. Between the bold tequila flavor and the heat of the chili, this is not a drink for the timid. It runs about $25-$30 in stores.

Shmaltz Brewing Company's Hanukkah, Chanukah: Pass The Beer: You can always expect a good pun from this Clifton Park, N.Y., brewery. This year they've crafted Hanukkah, Chanukah: Pass The Beer, an homage to the eight days of the holiday. It's made with eight malts, eight hops and it's 8 percent ABV. Find Shmaltz products at Hiller's Markets, Merchant's Fine Wine in Dearborn or at beer bars like One Eyed Betty's and Clubhouse BFD. In stores, it's $10.99 for a four pack.

New Belgium Brewing and Perennial Artisan Ales' Salted Belgian Chocolate Stout: Colorado's New Belgium Brewing has teamed up with Perennial Artisan Ales out of St. Louis to craft this limited edition holiday beer via New Belgium's Lips of Faith series. It's made with caramel malts, Belgian yeast and chocolate and it's a healthy 9 percent ABV. Find it in better beer stores like Super Fine Wine & Liquor in Canton for $9.99 per 22-ounce bottle.

Angels Envy Cask Strength: Only 6,500 bottles of this award-wining spirit were released in select states this past fall. So if you can find one in a finer liquor store around town, grab it. It's a complex bourbon with a lot going on palate-wise and it's delightfully strong (119.3 proof). It retails for $169.


Fire & Spice

Recipe from Patrón

1 ounce Patrón XO Cafe Incendio1 ounce Pyrat Rum1.5 ounces fresh chilled espresso1/2 ounce maple syrup1 dash chocolate bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake, then strain through a fine strainer into a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with coffee beans.

Stella's Perfect Italian

Recipe from Valentine Distillery

4 ounces Liberator Old Tom Gin1/4 ounce Contratto sweet vermouth1/4 ounce Contratto dry vermouth

Add ingredients to a glass with ice and stir 40 times. Strain over an orange rind in a martini glass.


Recipe from "The Four Season Book of Cocktails," by Fred DuBose

1 1/2 ounces Johnny Smoking Gun1 ounce dry vermouth1 ounce pineapple juice1 once club soda

Stir whiskey, vermouth and juice in a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill. Strain into a martini glass, top with club soda and stir.