For the bar

We're still in the charming part of the late fall–early winter transition, with the romance of fleeting daylight and the renewed excitement of using a fireplace. January and February are another story, and that's why it's best to prepare your bar in advance.

Bottles of liquor make great gifts - you're acknowledging someone's tastes and interests, while maybe introducing him or her to something new. Whether for your bar or someone else's, it's always fun to have a new bottle of something.

1. Tuthilltown Maple Cask Rye

Available in limited quantities for Fall 2013, the Maple Cask Rye is deliciously sweet, but not overpoweringly so. To make it, Tuthilltown took casks that were originally used for its Baby Bourbon, and then used by maple syrup producers, and then returned to the distillery just for this batch. It’s a mind blower that will win over fans of rye as well as those who turn their nose to brown liquor.

Find a bottle before they're all gone @ 1,000 Corks ($39–$50)

2. anCnoc 12

anCnoc doesn’t get a lot of press, and that’s why it’s the perfect scotch to give as a gift or keep for yourself. It’s a smooth Highland single malt with a long finish, and although it’s not peaty (which is a good or bad thing, depending on the company you keep), its complexity will make it a favorite. It’s a lot like the Macallan in all the best ways, but stands on its own.

@ Master of Malt ($50)

3. Art in the Age’s SNAP

I made everyone I know try Art in the Age’s first liquor, ROOT, when I first got a bottle, and I was very excited for SNAP upon its release. I came to find that it’s of a very different breed – I rarely sip it on its own but around the holidays it fits in perfectly with egg nog and cider (hot or cold). And don’t get me started on how delicious it is with ginger beer.

@ Super Wine Warehouse ($28)

4. Farmer’s Organic Gin

I want to do my part to spread the word about Farmer’s gin, because last time I checked they didn’t have much of a marketing campaign besides word of mouth. It’s a different gin than others out there - it’s lighter and more floral, and is great lined up with vodka in a Vesper martini. It’s organically produced in small batches in Minnesota and it’s my go-to.

@ Astor Wines ($30)

5. The Bitter Truth Original Celery Bitters

Thinking about celery bitters has me craving a savory gin and tonic. Celery bitters date back to the 19th century, a time when bitters were administered for digestive and other health benefits. In modern times, they aren’t used as much as other bitters, but when used appropriately celery bitters make a powerful statement. Use them with anything you’d grab from the vegetable garden of your dreams (i.e., Bloody Mary) or add them to a tequila drink, or use them to fashion a less-sweet Manhattan.

@ Astor Wines ($20)

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