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When temperatures take a nose-dive, it’s time to swap out the bright citrus and florals of summer spirits and their attendant cocktails for the cozy, comforting liquors of winter.

With spicy cinnamon, complex pine, and deep herbal flavors returning for the season, you may find yourself reaching for those winter brandies, bourbons, and rich wines on your bar cart again. Whether you are looking for something to sip by the fire, or something to spice up your favorite winter cocktail, any or all of these nine spirits are sure to add the kind of intrigue to your home bar to heat things up until the weather is capable of melting ice again.

1. Rakomelo

This Greek digestif is a favorite home remedy for colds and coughs in Greece, as well as a favorite around the holidays. A spirit made from the spent grapes left over from wine making, a by-product known as pomace, rakomelo infuses Tsipouro (Greek brandy) with cinnamon, cloves, orange peels, and honey so it has a natural sweetness making it perfect as a standalone or mixed in with a cocktail. Mixologist Johnny Livanos (Ousia) says it’s most similar to a grappa. “In Greece, they drink it both cold or sometimes heat it up,” said Livanos. “It’s typically smooth and really enjoyable because the honey rounds it all out.”

How to use it: Replace some of the sweet vermouth in a Manhattan; Use it in a hot toddy with bourbon; Spike your favorite eggnog.

Rakomelo Sweet Liqueur on Drizly

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2. Sotol

Sotol (also known as the Desert Spoon) is a plant found in New Mexico, Texas, and Chihuahua, Mexico. It’s a close relative of agave plants so shares some commonalities with tequila and mezcal. The plant takes around 12 years to mature before its fruit is harvested, roasted and then distilled. “Sotol is super vegetal and green with many of the smoky flavors found in mezcal,” said lead bartender Christina Russo at Los Angeles’ The Board Room.

How to use it: Russo suggests swapping in sotol for gin in the classic cocktail the Last Word (gin, Green Chartreuse, Maraschino liqueur, lime juice).

Hacienda Chihuahua Sotol Plata on Drizly

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3. Teeling Single Malt Irish Whiskey

This is the time of year for whiskey fanatics. Those who love the round richness of bourbon clamor to get their hands on some of the United States’ most highly-allocated selections, and will often pay a pretty penny in order to do so. Meanwhile, for the price of a pour of one of these bourbons, one can get their hands on an entire bottle of a budget-friendly Irish whiskey of a brand that quietly took home the honor of Best Single Malt in 2019 at the World Whiskies Awards. (The first time an Irish whiskey has done so in the history of these things being awarded.) This extra smooth selection is curated for this time of year, finished in a combination of sherry, port, and madeira casks, among others, bringing festive notes of fig, toffee, chocolate, quince, orange marmalade, and cloves. (Basically, Christmas in a bottle.)

How to use it: Sip it and share it while basking the warmth of lit-up eyes when you regale your guests with tales of its pedigree.

Teeling Single Malt Irish Whiskey on Drizly

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4. Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur

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This Austrian liqueur is crafted using Arolla Stone Pine fruit that’s harvested by-hand in the Alps. “Add a quarter or half ounce to anything you want to give a beautiful pine undertone,” said bar director Mike Di Tota of Astoria, New York’s gastropub The Bonnie. Created by the Josef Hofer family distillery (founded in 1797) this unique liquor is certainly unique for its smooth and lightly sweet finish. The gorgeous red color makes it especially festive if you’re looking for something for the holidays.

How to use it: Pair it with gin, bourbon, rye, and mezcal–the possibilities are endless, from martinis to a bit on its own with soda water in a highball glass.

Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur on Drizly

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5. J. Rieger Co. Caffè Amaro

Rye KC bar manager and James Beard semifinalist Andrew Olson said he turns to this local Kansas City, Missouri spirit to add depth to his cocktails. “It’s starting to become more widely available across the United States,” said Olson. “[It has a] unique coffee and bitter gentian flavor.” The coffee blended spirit combines cold-brew, single origin beans from Thou Mayest (a local Kansas City roaster) and ages the brew in whiskey barrels. The result is bittersweet and rich flavor.

How to use it: It’s great on its own or with a splash of tonic and orange slice. Olson suggests using quarter to half increments in cocktails to get the depth of the spirit.

6. Four Pillars Christmas Gin

Dante has been around for over a century in New York, but its cocktail program is as interesting as ever. Bartender Liana Oster, an Australian native, says she turns to Four Pillar’s Christmas gin. “One of my favorite Christmas time spirits is Australian made from the Four Pillars distillery. They make a Christmas Gin that is aged in muscat wine barrels close to my home town,” said Oster. The gin literally starts with distilling one of the founder’s mother’s Christmas pudding recipes, complete with spicy flavors like juniper, cinnamon, star anise, coriander and angelica. Once the gin is ready to be aged, the team lets the gin go to work in century century old William Grant scotch whiskey barrels that also stored Rutherglen Muscat for 80 years. If that’s not enough to convince you, we’re not sure what is.

How to use it: Oster says this gin is sippable all on its own, but offers an extra cozy oomph to classics like the Martinez (gin, sweet vermouth, angostura bitters and maraschino liqueur).

7. Strega

Produced first in the 1860s in Campania Italy, this digestif is especially festive because of its golden yellow color (which it gets from saffron).  “It’s distilled from 70 herbs and spices from all over the world that results in a thick bright yellow color with a unique, yet versatile flavor,” said co-owner of New York’s Stella Hospitality Group’s (Levante, Luzzo’s BK) Eden Tesfamariam Gaim. While the exact recipe is under wraps, the herbal spirit has plenty of minty notes, plus some earthiness from juniper berries and saffron. It’s a little less sweet than yellow chartreuse and a lot more complex.

How to use it: Pour a bit over vanilla or chocolate gelato or in a fruit salad; Add a bit to your favorite tea to enhance the herbal properties; Gaim mixes it with gin and lemon juice in a glass with an absinthe rinse for a bright, refreshing cocktail.

Strega Liquore on Drizly

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8. Averna

If you don’t have an amaro on your cart already, now is the time. Averna is a go-to Italian amaro to keep on hand that can appeal to the amaro neophyte as well as the already-initiated. “Amaro” simply means “bitter” in Italian, and refers to a class of liqueurs that incorporate numerous florals, fruits, herbs, spices, roots, and occasionally vegetables for a complex, slightly bitter elixir. With roots in Sicily, Averna brings a rich texture, subtle sweetness, and complex botanical structure which are balanced with the brightness of pomegranate and citrus oils.

How to use it: Serve neat after dinner as a stomach settler, or use to add nuance to Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. Margaritas and other citrus-forward cocktails also get a glow-up with a touch of Averna.

Averna Amaro on Drizly

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9. Masumi Hiyaoroshi Sleeping Beauty Sake

Yes, sake. If your previous experience with Japan’s iconic rice wine is only in the form of cheap stuff to accompany sushi happy hours, now is the time to impress yourself and your guests with its much greater potential. Sake is a deep topic, warranting its own thing such as a sake sommelier. Great sake expresses robust earthy and umami notes, perfect for winter even when drunk chilled. Masumi’s “Sleeping Beauty” selection is bold enough to pair classic winter dinners such as roasted vegetables and pork, but fresh enough for its true soulmate, seafood. Have some on hand for the Feast of the Seven Fishes this year.

How to use it: Chilled or slightly warm as an accompaniment to food, but can also be used for elegant, complex cocktails, especially involving herbs and that other most-versatile beverage, Champagne.

Masumi Hiyaoroshi Ginjo Sake Sleeping Beauty on Drizly

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For more festive ideas, tips, and recipes, visit our Holiday Headquarters.

Header image courtesy of invizbk/Getty Images.

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