So you've got your tickets to Thursday's cocktail class with Jennifer Colliau, and you've already imagined what the Evite will look like for your first soiree of 2011, but is your bar stocked? K&L's spirits buyers, David Driscoll and David Othenin-Girard, have been working furiously over the past year to build an incredible spirits selection that includes exclusive whiskey bottlings, oak-aged Gin and a wide variety of specialty liquors, liqueurs and cordials to help you up your home mixology game. Visit our Spirits Journal for up-to-the-minute information on our newest booze. In the meantime, here are our picks for the Top 10 Spirits to start 2011.
10. Firelit Blue Bottle Coffee Liqueur (750ml) A new release from the Bay Area's own St. George Spirits made with Blue Bottle coffee and Chardonnay-based brandy. Pure roasted coffee aromas and flavors that will make any pick-me-up cocktail sublime. And lets not even talk about White Russians.
9. Zubrowska Bison Grass Vodka from Poland (750ml $22.99) A stunningly smooth vodka particularly suited to citrus-based cocktails or the Polish favorite, Tatanka, an unfiltered apple juice. More characterful than your average clear spirit, but less overtly flavored than other vodka, this has notes of vanilla and chamomile.
8. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur (750ml $31.99) This liqueur, made with elderflower blossoms gathered in the Alpine countryside by an army of Frenchman on bikes, adds distinctive character to any cocktail. Simply elegant with Brut Champagne or sparkling wine, and heady in the Montparnasse with Laird's Apple Brandy, lemon juice and a splash of Sauvignon Blanc.
7. Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 year old Rum (750ml $34.99) A top-notch, full-bodied Guatemalan Rum that's good for sipping or mixing, when the recipe calls for something dark and slightly spicy.
6. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon (750ml $19.99) A fantastic price! This sticky-toffee flavored Bourbon might make your Manhattans start singing New York New York with a Southern twang.
5. Ardbeg Uigedail Traditional Strength Islay Single Malt Whisky ($58.99) Pronounced Oog-a-dal, this smoky, tangy Whisky isn't something you'll want to mix into a cocktail, but something you'll want to sit and contemplate in front of the fire.
4. Rusty Blade "K&L Exclusive" Single Barrel Cask Strength Barrel-Aged Gin (750ml $59.99) A cask strength gin made and bottled just for K&L by Davorin Kuchan of Old World Spriits. Aged for 13 months, its still got some of the juniper and citrus character, but now those notes are framed by baking spices. Add a little water to proof it down for drinking straight, or add it to a cocktail that calls for an Old Tom gin.
3. One Barrel Rum from Belize (750ml $13.99) Aromatic, smooth, and with a hint of tropical hibiscus to it, this Rum is the perfect mixer and priced accordingly.
2. Lagavulin 16 year old Islay Single Malt Whisky (750ml $64.99) This special Islay malt sells for about $100 elsewhere, but is just $64.99 here at K&L. Dry upfront, with a sweet sherried character on the peaty finish.
1. Rittenhouse Rye 100 Proof, Bottled in Bond (750ml $19.99) A Pennsylvania-style Rye that you'll find in any decent bartender's speedrack. 100-proof and wonderfully spicy, this makes a wicked Sazerac.