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Top spirits 2023: Meet our favorite liquors, biggest surprises, and more!
It’s that time of year again! 2023 is coming to a close, and that means another year of sharing our spirits journey here on the blog. Boy, did we have a lot to reflect on! Some bottles wowed us, while some really did not cut it. But, as always, we had fun along the way.
So, what are our top spirits of 2023? Below, you’ll find our favorite bottles, favorite cocktails, biggest surprises, and more. Let’s see the list!
Our Top Whiskey Choice 2023
It’s always tough to choose just one top whiskey of the year, since there are so many options from around the world to consider. But, Fireside Bourbon from Mile High distillery was the one whiskey we kept coming back to throughout the year. We were initially thrown off by the contrasting notes of sweet cherry and herbal mint, but grew to appreciate the complexity. It also has a reasonable price that makes a decent option for cocktail mixing. The beautiful label art doesn’t hurt, either!
Our Top Tequila Choice 2023
Mijenta blanco Tequila
This year, our choice for favorite tequila was easy. Not only is it the only tequila we gave 5 stars in 2023, but we also found that our appreciation for it grew as time went on, even after our review was completed.
It noticeably improved every single cocktail recipe Emmeline made with it. Everyone in her household noticed. She consistently heard “It’s the best <insert drink name> I’ve ever had!”. Thanks, Mijenta, for making us look good!
Our Top Gin Choice 2023
Many of the gins we tried this year were solid, but forgettable, so we had to go all the way back to our first review of the year to find the gin that stood out the most: Jewell Gin.
The bold and complex flavor really sets Jewell apart. The slightly sweet licorice and anise flavor is intense at first, but evolves into a pleasant herbal spice and citrus. But, it’s still surprisingly easy to balance in a cocktail. That higher proof also comes in handy!
Our Top Rum Choice 2023
Kō Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum
Although we tried several great rums this year, ultimately, Kō Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum felt the most special. The flavors are unique and interesting, and we find that it balances well in most drinks.
In addition, the restoration efforts made by the company are a real selling point for us as consumers. Drinking Kō Hana is an excellent, well-rounded experience.
Our Top Liqueur Choice 2023
Casa D’Aristi Narano Bitter Orange Liqueur
Compared to 2022, our liqueur haul in 2023 was overall a little lackluster. Only a couple of different liqueur bottles stood out from the pack, and earned 5 stars. Narano Bitter Orange Liqueur is definitely the frontrunner!
Not only is it tasty and smooth, but it’s also versatile and excellent at playing backup dancer to the main spirit in a drink. The truth is, the quality of your triple sec/orange liqueur can make or break a Margarita, am I right? Narano has got you covered.
It’s also family-owned and relatively small, which is a nice plus!
Our Top cocktail spirit 2023
Trader Joe’s Small Batch Vodka
When selecting a cocktail spirit, there are many things to consider. Flavor profile, ABV, color, and availability are all important, but sometimes you simply need something cheap that just gets the job done. And, although we tried other good cocktail spirits this year, it was hard to beat the value of Trader Joe’s Small Batch Vodka.
While it does have subtle hits of pepper and vanilla cream on its own, it remains neutral enough to allow other ingredients to shine. And the 44% AVB doesn’t hurt either. Not bad for a grocery store brand!
Our favorite cocktails in 2023
EMMELINE'S TOP CHOICE
Sueño de Guayaba
For whatever reason, I think I had a hard time finding new and interesting cocktail recipes from outside sources in 2023. A whopping 45% of the cocktails I featured this year were original recipes, which I find a bit hilarious! My recipe for the Sueño de Guayaba is by far my favorite.
This cocktail features mezcal as the spirit, with guava nectar and other flavors. It’s delicious!
JOSH'S TOP CHOICE
Frozen Mango Margarita
I originally came across this recipe in an old Steve the Bartender Youtube video when I was first exploring cocktail mixing a few years ago. Thankfully, I remembered to use it in a review this year, because I had forgotten just how much I adore it.
This Frozen Mango Margarita recipe is a perfect example of what I look for in a classic cocktail variation. It’s retains the lime and tequila flavor of the original recipe, while adding meaningful changes. The mango flavor pairs perfectly with the other ingredients, and adds a delightfully creamy texture. There’s nothing better on a hot summer day!
Our biggest surprise this year
Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative
Towards the end of 2023, we began dipping our toe into reviewing some non-alcoholic spirits. Ritual Zero Proof Tequila was one bottle that was a pleasant surprise!
Though it’s a tall order to match the taste of a real spirit, we feel that this tequila alternative does a pretty good job at substituting in basic tequila cocktails. You might need slightly more sweetener to balance things out. But, overall, we were more impressed than we expected to be!
Our favorite bottle design in 2023
Kraken Black Spiced Rum
Many of the spirits we reviewed this year had beautiful label art and design, but not many also had a fun bottle shape like Kraken Black Spiced Rum. The combination of the finger grip handles, reminiscent of pirate media, and the more contemporary kraken illustration on the label, always stand out on store shelves. This unique design is a big reason we wanted to try the spirit in the first place.
This year's company shout-out
Grupo Yuu Baal
Truth be told, in 2023, we didn’t encounter as many movers and shakers who are reinventing in the spirits industry. However, we did encounter several brands who are quietly standing firm in their values, and we love that! Unfortunately, it makes it a bit harder to choose a favorite.
Ultimately, we decided to give this year’s shout out to Grupo Yuu Baal. This mezcal company is family-owned by a Mexican family in Oaxaca. Not only do they operate their own distillery, but they also collaborate with local mezcaleros, who produce the other mezcal varieties they bring to market.
It’s a refreshing change of pace to see a truly grassroots company remain under local ownership. Not to mention, Yu Baal is committed to sustainable practices and traditional methods.
Well, that was our list of top spirits for 2023! What do you think of our selections? What were your favorite bottles this year? Let us know in the comments below!
As always, drink responsibly.
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