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The Gift of Booze: 8 Bottles For $35 and Under

Got friends who fancy themselves to be amateur mixologists? Replenish their liquor stashes with these delicious (and affordable) boozy gifts.

imbueguide.jpegImbue Cellars
Three Portland, Oregon friends pooled their impressive wine, spirits and beer expertise to launch Imbue Cellars, producing good vermouth rife with fresh, dried botanicals. Their trademark white Bittersweet vermouth stradles dry and sweet, featuring local Pinot Gris grapes from the Willamette Valley, as well as Pinot Gris brandy made at Portland's Clear Creek distillery and aged in American oak. Aromatic, with notes of elderflower and lemongrass, it elicits a heady martini -- and solo, doubles as a tranquil aperitif on the rocks.
Price: $27. Imbuecellars.com

 GINDorothy-Parker-Bottle-Shot.jpgDorothy Parker Gin
If you've been to Williamsburg hangout the Shanty, and sipped, say, the Brown-Eyed Soul cocktail, you've tasted Dorothy Parker Gin, made at NY Distilling, the gin and rye operation just beyond the bar's glass window. Named after the wisecracking, liquor-fueled writer who once held court at the Algonquin Round Table, the Brooklyn-made spirit is well rounded, with traditional juniper and citrus notes complemented by nuances of elderberry and hibiscus.
Price: $30. New York Distilling
 CB_VISUAL_290312.jpegCaña Brava Rum
There are many downsides to the U.S.' (slowly diminishing) perilous relationship with Cuba, and one of them is the dearth of the island's splendid rums stateside. With Caña Brava, made from wild Panamanian sugar cane, the brand new 86 Co. (whose co-founders include bar greats Simon Ford and Dushan Zaric from Employees Only) is trying to fill this void. Distilled by a former minister of Cuban rum, the three-year-aged spirit first rests in new American oak barrels, then used American whisky ones; post-aging, it is blended with older rums from the master distiller's collection. A carbon filtration system unearths a fresh, mellow rum with slight oak and vanilla flavors, perfect in an authentic Cuban Daiquri.
Price: $35. info@the86co.com

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Larceny Whiskey
Larceny, Heaven Hill's breakout small batch whiskey, is made with a mélange of bourbons drawn from six-to-12-year-old barrels aging on the fourth through sixth floors of its Kentucky rick houses. Foregoing rye in its mashbill -- and the usual accompanying burst of robust spice -- for winter wheat, this is a softer, smoother bourbon. However, it's still big on flavor, morphing from butterscotch to maple syrup to cherries, with a toasty, warming finish.
Price: $25. Heavenhill.com

Screen shot 2012-12-05 at 12.56.46 PM.pngBrooklyn Hemispherical Bitters
Bitters heighten classic cocktails with lingering depth in much the same way belts cinch teeny waists and accentuate sweater dresses. Serious drink slingers know their home bar must include the likes of Angostura and Dale DeGroff's Pimento Aromatic varieties, but one unusual and rapturous find is Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters' Black Mission Fig. Use this rich, nutty concoction redolent of caramel to enliven an Old-Fashioned.
Price: $21. brooklynbitters.com

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Whether it's savored with grapefruit juice or in a Negroni, Campari's scarlet hue will never go out of style. Yet the bitter Italian liqueur's latest limited edition iteration introduces a compelling visual to the Old World recipe. "Spiritello," the circa 1921 illustration of a sprite donning a red unitard and dancing his way out of a spiraling orange rind -- now found on many a framed poster gracing the walls of New York kitchens -- was commissioned by Campari. For this bottle, Italian artist Ugo Nespolo has refashioned the classic image, in an Art Deco-like swirl of geometric shapes.
Price: $28. Campari.com

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Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao
Cloying chocolate flavors have long given Crème de Cacao a well-deserved bad reputation. But then Tempus Fugit Spirits, the California company known for its absinthes, decided to resuscitate a thoughtful 19th century recipe, and the result is this thick version, with a perfumed nose of rich cacao bean and vanilla. If you're feeling especially generous, wrap up Tempus Fugit's equally refined bracing Crème de Menthe. Mix the two together with cream to elicit the most elegant Grasshopper cocktail yet.
Price: $30. Tempusfugitspirits.com

 house-coffee-liqueur.jpgHouse Spirits Coffee Liqueur
As the perpetually packed Ace Hotel reveals, New Yorkers love Portland, Oregon import, Stumptown Coffee. The coffee purveyors have partnered with its Portland neighbors House Spirits to unveil House Spirits Coffee Liqueur, melding bold, balanced coffee with molasses, cinnamon and orange peel-accented rum. It packs even more of a punch than Stumptown's cold brew stubby.
Price: $20. Totalwine.com


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