The Best Things We Drank in 2017
From a tropical Banana Daiquiri to American single malt, here are our favorite drinks from the past year.
How do you take stock of a year? In a regular year, that task is hard enough, but nothing about 2017 was usual. Fortunately, for spirits and cocktails writers, time can easily be broken down by bars visited and drinks enjoyed. So I asked a number of our regular contributors for the best things that they drank during the last 12 months. Their answers may just surprise you!
“I drank an awful lot of good things this year, from old Batavia arracks to pure-malt genevers to intricate rum concoctions at Latitude 29 in New Orleans, and delightful little Martinis at Bar Termini in London. But I think the best thing I drank was the pint of fresh Pilsener Urquell grudgingly poured for me by the surly Czech barman on the local train from Vienna to Graz, Austria, which I sipped as we went through the sunlit upland meadows and castle-studded pine forests of the Styrian alps.”
“For me, 2017 was the year of American single malt. It’s a category that technically doesn’t exist but, you know, actually sort of exists. I sampled a slew this year, all made by small producers, and many I’d happily return to again and again. But the one that stood out most was Baller Whiskey from St. George Spirits, which came out last year. It’s made of American barely that’s then aged about four years in bourbon and wine casks, before being filtered and finished in umeshu casks—a Japanese-style plum liqueur. The result is east meets west, crisp meets supple, fruit meets grain, tippler meets contentment. More, please.”
“The best thing I drank in 2017 was the Brookie Brown Ale at the Elk Creek Cafe in tiny Millheim, Pennsylvania. We bought a fixer-upper there in 2016, and the brewpub was part of the reason...But this brown ale, a chocolaty, nutty classic has become my favorite. I drink it when I’m there, I pine for it when I’m away. It has made me appreciate a soft, smooth, but tasty beer again.”
“The best new spirit I tried this year is Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey. It’s from a young distillery in Gatlinburg that otherwise produces nothing but weird flavored ‘moonshine’ in Mason jars, but it’s really quite amazing. It’s only two-years-old, but even bottled as it is at 123-proof, it’s an incredible balance of spicy rye and balanced sweetness and oak. I was shocked at how good this whiskey is.”
“I drank a ton of lovely things this year—Krug in Champagne country; fiery cocktails; tiki drinks with lots of flair—but the most satisfying was one I invented myself (after a bit of crowd-sourcing). I needed to make a purple punch for guests before an all-Prince dance party, and stumbled upon Empress 1908 Gin, which is tinted violet thanks to butterfly pea flowers. I riffed on the French 75—a classic of bubbly, gin, and sugar—by building an oleo saccharum of grapefruit and lemon. It was purple, it turned pink when Prosecco was added, and I was thrilled. I’m a longtime Prince fan and didn’t have time to pay proper respects when he passed in 2016, so I was pleased to finally pay him a proper homage.”
“In April, my husband and I spent a few days in St. John, USVI. Most bars we visited had a Banana Daiquiri on the menu, and a couple of days in I finally got up the courage to try one—and was hooked. Luckily, these Daiquiris had all the subtleties that banana Laffy Taffy lacks, made with only fresh lime juice and banana, a touch of cream, tons of rum and ice. Of course, I also drank plenty of wonderful Painkillers on that trip, but I’ve thought about those perfect Banana Daiquiris almost every day since.”
“I can still imagine the taste on my tongue of ‘Spicy Baba 7,’ the signature drink at Baba Au Rum, the Athens bar that jump-started the city’s cocktail scene. It was a warm May evening and every one of the tiny tables set out on the narrow street was occupied with people enjoying themselves. I am usually a wine drinker, but the drinks menu, really a booklet, enchanted me with its creative descriptions of all the concoctions that had made the bar famous. My cocktail arrived in a Martini glass and it combined aged rum from the islands Trinidad and Tobago with hints of ginger and sour lime. Sitting there, drink in hand, with my husband and friends on the last night of our trip to Greece, was pure magic.”
“While researching my new book, A Drinkable Feast: A 1920s Paris Cocktail Companion, I found a drink in the 1927 book Barflies and Cocktails, by Harry MacElhone, owner of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. It’s called the Pierre Loving’s Pet Punch. Loving was a journalist living in Paris, and he got into a bit of a scrap with Ernest Hemingway when he misreported the events of a boxing match between Hemingway and Canadian writer Morley Callaghan, and refereed by F. Scott Fitzgerald, if you can believe that.”
Pierre Loving’s Pet Punch
1.5 oz Campari
.75 oz Sweet vermouth (Dolin)
.75 oz Port wine (Fonseca Bin No. 27)
three-eighths oz Grenadine
three-eighths oz Rum (Plantation Guadeloupe 1998)
Garnish: Lemon peel
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.