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Best of the Best 2008: Liqueurs, Cordials & Aperitifs

Anthony Dias Blue

Drinking grappa used to be a harsh and caustic exercise—at least until the Nonino family came to prominence. The Noninos have been distilling grappa since 1897 in Friuli, Italy, and the current generation of this glamorous family has refined and changed the nature of this pomace-based brandy. In 1984 the Noninos also created a completely new proprietary product: Nonino Ùe Moscato Cru Besenello Vallagarina (www.terlatowines?.com, $156), a brandy made from whole grape clusters. This elegant Muscat-based version, made from grapes grown in Besenello, shows lovely rose-petal and fruit nuances, as well as classic Nonino depth and finesse.

Calling all bohemians! After nearly a century as the world’s most notorious outlaw spirit, absinthe has returned. Lucid is the first to bring an absinthe containing authentic wormwood back to the United States; its quotient of thujone—the once-suspect chemical compound that originally caused legislators to ban absinthe—is low enough to pass U.S. government standards. With intense anise and pepper flavors and unforgiving heat, the powerful Lucid Absinthe (www.drinklucid.com, $60) is not for the faint of heart; but when you add water, it becomes a smooth, dry, and spicy libation with a refreshing burst of licorice.

The small initial release of Crispin’s Rose Liqueur (www.greenwaydistillers.com, $85) was made by Crispin Cain in Mendocino County, Calif., using the same French Charentais still that Hubert Germain-Robin uses to craft his Germain-Robin brandies. (Cain was an assistant distiller for Germain-Robin when he developed the idea for his own product.) Based on an apple-and-honey distillate that is infused with fresh petals, this intense, rose-infused liqueur has a dark amber color and an enticing rose-petal nose with sweet flavors of authentic rose. Long, rich, and slightly tannic, Crispin’s Rose is refreshingly unique—a true reward for the senses.

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