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Photograph by Levi Brown

Good Libations: Three Luxurious Cocktails for the Holidays

With the help of expert mixologists, we create three cocktails — and the shopping lists for three divinely drinkable gift baskets.

HOT APPLE TODDY
Savoring George Washington's favorite cocktail is "one of the great pleasures of being an American," says Chad Solomon of the New York cocktail consultancy Cuff & Buttons. To partake, pour 1.5 oz. of LAIRD'S APPLEJACK ($15.99, winechateau.com) into a BODUM BISTRO MUG ($14.95, crateandbarrel.com); add a spoonful of BILLINGTON'S NATURAL DEMERARA SUGAR ($21 per 17.6 oz. bag, amazon.com); and top it off with boiling water. Solomon also recommends tossing in a few wedges of a "beautifully acidic" GRANNY SMITH APPLE that have been wrapped in foil and baked at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, to balance out the mixture's rich sweetness, and then garnishing with aromatic spices such as FRESH NUTMEG and INDONESIAN CINNAMON STICKS ($9.99 and $4.99, respectively, kalustyans.com). "It's a wonderfully layered mixture," he adds, "like hot anesthesia."

MANHATTAN
A good Manhattan starts with great bourbon. "So don't get Jack Daniel's," warns Darryl Robinson, host of the Cooking Channel's Drink Up. Instead, use an ice-filled ALESSI BOSTON SHAKER ($108, amazon.com) to stir — not shake — 1 oz. of CINZANO SWEET VERMOUTH ($6.99, marketviewliquor.com) into 3 oz. of BASIL HAYDEN'S BOURBON ($39.79, winechateau.com), which is "old enough to have those great notes of oakiness, but young enough to mix well," says Robinson, who strains his Manhattan into a RIEDEL VINUM MARTINI GLASS ($16.99, finewinehouse.com). For "more of a pleasant, aromatic zest," he suggests adding a few dashes of FEE BROTHERS WEST INDIAN ORANGE BITTERS ($5.95, amazon.com) and tossing in a LUXARDO MARASCHINO CHERRY ($17.95 per jar, amazon.com) — all-natural and imported from Italy, unlike the neon-red knockoffs in most bars.

IRISH COFFEE
It's not hard to fill a LIBBEY IRISH COFFEE MUG ($1.99, bedbathandbeyond.com) to perfection: Start with 1.5 oz. of JAMESON 12-YEAR SPECIAL RESERVE IRISH WHISKEY ($39.99, crownwineandspirits.com), which mixes better than U.S. bourbon; spoon in some DOMINO SUPERFINE SUGAR ($1.89 for a 1 lb. box, mybrands.com) to taste; and top it off with a strong black coffee, such as STUMPTOWN'S COLOMBIA LA ESPERANZA ($15 per 12 oz. bag, buystumptowncoffee.com). To further offset the java's bitterness, Jonathan Pogash of the mixology site TheCocktailGuru.com suggests adding 3/4 oz. of CASTRIES PEANUT RUM CRÈME ($24.99, 67liquor.com) — or, as he calls it, "liquid peanut butter." Crown the concoction with hand-whipped HORIZON ORGAANIC HEAVY CREAM ($3.19, organicdirect.com), cinnamon, and nutmeg, and "it'll instantly warm you up inside."

Photograph by Levi Brown

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