In the Spirit

Straining for a Gift?

Wu-Tang Clan to the rescue

By Tony Cross

There’s always that one person who’s impossible to buy for. My father is a struggle during the holidays; he has a habit of buying himself what he would like a month or so before Christmas. Maybe if we just stopped buying him gifts altogether, he would stop that nonsense. So much for hindsight. Even if you’re a great gift giver, here are a few recommendations that probably haven’t crossed your mind. All are unique and will hopefully stand out.

Mover & Shaker Co. Raekwon Cocktail Strainer, $105

Calling all Wu-Tang fans: I saw this advertised a few months ago, and I splurged immediately. With my wallet. Cocktail company Mover & Shaker has teamed up with legendary MC (Emcee), Raekwon, from Wu-Tang Clan, on a signature cocktail strainer. They’ve only made 300, so you’ll have to act fast. Go to moverandshakerco.com. It’s shaped like the Wu-Tang “W” and has “chef RAEKWON” etched on it. If I had never seen this, and someone gifted it to me, I would be thrilled. Even if that hard-to-buy-for-person isn’t the biggest cocktail fan, having this piece could change their mind. If they love Wu-Tang, of course. A few weeks after receiving my strainer, I went live with my company’s promotion of bottled cocktails. One in particular we call “Surgical Gloves,” named after a Raekwon track. I made a little video and posted it on our social media sites. The next morning, not only did I have a message from the Chef, himself, he also shared it on his Instagram stories. I screamed like a little girl.

Crude Bitters Attawanhood #37 and No No Bitters

Based out of Raleigh, local business Crude Bitters has plenty of great bitters to choose from, but these two seasonal bottles don’t stay on the shelves long. The Attawanhood #37 and No No bitters couldn’t be more different. They’re the spice rack in a cocktail smorgasbord and, depending on whom you’re buying for, one might complement that person’s cocktail palate more than the other. This is what they say about their seasonal bitters:

“Attawanhood is a variation of a classic aromatic with a tart cherry in the forefront. Named after the street our founder grew up on (a fun “A” name like the classic bitters you many know). Stone fruit, silkiness, with sharp bitterness and dark spice bite. For classic and modern cocktails.” In addition to the tart cherry, there are flavors of cinnamon and cloves as well. They describe their No No bitters as, “A tasty mix of sweet and hot peppers. You don’t want these bitters. They’re a spicy meat-a-ball-a. Blending bhut jolokia, guajillo, habanero, Scotch bonnet, jalapeño, bell, and more. We craft this to add a sweet pepper flavor, one you can taste, and then it finishes with a slow capsaicin burn.” Visit your local wine shop, or wherever local mixers are sold to grab yours. If your local establishment doesn’t carry Crude, ask them to! Until they do, you can place an order over at crudebitters.com.

The Spirit of Haiti-Clairin

Clairin, a native rum to Haiti, is one of my newest fascinations. If you are buying a gift for a rum fan, look no further. Oh, and when I say “rum fan,” I don’t mean flavored Bacardi or Captain Morgan’s. This is the real deal. Previously, I’ve raved about The Spirit of Haiti’s Michel Sajous clairin. That bottle comes in at a whopping 51 percent ABV, but when used in a daiquiri, it’s pretty damn tasty. No, it’s really tasty. Since then, I’ve become enamored with their Clairin Vaval. My new favorite, hands down. Still high proof, coming in at 48.7 percent ABV, this is my Ti’ Punch rum. Distiller Fritz Vaval uses 100 percent Madame Meuze sugar cane juice — Vaval’s family has owned their distillery since 1947 and has 20 hectares of land planted with varieties of this type of sugar cane. According to the spiritofhaiti.com, “It’s fermented naturally with wild yeast and distilled in one continuous copper column still with 10 trays and a homemade condenser made from a gasoline can.” Small batches. Beautiful packaging. Exquisite rum. Odds of finding this in any of our local ABC stores is probably as good as bumping into Fritz on the street. Go online and grab a bottle as soon as possible to ensure arrival by the 24th. The Spirit of Haiti distributes three other types of clairin, so if this one’s a winner, you can grab another variety next go-round.  PS

Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.

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