For many, 2021 was a year of cautious return: Bars and restaurants slowly re-opened, long-delayed family gatherings and weddings were held, travel resumed in fits and starts. Often, that included special pours to celebrate those moments, from limited-edition whiskeys and brandies to fun, ultraportable canned cocktails.
This list represents the most memorable spirits we’ve had the opportunity to review over the past 12 months. It spans a broad range of categories and price points, from a pair of lively $20 lemon liqueurs to a rare—but spectacular—Irish whiskey finished in Cognac casks, priced at a stratospheric $500. You’ll find a range of vodkas, both flavored and neutral, that will liven up your cocktail game, and a slew of brandies—from Armagnac to Calvados and more—that will serve as the perfect cold-weather sippers.
While spirits were selected for this list based on their quality, it’s also satisfying to zoom out and note the broadening diversity of the people behind the bottles. Whatever you’re looking to celebrate, even if it’s just making it through another challenging year, grab a glass, because this list is full of exciting bottles to try. —Kara Newman