Sips of the Season: Winter 2017

Winter drinks don’t have to be heavy. Holiday celebrations are perfect for brightly colored spirits and brews lush with pine. And after the parties, try a mushroom-infused coffee for a little detoxing.

Photo by Mike Ramm

Cassis Liqueur
Mt. Defiance Cidery & Distillery
Head distiller Peter Ahlf drove 800 pounds of black currants from Walnut Grove Farm in New York to Middleburg to make Mt. Defiance’s run of ruby red cassis. A spirit popular in Europe, cassis remains rarer on this side of the Atlantic; American farmers were slow to reintroduce the fruit after it was banned a century ago because of its connection to white pine blight. Ahlf uses beet sugar to coax out the vibrancy of this tiny, tart berry, which sets a gorgeous base for the vermouth and gin Parisian cocktail and, of course, the festive kir royale. The liqueur took silver at the 2017 American Craft Spirits Association awards. // 207 W. Washington St., Middleburg

2016 Albarino
Cana Vineyards and Winery of Middleburg
While many uncork red wines in the colder months, Melanie Natoli—who became Virginia’s first Woman Winemaker of the Year at the 2017 International Women’s Wine Competition—is most excited about opening something lighter. “Making a prettier, more delicate white wine is much harder,” says Natoli. Albarino’s trademark acidity and crisp minerality make it great with celebratory oysters. // 38600 John Mosby Highway, Middleburg

Mushroom Coffee
Sense of Place Café
Sisters Kay Kim and Kim Seo opened Sense of Place Café this summer with pour overs, macaroons and a laptop-free bar area (there’s free Wi-Fi and allowable computing in the rest of the shop). Seo’s husband Thomas, an acupuncturist with a practice in Annandale, developed a mushroom tincture with wild reishi, shiitake, maitake, turkey tail and chaga (for sale at to add to the cafe’s low-acid signature coffee—beans are fermented and roasted in small batches on site—that doesn’t impart a mushroomy taste. Seo swears by the antioxidant-rich health benefits of detoxification, better digestion and, she claims, the best sleep of her life when adding the tincture to water, not java. // 4807 1st St. N, Arlington

Barrel Oak Farm Taphouse
Opened last November inside Barrel Oak Winery, the taphouse’s head brewer Jason Bergantim is giving his fermenters a workout to keep up with the demand for his debut IPA, which sold out immediately after the announcement it won a gold medal from the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild. Employing experimental Idaho 7 hops’ fruit-forward, piney and tropical notes, plus traditional American Cascade and Mosaic hops, they combine for a not-so-bitter brew. // 3623 Grove Lane, Delaplane

(December 2017)