It’s vital, during these dark days, to find something – anything – to celebrate, even if it is the loss of the Thirteen Colonies almost 250 years ago. Oh come on, I’m only joshing! July the Fourth celebrations are observed almost as devoutly here as they are across the pond, as we stand shoulder to shoulder with our closest allies and greatest friends.
And of course, the finest way to stand shoulder to shoulder – albeit two metres apart – is with glass in hand. And so, in honour of Uncle Sam’s Independence Day, here are ten fabulous, tongue-tingling tipples made in that great land with which we in the UK can commemorate this auspicious day. Cheers!
2018 Ch. Ste Michelle Dry Riesling, 12.5%vol, (£8.78 if you buy 12, otherwise £9.75; Great Western Wine)
Washington State is one of the great powerhouses of American wine and Ch. Ste Michelle its most revered pioneer. This cool climate dry Riesling is a joy. Crisp, clean, refreshing with green apple, citrus and peach on the palate and a fine, long, dry finish, it makes a delectable aperitif.
Southern Comfort 100 Proof, 50%vol, (£28; Amazon)
Ok, so it’s produced in Europe these days (not sure where) rather than New Orleans, but Southern Comfort is still the quintessential American liqueur. Created in 1874, it’s as tasty as ever and this, the de luxe 100 proof, is tastier (and punchier) still. Enjoy over ice or in cocktails such as the Alabama Slammer, the Slow Comfortable Screw Against the Wall or the Scarlett O’Hara.
Drinks by the Dram Bourbon Set, (£24.95; Master of Malt)
If you can’t decide what bourbon to drink on 4 July (and you must, surely, drink bourbon on 4 July), then look no further than this excellent selection from across the USA. Comprised of 30ml samples of FEW Bourbon, Bulleit Bourbon, Hudson Baby Bourbon, Michter’s US* 1 Bourbon and Buffalo Trace Bourbon, you’ll be seduced in a trice and begging for more.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select, 45%vol, (£45; Tesco)
Tennessee’s JD is the world’s best-selling whiskey and with reason: it’s dead tasty. Almost every barrel gets blended into the regular Jack Daniel’s Old No.7, but occasionally they happen upon one of such quality they bottle it unblended. And, oh my, it’s treat! Full of toffee, spice and vanilla, it deserves to be sipped neat rather than sloshed into Coke.
2018 Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay, 14%vol, (£13.99 if you mix 6 otherwise £15.99; Majestic)
San Luis Obispo County (aka: Sloco) lies halfway between LA and San Fran and, thanks to ocean, lakes and mountains, has the perfect climate for grapes, especially in the Edna Valley.
Chardonnay was the first variety planted here and this example is a steal at the price with peach, pineapple and citrus flavours and hints of creamy vanilla.
2015 Domaine Carneros Brut, 12.5%vol, (£24; VINVM).
You need fizz on 4 July and this, from the Napa Valley’s Domaine Carneros (co-founded and co-owned by the Taittinger family) is an absolute peach. Made in the Champagne method from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a splash of Pinot Gris, it’s aged for 42 months in bottle before release and is full of honeyed lemon notes backed by a long creamy finish. Gosh it’s delicious!
2016 Résonance Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 13.5%vol, (£32.30; Ocado)
Oregon is rightly famous for its spectacular Pinot Noirs, especially those from the Willamette Valley, and this is about as fine an example as you will find for the price. Produced by none other than Maison Louis Jadot, Résonance is the family’s first project outside Burgundy since their company’s foundation in 1859. Soft, silky, fruity (think damsons and cherries) and yet savoury, it’s a complete delight.
Brooklyn Amber Lager, 5.2%vol, (£12 per 10x330ml; Waitrose)
The very thought of American beer used to make Brits roar with derision, they simply hadn’t a clue, or so we thought. These days, however, first-rate craft breweries cover the country, not least thanks to the driving influence of Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery in NYC. The man is a genius and this hoppy, toasty, citrusy, malty brew is a beauty.
2014 Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve, 13.5%vol, (£25.99; Oxford Wine Co)
The Jamestown settlers of 1607 were the first to make (not very good) wine in Virginia and Thomas Jefferson famously tried again at Monticello in the 1790s. Today, though, the wines are spot-on and Virginia is the fifth largest quality wine-producing state in the Union. Barboursville is my favourite producer and this ripe, luscious, fruity Cab Franc my pick of their range.
Balcones Baby Blue, 46%vol, (£49; Whisky Exchange)
America makes great whisky and not all of it comes from Kentucky. Favourites of mine include Westward from Portland, OR, Westland from Seattle, WA, and this copper-bottomed belter from Waco, TX. Balcones (Est: 2008) broke the mold with their remarkable spirits and there’s nothing else like this: a fruity, spicy, oily, nutty whisky made from roasted heirloom blue corn.