Firewater: 11 High-Proof Spirits to Try Now
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  • It’s not your imagination: Your drink may actually be getting stronger.

    While 80-proof spirits have become pretty standard, some brands are kicking up the heat and going to 100-proof and above. These potent bottlings aren’t just a show of force but are also prized by top bartenders like advisory board member Dushan Zaric, since they have more flavor and stand up better in cocktails. (You can read Zaric’s whole argument here.)

    So check out our list of high-octane spirits, which are all at least 100-proof and will add a little extra oomph to your drinks. Cheers!

  • Booker’s Bourbon

    In 1988, Frederick Booker Noe II, grandson of the legendary Jim Beam, created this bottling, one of the first small-batch bourbons. The complex whiskey is aged for up to eight years and bottled straight from the barrel. Uncut and unfiltered, it packs a serious punch, with a proof ranging from 121 to 127.

  • Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin

    Perry’s Tot, which was created by advisory board member Allen Katz, is in the fashion of British navy-strength gin. (The liquor on warships had to be at least 114-proof, because gunpowder won’t ignite if weaker liquor than that spills on it.) The name is in keeping with the nautical theme: Commodore Matthew C. Perry served in the US Navy from the War of 1812 through the late 1850s, and “tot” was the measurement of alcohol formerly given to British sailors each day.

  • St. George Absinthe Verte

    San Francisco-based St. George has distinguished itself as one of the finest craft distilleries in America, and it makes one of our favorite absinthes as well, which is a potent 120-proof. The base is brandy that is infused with a combination of wormwood, fennel and star anise. The mixture is also distilled with herbs like tarragon and stinging nettle to give it a botanical bite. While it works well in cocktails, we also like to use it in a traditional Absinthe Drip.

  • Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum

    This 114-proof bottling is a blend of two types of Jamaican pot-still rum, which was popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Smith & Cross was developed with the help of award-winning drinks historian and advisory board member David Wondrich

  • Plymouth Navy Strength Gin

    Plymouth Gin recently reintroduced its potent 114-proof, navy-strength gin to the US. (Now we no longer need to haul bottles of it back from the UK.) Try it in the classic Pink Gin or in a Gimlet, which was supposedly invented to get sailors to take their daily ration of lime to prevent scurvy.

  • The Macallan Cask Strength Scotch Whisky

    Several years ago, The Macallan introduced this 116-proof cask strength Scotch that has no stated age on its label. The bottling allowed the distillery to get more supply out on the market without waiting as long for it to age. It’s a bit hard to track down now, but worth finding, especially if you’re a Macallan fan.

  • Louis Royer Force 53° Cognac

    With the name Force 53°, you better have a serious kick, and this cognac certainly does—but it packs more than just heat. According to all-star barman and advisory board member Dushan Zaric, the 106-proof spirit is ideal for cocktails, including his tasty Mata Hari.

  • Absolut 100 Vodka

    While the standard (and ubiquitous) Absolut Vodka rings in at 80-proof, the brand also make the more potent Absolut 100. The expression is, you guessed it, a solid 100-proof and is made from wheat in Åhus, Sweden, the birthplace of the brand’s creator, Lars Olsson Smith.

  • Laphroaig Cask Strength Scotch Whisky

    Scotch lovers: You’ll want to taste this smoky 114-proof, 10-year-old single malt from famed Islay producer Laphroaig. But we suggest adding a wee bit of water to this dram, since it’s so high-octane. The H2O will also help open up the flavor and release aromas. 

  • Stolichnaya 100 Vodka

    Russians take their vodka seriously, and Stoli 100 is no joke. The brand  claims it has distinct aromas of “marshmallow, mineral and mild fruit peel” and flavors of “pastry frosting, talc and citrus rind.” You’ll have you have try it yourself to see if you agree.

  • Pernod Absinthe

    Forget anything you’ve heard about hallucinogens: At 136-proof, this elixir doesn’t need any help knocking you off your feet. Pernod claims it’s the first absinthe ever produced, having officially started commercial production in 1805. Now that the Green Fairy is once again legal to buy, use it to mix up a delicious Sazerac or a Corpse Reviver #2.

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