You’re trapped on a desert island, but the good news is that you can bring five bottles of booze with you to pass the time. Look, there’s even ice and bar tools—you’re all set. What would you choose?
Fresh off a stint as head bartender at Chicago's GreenRiver, Julia Momose is now a bar consultant and member of the team at fine-dining foodie haven Oriole. There, she oversees the cocktail program, an intricate and progressive pairings lineup that corresponds to a roughly 15-course tasting menu, and also the creation of zero-proof cocktails.
Momose calls the desert island proposition a "devious and delightful question," finding a few difficult decisions ahead of her. "I hate the thought of never sipping some spirits again," she says. "But the notion of enjoying any of these freely makes me extremely happy." These are her five happy picks.
When it comes to sherry, Momose loves it all. "Fino, manzanilla, amontillado, oloroso! There are so very many sherries that I love for different reasons, at different moments in the evening," she says. But for her, the palo cortado in the Antique line from Fernando de Castilla stands apart. "This particular one is near perfection at any time," says Momose. "Ever-changing and developing, it is bright and rich at the same time, old in all the right ways, and sweet, salty and savory. I don't think I will ever grow tired of this sherry."
Aquavit is becoming a popular choice in the desert island series, and it was a mandatory inclusion for Momose, as well. "I must have some aquavit," says Momose. "Choosing just one is a challenge—they are all so very unique." Momose found her winning choice surprisingly close to home, with American brand Gamle Ode. "Gamle Ode Celebration aquavit is so delicious, with fresh dill, juniper, coriander, vanilla bean, star anise and citrus peels in addition to the caraway seed," she says.
Suze has been around for more than 125 years, with Pablo Picasso famously depicting a bottle of the liqueur in his work entitled Verre et bouteille de Suze (1912). Still, it took until just a few years ago for Suze to run rampant across the U.S. cocktail community. "Bitter and sweet and divine," says Momose. "This liqueur has such depth to it, like the gentian is wrapping its leaves, stem and roots into the bottle as the flowers blossom in the glass," says Momose.
"This is my sipping vermouth," says Momose. "At 16 percent ABV and made from a complex mélange of herbs and spices." Ambre contains 49 herbs and spices, while offering a sweeter profile than the signature dry Noilly Prat, and Momose also loves it for its all-purpose versatility. "When it comes to cocktails, I truly enjoy how versatile this vermouth can be," she says. "It hits all the right marks in the ways that matter, as I find it to be unique and enjoyable neat, chilled or on the rocks. "Simple servings of complex ingredients are sometimes the way to go," says Momose. "Now I am looking forward to sipping some of this later today!"
For whisky lovers, Hibiki 17-year-old hardly needs any introduction. "Hai," says Momose, who was born and raised in Japan. "Because, if I am stuck on a desert island, I want to be sipping some of the best whisky around. I have a love affair with Hibiki 12 Year, as well as the Chichibu single malts, Ichiro’s Malt Card Series and Nikka Yoichi 15 Year."
The Hibiki 17 is just that much more special for her, though. "There is something about the Hibiki 17 that, on the rare occasion I have a dram, fills me with a sense of wonder and hugs me from the inside out," says Momose. "Also, the bottles are gorgeous and could possibly be transformed into a concentrated light source that will lead to my rescue from this desert island. Just a thought."