The lazy gifter buys a bottle of wine or spirits and thinks they’ve accomplished something.
And they have. They’ve most likely purchased a bottle that’ll be drunk and forgotten in one evening, or stuffed away in a dusty cabinet (and probably regifted years later).
Hey, it’s hard to find a boozy gift that’s truly memorable (because, after all, booze is involved here). So in curating our gift list for tipplers, we only selected a few actual spirits. Instead, we erred on the side of barware, books and gift boxes/subscriptons — items that’ll be reused and replenished and therefore likely to stay in your recipient’s mind for years to come.
We didn’t completely leave out the hooch — amongst the wine and whiskey, we even offer a (gasp!) non-alcoholic option and a hard seltzer. Our criteria here was that the spirit had to offer up something new and/or a story that was worth repeating. (If you need more spirit suggestions, our best-of-year picks will be out starting next week).
So, let’s make some hazy memories together!
Proteau Ludlow Red
Yes, this botanical aperitif is booze-free, but it’s also the creation of a real drinks guru in John deBary (Momofuku, PDT). The end result here (a melange of blackberry, violet, black pepper, dandelion and fig vinegar) is bitter, floral and fruity, and something certainly worthy to serve in celebratory situations. It also arrives in a gift set that’s conveniently “one for them, one for you.”
Truly Survive the Holidays Gift Box
Even the snobbiest of InsideHook editors enjoys hard seltzer, which means you definitely have a friend or family member who would dig this gift set, featuring six assorted flavors of Truly (hoard the black cherry, pawn off the watermelon & kiwi), along with a “I’m TRULY on the Naughty List” unisex sweater, Cheers Restore Pills, a $25 gift card to Postmates, Stumptown Coffee beans and more.
The Impossible Collection of American Wine
It’s impossible to buy a bottle of vino that’ll impress your wine-savvy friends, so go one better with this beautiful, hand-bound tome on our country’s finest and rarest vintages, as curated by Enrico Bernardo, former Best Sommelier of the World winner. It’s also presented in a traditional wooden wine box, making it a showcase piece on its own.
Dims is a line of “new-century modern” furniture that’s handsome, sneakily versatile and decidedly unique — each item is a collaboration with a different design studio around the globe. It’s also all pretty damn affordable. Our favorite piece is this steel serving trolley (love the Wimbledon green colorway) works as a shelving unit, rolling table, or … let’s be honest, bar cart.
Garrison Brothers Single Barrel by the Barrel
First, make sure your intended giftee will appreciate a bourbon that hails from the heat of Texas, not Kentucky. If so, present ‘em with the ultimate gift — a trip to Hye, TX to select a barrel of small batch, premium bourbon with a distiller. From here, you can simply buy a single curated bottle … or you can literally buy the whole barrel, which yields up to 80 bottles of your hand-selected hooch.
George Dickel 13 Year Old Bottled in Bond
“Bottled in bond” is a late 19th century, government-backed guarantee to consumers that their whiskey was produced to a certain standard. It’s also higher-proof (50% ABV) and helps to highlight whiskey brands that actually distill their own spirits, as opposed to sourcing it. A recent entry is George Dickel’s 13-Year Old Bottled in Bond, an amazing age statement for a bottle that costs just $36 and yet just won Whisky Advocate’s Top Whisky of the Year (it made our list too, coming next week). The cheapest best whiskey gift you’ll ever give.
Aden Candle Barrel-Aged Manhattan
Love the candlelit cocktail bar? Take some of that atmosphere home these hand-poured, all-natural, made-in-the-USA candles, “distilled” to resemble the aromas and ideas behind some of your favorite cocktails. Witness the Barrel-Aged Manhattan, featuring notes of oak, vetiver, clove and sandalwood. Also available: Spiked Apple Cider, Mezcal Negroni and Bourbon & Maple (along with a few non-boozy scents).
TRNK Whiskey Decanter
Your barware is all surface. This hand-blown diamond glass decanter with a 24-karat gold leaf stopper, however, features real texture and a smoky colorway to enhance the appearance of your whiskey.
The Modern Gentleman
The problem with most cocktail books is that they’re not aimed at the everyday drinker. So master the basics first, with help from veteran drinks writer John McCarthy, who crafts short, digestible essays on everything from building your home bar to mastering the classic cocktails (along with a few non-boozy but certainly useful tidbits on oysters, hot sauces, cigars, watches and more). Bonus: It’s slim enough to fit any stocking.
Both a tailor and a spy, the real Hercules Mulligan saved George Washington’s life and inspired Alexander Hamilton. Pretty solid resume. HM the drink won’t win any wars, but it’s an exceptional marriage of American rye with aged Caribbean rum, along with some macerated fresh ginger and bitters. It’s a very limited-edition release from Flaviar, which also offers up a nice whisky club subscription disguised (purposely) as the worst gift ever.
Craft up to 10 different styles of Belgium drafts with these ready-to-brew kits, which feature everything you need to clean, ferment and cap your pints. Bonus: the ingredients are already pre-measured, so your giftee just needs to add sugar and water (and follow the instructions).
Jefferson’s Ocean Special Wheated Voyage 19
One of our favorite American whiskey brands sends out a few of their aging liquids on ocean-bound ships, where the waves and salt air imbue the spirit with a unique, salted caramel corn taste profile. Here, they’re using a wheat-forward mash bill, making the final result that much smoother.
A database to discover classes in your metropolitan area that relate to everything from art to cooking to life skills, CourseHorse also offers up thousands of worthy seminars on beer, spirits and wine (a search for “beer” in the New York area turned up 2500+ results). What you gift will depend on your home base, of course, but you can filter by duration, skill level, price and location.
Campari Cask Tales
This just-launched and extremely limited-edition variation on the iconic Italian aperitif is finished in second-fill bourbon barrels, giving an herbal and bitter spirit some creamy, fruity and oaky notes. Works well chilled or in cocktails.
De Soto Petit Cocktail Shaker
You really can’t go wrong buying anything at Cocktail Kingdom, which offers up some of the nicest and most original barware in existence. This stainless steel shaker is nice because it makes cocktail prep into a one-handed affair. Depending on your budget, you could also consider anything from a pitchfork-shaped ice pick ($20) to a 70mmm ice ball maker ($300).
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