It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the gift-giving that goes on during the holidays. However, one of the least complicated items you can give during the season is a bottle of alcohol. It may be cliché, but honestly, there should be no shame in gifting alcohol! Who wouldn’t want a bottle of excellent champagne or aged whiskey? I certainly wouldn’t say no to that and you’re friends and family won’t either.
The key is to think about the person you are giving the alcohol to—do they always order the random mezcal cocktail that’s on the speakeasy’s menu? Get them mezcal. Are they always sipping red wine and dreaming of planning a trip to the Napa Valley? Get them a spectacular bottle of red they haven’t tried before.
To find the best and most interesting bottle you can afford, hit up your local BevMo! (a specialty spirits shop) or the Internet. Don’t shop at a grocery store and you’ll be better able to score spirits that impress. Still at a loss at what to give to your boss, sister’s significant other, or new boyfriend’s best friend’s girlfriend? Here are 20 spirits that I would happily give and receive—and since I’m quite the discerning hostess, I promise your host will be wowed!
Galliano ( $40 )
Galliano is a somewhat sweet Italian herbal liqueur that was wildly popular in the 1970s thanks to a cocktail called the Harvey Wallbanger, which is a mixture of vodka, orange juice, and Galliano. Gift this spirit to the hostess whose bar cart is already crowded with the usual suspects. Suggest that she add a splash to her next mimosa.
Fernet Francisco ( $40 )
Fernet is an amaro made with an insane number of herbaceous ingredients. The most commonly known brand is Fernet Branca, but this is a somewhat harsh, bitter, and potent spirit—that you either love or hate. Fernet Francisco, a new bottle created by two San Francisco bachelors, is much smoother and mellower. It’s actually quite a wonderful spirit! Give to the host who loves experimenting with new types of alcohol.
High West Bourye ($90)
High West is a craft distiller based in Park City, Utah and their Bourye, a blend of bourbon and rye, is a genius invention that will dazzle the serious whiskey drinker in your life.
Auchentoshan is a Scottish distillery that practices triple distillation and dates back to 1823. The triple distillation gives Auchentoshan a lovely sweetness and a more delicate flavor than most Scotches. It’s a solid gift for a Scotch drinker.
Campo de Encanto Pisco ( $40 )
Campo de Encanto Pisco is the perfect liquor for your globe-trotting friend who just returned from traveling in South America. Chances are they enjoyed plenty of pisco sours and will be eager to re-create their adventures at home in beverage form. Encanto is a Peruvian-made pisco from an American bartender, Duggan McDonnell, the owner of San Francisco’s Cantina bar.
Campari ( $36 )
Campari is a bitter Italian liqueur that’s a great bet for the cocktail geek in your life. It’s a crucial ingredient in the Negroni, a classic tipple supposedly created for an Italian count.
St. Germain ( $32 )
A relatively new liqueur that was introduced to the world in 2007, St. Germain is floral and sweet liquid flavored with elderflowers. Tie a red satin bow around it and give to the girlie hostess who loves making Kir Royales. Tell her St. Germain is the new Chambord!
Most beer aficionados enjoy a glass of the frothy and dark Chimay, a Belgian ale made in a Trappist monastery. However, don’t show up to the party with a regular old bottle. What will really stop your ale-loving host in their tracks is a magnum of the Chimay grande reserve. Cheers!
Scribe is one of Sonoma’s most illustrious vineyards, founded by two young, attractive brothers. It’s a hipster winery and their skin-fermented chardonnay is unlike any other. It even comes in a cool, unusually-shaped bottle. Gift one to the gal pal who guzzles chard as if it were water.
There are lots of awesome Champagne houses, but only one is the world’s first and oldest, dating back to 1729, and that is Ruinart. It’s a little harder to find than other more common brands, but seek it out. The bubble-lover in your life will greatly appreciate a bottle of their non-vintage sparkling brut rosé.
High rollers, this bottle is for you. It’s a 40-year-old aged bottle of single-malt Scotch whisky. It’s older than I am with a price tag to match, but is a gift for that special someone who has everything they could ever want. Why not give them a $5000 bottle of alcohol?
Mezcal is tequila’s smoky cousin. It’s made with agave that is smoked underground before being distilled. It’s a potent spirit that’s not for the faint of heart, but makes a lovely gift for the bartender in your world.
When absinthe was finally legalized in the U.S. in 2007, St. George, a distillery based in Alameda, California, was the first to release a bottle of the green fairy. Give this to the adventurous, party-loving host who enjoys trying new things.
There are some people who prefer vodka and that is perfectly fine! Don’t show up to their house empty handed. Instead bring a giant bottle of icy cold Grey Goose.
Carpano Antica Formula ( $36 )
The host that always orders Manhattans? Give them a bottle of Carpano Antica Formula. It’s a fancy red vermouth that can be used to make the most wonderful Manhattans around.
Odette is a newer vineyard from the PlumpJack group, a San Francisco-based hospitality company run by the Lt. Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, and his sister Hilary. Their first release of cabernet sauvignon is the 2012 bottling. The reserve bottle received 100 points from leading wine critic Robert Parker—which is very hard to do!— and is currently sold out. However, an estate bottle of the vineyard’s Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon is equally impressive.
One year I was dating a guy who could buy himself whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. He was always ordering green Chartreuse at the bar, so for Christmas I gifted him a bottle of incredibly smooth, hard-to-find VEP, a more refined green Chartreuse. Our relationship fizzled, but years later when I ran into him one night, I asked him if he drank the VEP, he said yes, while heli-skiing in Colorado! He also said that it was absolutely wonderful and that he had thought of me. Isn’t that the point of any gifted spirit? That the drinker thinks of the person who gifted it to them while sipping it? I hope so!
For those who love rum, seek out a bottle of this aged rum from Trinidad and Tobago. It’s rich, syrupy, and caramelized—ideal for enjoying on the rocks or neat.
Ocho is my favorite brand of tequila. It’s made like wine, with agave plants harvested from the same region and year, so it reflects the terroir of a certain area. The reposado is so smooth and good, it will impress even the old-school Mexican granddads who are used to shooting chilled Patrón.
Whisky that’s aged in white Canadian oak trees that date back to 1867? Yes, please! This is a truly unique and iconic bottle that should be gifted to a connoisseur of different types of whiskey.
What’s your go-to spirit to give?