If you run with anything resembling the right kind of crowd, you likely have at least one bottom-shelf drinker on your holiday shopping list. At first blush, this breed of boozer might seem easy to impress—What do you get the man who has nothing? Well, a six-pack of tube socks and a plastic jug of rum is a good start—but the bottom-shelf lifestyle is about so much more than a simple lack of shame, resources, or discernment.
We bottom-shelfers don't choose this path because we lack the means or sophistication to aim higher, but rather because we appreciate the subtle beauty of the more accessible liquors. It's easy to derive pleasure from vintage Champagnes, trophy bourbons, and extra-virgin IPAs. If you want to give your bottom-shelfer a gift he'll enjoy, go right ahead with the magnum of Double Imperial Pappy Van Krug. Everyone with a tongue likes that stuff. But if you want to give a bottom-shelfer something that says you understand and respect his world view, that you realize he has not just a tongue but also a heart and maybe even a soul, you might consider these options.
The Modern Drunkard
Frank Kelly Rich and his unmerry band of Denver-based derelicts have been "Standing Up for Your Right to Get Falling Down Drunk Since 1996," and they now offer a book-length version of their distilled wisdom; it lists for $15 and Amazon has it for $10.99 in paperback, or $10.44 for Kindle. Modern Drunkard magazine is also available through their website, $24 for 6 issues.
Planter's says, "Being corn to the core is about staying true to yourself, being genuine and being authentic. It's about taking what's at your core and proudly showing it—because our cores define all of us, just like corn defines Corn Nuts." I say, what a weird load of marketing bullshit BUT ALSO I really like Corn Nuts. Your first instinct for solid matter to accompany the bottom-shelf diet might be the iconic Beer Nuts, or perhaps wasabi peas to mask any untoward flavors from low-born liquor, but both of those otherwise-worthy snacks go down too fast. Corn Nuts require a little more chewing commitment, which will help extend the eating portion of the meal.
To a civilian, a dollar coin is a novelty at best and a nuisance at worst. If you're not a dedicated bottom-shelfer, it will just sit in your change jug depreciating for a year until you sell it to CoinStar for 90 cents. In the proper hands, however, it is transformed into an insurance policy for a rainy day that's threatening to come up short one 24-ounce can of Natural Ice.
40-Ounce Beer Cozy
Beer cozies are great in theory, but in reality they can be more trouble than they're worth. If you can't drink a tiny little can of beer fast enough to keep it cold on a hot summer's day, you need to stop blaming your equipment and start rethinking your commitment to the project. 40-ounce beers are also great in theory but troublesome on the street, for much the same (or is it the opposite?) reason: If you rush to drink a 40 before the last sip gets cold, you risk making the sort of bad decision that could deprive you of your health or your liberty or your next 40. Enter the neoprene 40 sleeves from the good folks at 40cozy.com. A mere $8.99 will keep your malt liquor cool until business is finished; I'm partial to the tuxedo print, but you could talk me into the bandana model.
Because bottom-shelfers get lucky sometimes, too, and nobody wants to taste your unminted mouth when you're Schlitz-faced.
Keg Cup Shot Glasses
I don't tend to go in for novelty shot glasses. Why can't you just pour the proper dosage into a regular glass and get on with it? But these are too clever to ignore. Get four of them at Urban Outfitters for $14.
Old Crow Reserve
Old Crow is very important to me. It was the first budget booze I truly appreciated. It's seen me through many a rough patch, and a couple of smooth ones too. On special occasions when I can find it and I have three extra dollars, I like to upgrade to Old Crow Reserve. You might be tempted to give your bottom-shelfer a bourbon with a grander ornithological heritage—an Eagle Rare, say, or even a Wild Turkey—but if you really want to respect his priorities, you'll give a gift that says, "Hey man, I get you. You like to keep it honest. So how's about this holiday season we keep it honest, plus another 6 proof and a slicker label?"