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Drinks Gift Guide: Maggie's Picks for Holiday Gifts
I'll admit it, I'm not quite done with my holiday shopping. If you're like me, you're still scrambling to think of what your loved ones would really enjoy. Though our Drinks columnists have already mentioned a few ideas for beer lovers, coffee pros, and cocktail fanatics, I wanted to offer a handful of additional tidbits of gifting inspiration—presents I've particularly enjoyed, unusual bottles to seek out, and DIY projects for making the holidays a little cheaper.
Prints from Drywell Art
I love a good cocktail print, and these vividly colored diagrams from Alyson Thomas of Drywell Art drew me in right away. Choose from the Negroni, the Manhattan, the Boulevardier, the Old Fashioned (with a twist!), or the wonderful Mint Julep.
Portland by Bike
The ultimate gift for a beer lover? A trip to Portland, Oregon. Bring this new book along with you—it's a guide to visiting the highlights of Puddletown's craft brew scene by bicycle.
A Trio of Gins
This collection of small-batch gins is the ideal gift for a gin lover looking to explore new variations on the spirit (and hone his or her flavor-recognition skills.)
St. George Spirits Botanivore Gin is distilled with 19 different botanicals including cinnamon, cilantro, and ginger. It's super floral and rich, with a bright, fresh herbal side—chilled, you might be fooled for thinking that there's already bontanical-infused vermouth in the mix. If you like Nolet's gin (which features roses prominently) you'll like this one too.
The St. George Terroir Gin feels the most seasonally appropriate&mdas;it's distilled with Douglas fir, bay laurel, and coastal sage; the aroma will take you right to a hike in the forest (or an evening next to a Christmas tree.) It's much more complex and multidimentional in flavor than your standard London Dry—this is just the thing to upgrade to if your regular tipple involves Tanqueray.
I first tried St. George's Dry Rye Gin in a masterful Old Fashioned at San Francisco's Bar Agricole, and I'm just as impressed with the unadorned spirit. The base is pot-distilled rye infused with lots of juniper, plus caraway, black peppercorn, grapefruit peel, and lime peel. It's rich and slightly malty, unusual and delicious.
A gift box of 200-mL bottles of all three gins sells for around $35 at liquor stores and online here, full size bottles sell for about $30 each.
Also keep an eye out for St. George's special 30th Anniversary Edition of St. George Single Malt Whiskey, rolling out this month in very limited quantities.
Askinosie Sipping Chocolate (with Intelligentsia Coffee)
For chocolate lovers who prefer the deep, bitter flavors of less-sweetened cocoa, Askinosie Chocolate's new sipping chocolate, infused with single origin coffee from Intelligentsia, is an ideal stocking stuffer. Mixed with warm milk, it's potent and complex, with just a touch of coffee flavor cutting the richness of the chocolate. The coffee's added into the chocolate before it's molded and broken into easily-meltable bits: this ain't no powdered cocoa mix.
Zalto Wine Glasses
The best wine glasses I've ever used were the ones I saw often in Austria (and more recently, at some top restaurants in the States.) These glasses—hand blown all in one piece—are precise and delicate. They really elevate the wine-drinking experience. Yet they're also remarkably sturdy—and Zalto recommends that you wash them in the dishwasher. If you're choosing one shape, choose the Universal.
For Tiki Lovers
If your loved one is into making Tiki drinks, they're really missing out on the experience if they're serving those beverages in regular cocktail glasses. Psycho Suzi's has an impressive assortment of zombie mugs available; check out the Psycho Zombie or the hefty Martiki. Throw in a copy of The DVD of Tiki while you're at it.
Having a bar stocked these days is expensive, especially with all of the specialty liqueurs that are popular. Help out your favorite cocktail geek with some homemade drink ingredients. Try your hand at Allspice Dram, or make better-than-Canton ginger liqueur. Mix up some orange bitters or craft your own tonic. Make big batches, divide into swingtop jars, and you've got Christmas covered.
Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
Save a little money and make some homemade gifts this year. Kenji's recipe for hot cocoa mix yields delicious results—to make it giftable, just put it in a pretty jar, tie on a ribbon, and decorate as desired. If you want to get fancy, give a package of homemade chocolate-peppermint marshmallows, too! (Here's the recipe for those.)
A Film from Terry Theise
Devoted fans of riesling have probably already read importer Terry Theise's gem of a book, Reading Between the Wines. This month, he'll release his film, which takes us with him to Germany. While the book was evocative, the film brings us physically into the vineyards, onto the crazy-steep slopes, and allows us to join a conversation with the producers who make wine there, and hear their thoughts on what make those wines special.
Glasses and Mugs
I'm a sucker for pretty glassware and lovely mugs, and most cocktail and hot-drink enthusiasts share my fanaticism. Check out the cobalt glasses at Terrain, the handpainted owl mugs at Anthropologie, or start digging around Etsy for vintage finds like these tall cut crystal sherbet glasses. Another option: a set including Yarai HardStrong rocks glasses, a mixing glass, barspoon, and spherical ice tray from Umami Mart.
Classy Cocktail Kit
Buy someone a drink, and they'll drink for an hour. Buy someone the ingredients for a drink and they'll drink for...well, until the bottles run out. Get them stocked up to mix a high-proof Boulevardier for wintertime sipping, featuring delicious and dangerously drinkable cask-strength Booker's bourbon, Campari (with the pretty new art label if you can find it), and top-notch Carpano Antica Vermouth. (If there's one thing cocktail people say often, it's that they wish they could always have Carpano on hand, but that it's just too pricey to buy for themselves.) Be sure to attach a card with the cocktail recipe—not that making a Boulevardier is that hard.
A Great Burr Grinder
Coffee at my house has improved 100-fold over the past year, thanks to two high-end pieces of equipment. First, the Breville Infuser espresso machine (which I wrote about here.) It's far better than any other machines we've tried in this price range (under $500). The key to upping its performance was a generous gift from my parents-in-law: a seriously amazing burr grinder. Though we'd been using an entry-level burr grinder for awhile, upgrading to the super-precise, espresso-friendly Baratza Preciso has taken our home espresso to a quite impressive place. It's all I can do to limit myself to two shots a day.
Caskers Craft Spirits Clubs
Give the handmade small-production spirits that aren't available at your loved one's local liquor store. Depending on which subscription you choose, 2 or 3 full-sized bottles will be delivered every 3 months. You can select an all-whiskey, all-vodka, or mixed spirits club (which will include small batch whiskies, vodkas, gins, tequilas, rums, mezcals and more.) The recipient will also receive background information on the distillery with each package.
Available online, prices vary. Use invite code SERIOUSEATS so you can register immediately for an account. Note: not available in AK, HI, KY, MA, PA, SD, TX, UT or WV. Order by Dec. 16 for Christmas delivery of first package.
Give a Magnum
Anything worth giving is worth giving big—and big bottles are much more festive. Whether it's a magnum of Champagne, Cru Beaujolais, or Christmas beer, a big bottle makes any evening into a special occasion.