You still have time to buy gifts, and wine and spirits are ideal (for responsible adults who appreciate such things). But you want to go beyond the generic vodka in a shiny box. Below and in the accompanying slideshow are several creative gift sets for the wassailer in your crowd.
Bols Genever Holiday Gift Set: Bols Genever has a “Dutch Courage” gift set to introduce drinkers to a whole other side of gin. When British mercenaries fought for the Dutch in the 1600s, they were given a shot an unusual malted liquor before entering battle, a practice soon known as “Dutch Courage.” It led the way for gin to take over the British navy and eventually evolve into what we know as London Dry. In Amsterdam, even today, shots of genever (a fragrant precursor to gin), called a Kopstootje or “little head butt” are still quaffed in tiny drinking houses around the city. Introduce your tippling friend to the practice with the gift set which includes a 750 ml bottle of Bols Genever and two traditional “tulip” glasses. How to drink? Poor the shot into the glass, bend down without using your hands, and either sip or shoot from the glass. Pair with a Dutch beer for an authentic social drink.
Crown Royal Holiday Embroidery: Crown Royal Whisky is well known its ornate carrying/presentation purple cloth bags. For $10 at CrownRoyal.com, you can order the classic purple ” bag personalized with up to two lines of text (might be a little late for Christmas if you order now. That’s okay, booze is always appreciated). This year, however, there are a number of chatty bags ($10 each) in a variety of rich colors for the classic Canadian whisky.
Crown Royal Deluxe has the classic purple bag with gold lettering.
Crown Royal Black, the newest iteration at a robust 90 proof, can be cased in (of course) black and gold.
Crown Royal Reserve is crafted by distiller Andrew McKay from his favorite whiskies. In a posh camel color with purple script.
Crown Royal Cask No 16. Designed for savoring, Cask 16’s bag is black with gold lettering.
Crown Royal XR bags are equally royal (or Christmassy), in a rich red with gold lettering.
Cabo Wabo Gift Box: Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo tequila has gained in both popularity and credibility among aficionados in the past couple of years as the brand has repositioned itself. Thus, a high-end gift box of wood and leather, containing the brand’s standout super-premium iteration, Cabo Uno, is a much-appreciated gift for any serious tequila sipper. ($150)
My Private Cointreau Coffret: Cointreau brand ambassador and burlesque beauty Dita Von Teese has teamed up with the orange liqueur to produce this girly-girl jewelry box-style gift set, complete with Cointreau, glasses, and a “secret” compartment (“because we women need to keep our secrets,” she says coyly). Read an interview with Von Teese about the gift set, or visit facebook.com/Cointreau. ($300)
Moet & Chandon Imperial Bottle: For the person who still drives a Hummer, wears an oversized sports-luxury watch, and has a 150,000 square-foot-McMansion (or for the person entertaining all 100 of his closest relatives), Moet & Chandon are offering up this 3-foot-tall, 15-liter bottle containing over 120 glasses of fine bubbly. No phallic references in *this* picture. Available at Sherry Lehmann Wine & Spirits with express delivery available. ($2,140).
Galliano Harvey Wallbanger Gift Set: Dutch company Lucas Bols has re-introduced the original Galliano recipe. Less sweet and more herb-driven (with a higher ABV of 42.3%) than what’s been on the shelves the past decade or so. Not only that, but the orange juice-driven Harvey Wallbanger, popular in the 1960s and ’70s, is back and gaining credibility among better bars around the country. Pick up a Harvey Wallbanger Gift Set, featuring Galliano L’autentico, recipes and a Long Glass to try your own hand at a much maligned classic.
Absolut Glimmer: Okay, this is just regular Absolut vodka in a shimmery cut-glass-like bottle. But for the holidays, backlight it with a candle, or underlight it, and it adds sparkle to your Vodka Tonics. Perfect for New Year’s Eve parties. Read about the NYC Absolut Gilmmer launch, including a performance by “Forget You” singer Cee-Lo.
Campari Art Labels: Italian aperitif Campari has received renewed interest in the U.S., mostly in cocktails, and appears on the home bars of trendy financial types in downtown Manhattan as often as on cocktail geek kitchen counters. For your Negroni and Americano-loving friends, Campari has jazzed things up a bit in honor of the label’s 150th birthday. The company hired three artists to create three custom, limited-edition labels. Buy all of them and you’ll have the French Hens Day of Christmas covered. ($28 each).
Lucid Absinthe Louching Kit: In the world of absinthe, the “louche” is the milky-white, slightly opaque tone absinthe develops as water is added to the liquor (when the H20 is dripped slowly into the mix, one can envision an otherworldly spirit inhabiting your drink). Lucid, one of the first to kick off absinthe’s return to the U.S. back in 2007, is offering up a kit designed for the proper drinking of absinthe (hint #1, no, you don’t set it on fire). The kit includes a bottle of Lucid, two absinthe glasses and an absinthe spoon (you set a sugar cube on it, balance it on the glass, and slowly pour water over the cube). And here’s where you learn How to Drink Absinthe. ($60)
Camus Elegance: New to the U.S. this year, but popular in Europe and Asia, this carefully made cognac is offering up a variety of gift boxes for each of its labels (VS, VSOP and XO). The Camus VS is an affordable, floral choice. The limited edition gift box includes an attractive gold-and-black package and two rocks glasses for enjoying the cognac neat, by a fireside. ($26 to $120)
Thirsty for more? Check out National Spirits Examiner or NY Drinks Examiner.
Do you have a cocktail trend, new product bar or teahouse you’d like me to review? Want to give me a heads-up on your favorite hot spot? Please email me at NYDrinksExaminer AT gmail.com. Or follow me on Twitter @roberthp.