I know. You’re freaking out. You have to get some last minute gifts in the form of wine and spirits, and you have no idea where to start. Gifting the right adult beverage can really leave a lasting impact, but let’s be serious here, you don’t want to break the bank. More importantly, you don’t want to look unsophisticated. I’m going to help with that. Thank me later.
Just like staging a house for sale, it’s an emotional connection that we seek when we give a gift. After all, it’s the intended thought behind it we want received, right? Instead of opting for a go-to like Grey Goose or wasting money on an expensive bottle of California Cabernet that the recipient has likely never heard of, I have an alternate approach – Premium packaging. Handing over a sexy bottle or something geeky and uncommon, you can wow your friends, family, and colleagues with supreme ease. Shall we jump right in?
I’ll start with the obvious: Champagne. It’s that festive time of year when we cheers to the old and to the new. And of course, everyone needs bubbles on New Year’s Eve. I’m a huge fan of Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. The bottle is absolutely gorgeous, it’s not one of the overpriced standard (and boring) big boys, and it looks like you know your stuff. Here are some tasting notes from Wine Spectator: Beautifully balanced and refined in texture, this displays exotic ground spice and floral accents to the flavors of poached white peach, Meyer lemon and candied ginger, with hints of pastry and honey. Offers a lasting, mouthwatering finish. Drink now through 2023. I can hear the music of clinking of glasses now. Price: $65
Next, we go to Bourbon. It’s the base spirit for so many cocktails that people love to have during the holidays, including Manhattans, (my fave) an Old Fashioned, or just neat (room temperature, without ice) to warm up. The bottle that Blantons comes in looks like a geometric glass grenade. It’s one of those bottles that shines on the top of anyone’s bar cart – mine included. Here are some talking points for you as you hand this over to your father-in-law. On the nose, there’s a spicy aroma of dried citrus and orange peels with a hint of caramel and vanilla. Then, on the palate, it’s full and soft, marked by a mix of burnt sugar, caramel, orange, and cloves. Trust me here. Gift wrapping is not necessary. Price: $46
So, I hate Tequila. There, I said it. Don’t judge me. I went on a vacation to Mexico once which got a little crazy, and I still haven’t fully recovered. That said, I have a tremendous solution for the tequila aficionado. And, what gift doesn’t go best with a name drop? Longtime friends George Clooney, Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman are behind the venture of Casamigos. Last time I was in my hometown of Philadelphia, my best bud forced me to drink this neat with a single ice cube, and I absolutely loved it. I continued to sip it for the rest of the night with dinner and beyond. And, knowing my history with Tequila, even I was shocked. Back to the packaging, the bottle says, “Hey there. I’m not from around here. I’m premium. And, I’m authentic.” With any tequila lover in mind, you have to spring for the Añejo. They’ll surely thank you. Here are some tasting notes from the team: The Añejo is aged for 14 months [in oak], and has a beautifully pure and refined complex aroma, with soft caramel and vanilla notes. It’s the perfect balance of sweetness from the blue weber agaves, layered with subtle hints of spice and barrel oak, with a lingering smooth finish. Price: $56
Ok, fine. You want to gift Vodka. I get it. It’s safe, and you want to feel comfortable. It’s super uncreative, but it’s mandatory for any household bar stock, and is the go-to base-spirit in the most popular of cocktails. Let’s forego the obvious picks here. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is produced in Austin at Texas’ first and oldest [legal] distillery. It’s made in small batches in an old fashioned pot still by Tito Beveridge (yes, that’s his actual name), a 50-something year old geologist, and distilled six times. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is designed to be savored by spirit connoisseurs and everyday drinkers alike. It is micro-distilled in an old-fashioned pot still, just like fine single malt scotches and high-end French cognacs. The kicker – it’s gluten free, which makes for the perfect talking point when handing this baby over (particularly for the diet conscious in Los Angeles). The bottle represents classic Americana, which is a rarity in the Vodka producing world – most of it coming across the pond from Europe. Tasting notes: There aren’t any. Vodka shouldn’t taste like anything. Price: $25
Lastly, you need to go big for your boss after that big promotion. He’s old. He’s crabby. And he likes dipping his cigar in a snifter of cognac before blazing it up. Instead of Louis XIII, and other famous cognacs that literally taste like liquid fire and cost an arm and a leg, I HIGHLY recommend Hennessey Paradis. Of all the cognacs I’ve ever tasted, it was the most sexy and velvety. It stood out because it was not as robust as the others we’ve all sampled. On top of that, it’s packaged in pear shaped crystal. It’s one of those bottles you put a lit candle behind as decoration. Here are some tasting notes: The nose reveals itself with the freshness of the first flowers of summer, as the most subtle perfumes waft through the air with a faultless finesse: spring essences, jasmine and orange flower swirl in a bouquet of remarkable intensity. The floral notes return on the palate, unremittingly, continually revealing new tones of expression. This cognac of great stature is characterized by a great finesse. Composed of eaux-de-vie aged between 30 and 130 years old, one must enjoy Paradis Imperial slowly, in order to fully appreciate the finesse of every single drop. Price: $2,500
Wow, breaking all of that down just made me a little thirsty. But, I’m proud to report that you’re now equipped to run to your neighborhood specialty wine/liquor store to get those not only last minute, but meaningful holiday gestures. Wishing all of you the happiest and healthiest of Holidays and New Year. Be safe out there. Cheers from the Sommelier Selection.