Spirited Gifting

During the holidays we all run around trying to find the perfect gift that fits the recipients personality and interests, and there becomes a point when becomes downright difficult to that perfect something. This dilemma is enough to drive us to drink—at least when it comes to spirited gift-giving. Be it a bottle of Scotch, a new cocktail book or fancy glassware, a spirited gift is certain to make the season merry and bright. Best of all, spirited gifts of the liquid kind are just the sort of present that the giftee is likely to share with the gifter, so when you think about it, it’s also a gift for yourself. After all, who doesn’t like to share a drink and good times?

With that in mind, here are a few of the drink-related gift ideas I plan on placing under the tree this year:

Beautiful Bubbles:
Champagne makes everything festive, bright and bubbly, it’s a party in a bottle. but  with the price of my favorite “real”  Champagnes soaring this season, I’m perfectly happy to enjoy sparkling wines that are a different sort of delicious and every bit as bubbly. Two of my favorite sparklers that are delightfuly different, fun, and get into the color of the holiday spirit by being red are from Australia.

When star Australian winemaker Chris Ringland (he’s actually from New Zealand, but works his magic in Australia) came up with Bitch wine made from 100% Grenache, he created quite a stir. Now he’s created yummy Bitch Bubbly, NV, a Grenache/Shiraz blend. Made in the methode champenoise style, the wine has aromas of ripe strawberries, cranberries, rose petals and rhubarb. The palate shows white chocolate, summer berries and a good creamy palate. This delightful pink is different, eye-catching and perfect for any celebration. About $11.

For another different celebratory drink, one of my favorites (and several friends’ favorite) is Paringa Sparkling Shiraz. It’s red, its sparkling, it’s rich and flavorful, and the the juice is pure Paringa Shiraz full of bubbles and a dosage. Yummy. It is gorgeous to look at because the color is a saturated, deep, magenta red. It’s dark, dark, dark, rich, and juicy – full of crisp raspberry and blueberry flavors and bubbles galore. It is surprisingly complex and stunning to drink with its velvety, creamy tannins, persistent length of palate and delightful full-flavored finish that even non-wine drinkers will enjoy. About $12.

Gifts with Cordiality
Sometimes the perfect cordial gift is a cordial, and this year there are a few new interesting and luxurious cordials that make a perfect gift.
For your Bailey’s Irish Cream Liqueur drinker, I suggest offering Coole SwanIrish Cream Liqueur.
Yes, we all know Baileys is the iconic brand of Irish creams, the original, and by far the best-seller: it’s actually the 7th best-selling spirit in the world. But Coole Swan is a cream liqueur like no other, one sip and we fell in love! Packaged in a premium frosted bottle accented with stunning blue labeling, Coole Swan™ uses fresh cream from Ireland’s richest dairylands. The cream is then blended with single malt Irish whiskey tempered with the softest charcoal-filtered spirit. The flavors comprise bittersweet notes of white and dark chocolate, delicate infusions of Madagascan vanilla and rich cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire. When you sip, you find the whiskey is bright and vibrant in the rich and chocolatey cream. This sublime liquid delicately coats the mouth with real cream and chocolate. It most definitely tastes a real and not a fake imitation of creamy goodness. Best served ice-cold in a frozen glass to enjoy all its wonderful complexity of flavors. Your Irish Cream drinker with love you for it. About $30

I’m not sure when I first became addicted to Lazzaroni Amaretti cookies, but I know that I’ve loved them for a long time. When I discovered this Lazzaroni Amaretto 1851 Liqueur in the matching packaging was the authentic Italian Amaretto  infusion for those same “Amaretti di Sarrono” cookies, I was excited. This amaretto has been made and bottled in Saronno, Italy since 1851. Warm and inviting, it’s always a joy to drink and conjures of memories of cold January nights in Venice, and skiing trips in the Alps. When you open a bottle, the immediate nose is one of caramel. This is soon followed scents of toasted almonds, a gorgeous, heady perfume that pleasantly lingers. The appearance of the amaretto is rich amber and slightly viscous, like a thin maple syrup. The taste is rich and silky, and like the nose, the opening flavor is of caramelized almonds, followed by a delicate sweetness and smooth texture of almonds. Sip it, savor it, and relax as the subtle nutty sweetness flows across your palate. Or, trying using it to spike a glass of coffee or hot chocolate. The results will knock your socks off. This would make a perfect gift when paired with a matching box of Amaretti di Saronno. (hint, hint). About $22

Okay, admit it, the curvaceous, seductive bottle of Castries Peanut Rum Crème is alluring. If you have already tasted Castries you know the allure. This is a divine, decadent and all around delicious cordial!  Castries Peanut Rum Crème brings the rich heritage, energy and sensual indulgence of St. Lucia to your mouth. Each sip is a taste extravaganza. Being Peanut Créme, it tastes like peanuts, but the balance of buttery-ness is supreme—it is wispy softness with delicate peanut flavor wrapped in silky cream. Mmmm, mmmm, definite hints of Madagascar vanilla blended with the St. Lucian rum lend toward an almost caramel feel. Castries Peanut Rum Crème’s luscious flavor transcends taste, escorting one to a place of indulgence, seduction and exotic pleasure. This would make a truly unique tantalizing and spirited gift. About $33

If you love ginger in any shape or form, you’ll find Domaine de Canton is an incredible libation.  Domaine de Canton is made in Jarnac, France, and is a French ginger liqueur comprised of an eau-de-vie, a VSOP and an XO Grande Champagne Cognac blend. The cognacs are produced using fresh Tahitian vanilla beans, Provençal honey and Tunisian ginseng. They even infuse fresh baby ginger twice with Grand Champagne VSOP Cognac, and cut this same ginger by hand, then blend it with vanilla and orange-blossom honey from Provence. If you love ginger as much as I do, you will delight in the  fresh, intense flavors, and interesting notes of orange, cognac, and the rich, yet clean, finishing sweetness. Canton can be enjoyed straight, on the rocks, or in a number of fine cocktails. This year there is the Domaine Canton Ginger Liqueur Gift Set: a frosted, almost art deco style, 375ml bottle packaged with two lovely little glasses to hold this beautiful elixer. This set would make a beautiful gift for the ginger (or sushi lover) on your list. About $20

A Gift of Good Cheer
Oh, bring them some figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer in Figenza Fig Vodka. This is DEFINITELY one for the fig lover in your life. If you love figs or know someone who L-O-V-Es them, this will make the perfect gift bottle. Packaged in a beautiful tall, purple bottle this vodka is a deliciously fig-laden luxury born of the Mediterranean sun. Figenza is breathtakingly sweet, smooth and delicious— one sip and your heart will belong to this masterpiece of figgy goodness. It makes a beautiful gift idea decorated with a simple silver ribbon, or keep this super yummy delight it for yourself as your personal privilege. About $36

There’s a reason whisky is the national passion in cold, damp northern climes — nothing warms the heart and soul quite like it. Scotch lovers will enjoy the tastes and flavors of  Johnnie Walker The Collection. This gift set contains four 200ml bottles: One bottle each of Johnnie Walker Red Label – the world’s best selling whisky; Johnnie Walker Black Label – the original Walker whisky – aged 12 years; Johnnie Walker Gold Label – rich, creamy and complex – aged 18 years; and Johnnie Walker Blue Label – the ultimate scotch whisky – this bottle alone makes it worth the $99 price tag. This sampler allows for a sampling and taste comparison of four of the Johnnie Walker blends.

For your favorite single malt drinker, give the The Single Malt That Started It All: The Glenlivet. Encased in a metal tin with an engraved flask, this 12-Year-Old single Malt whiskey is known for its smooth and characterful qualities. There is the exquisite delicacy of summer-like fragrances,  interlaced with floral and fruity aromas. There is also the sensuous touch of exotic fruit, notably pineapple. It opens in time on creamier and richer notes of ripe apricots. Oak tenderly enhances that enticing bouquet with more vanilla and nutty notes and an echo of toasted oats. this is followed by smooth, sweet fruit notes of white peaches and pears poached in vanilla syrup. Those honeyed floral notes shine through, leaving a silky feel on the tongue, leading to a  finish full of Marzipan and fresh hazelnuts followed by a gentle spiciness of grated ginger. Around $49. A glass of this in front of a warm and cozy fire, how can you resist?

Have the merriest — and most spirited — of holidays!

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