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When I was a kid, the holiday season was undoubtedly the best time of year. My birthday is just a couple weeks before Christmas, which meant I got all of my annual allotment of gifts at one time. I was also (and still am) a kid that loved to eat, so getting all the holiday food and desserts, in addition to the presents, made the whole season feel just like heaven to me.
But that’s the problem with kids. They’re all “get me, get me, get me” and “I can’t drive myself to the hospital” (I was also highly accident prone as a kid, but I digress). Of course, payback is inevitable, and we all grow up to become the ones on the other side of this gift giving equation. We’re expected to shell out our hard-earned cash to buy toys that probably won’t be played with in a few weeks’ time, and all we get in return is a hand-drawn card and maybe a homemade key chain. OK, those things are super cute, but you get the point.
What I suggest doing his holiday season is giving the kiddies a hand and getting yourself something delicious on their behalf. Note: you’ll have to order it yourself and pay for it with your own money, but if you pretend it’s their gift to you, the purchase becomes more than warranted. And don’t forget about your adult friends either – they probably deserve some holiday cheer too!
To make this gift giving as painless as possible, I’ve created this holiday gift guide to buying booze for others (or yourself). I find most people fall within three categories: The Traditionalist, The Mixologist, and The Connoisseur. Pick the one most appropriate for your recipient and follow the simple advice for gifting success.
The Traditionalist reminds you of someone your grandpa drank with. They’re the ones who invented cocktail culture and made it cool. Typically, they’ll have a favorite drink or two, and stick to those old standbys without too much wavering.
This presents both a blessing and a curse for the gift giver. On the one hand, it’s simple – you know what they want and it’s usually pretty straightforward. Most classic cocktails have relatively few ingredients, all of which easy enough to find and aren’t prohibitively expensive. Think liquor, bitters, juices, liqueurs, syrups, etc. Some classics can even be homemade for that extra special touch (take a page out of the kids’ playbook).
On the other hand, if you get stuff for the wrong cocktail, the gift will probably all go to waste. So do a little research on your target. Observe their next order at the bar. Ask their significant other. Straight up ask them about their favorite drink! (If that’s too suspicious, go with the not-so-sneaky “I’m looking for a new favorite drink. What do you recommend?” route.)
Once you find out what drink they like, figure out what’s in it. That’s usually as simple (or complex) as a Google search. Case in point, you’ll find literally THOUSANDS of recipes for an Old Fashioned online. Each recipe is likely to have its own flair with non-core ingredients wildly different from one to the next. Thus, the best things to look for when in a gift-buying mindset are the main ingredients - the base liquors, liqueurs and syrups, as well as any bitters. These make the foundation of any variation on the drink, and are likely useable no matter which specific recipe your recipient prefers.
Here’s a quick rundown of some quality, staple spirit products that any Traditionalist would be thrilled to pour into their next cocktail. Coincidentally and not at all on purpose (and, if you believe that, we have a house in Bali to sell you), they can all be found on Ezra’s online store. Heck, I’ll even throw in some links!
· Whiskey - Few Single Malt Whiskey
· Rye - Corsair Ryemageddon
· Gin - FEW Standard Issue Gin
· Vodka - Blaum Brothers Vodka
· Rum - New Holland Michigan Amber Rum
· Liqueur - St. George Nola Coffee Liqueur
· Bitters - Angostura Bitters
The Mixologist is the person who actually reads about cocktails, watches the Youtube videos, has more than one cocktail shaker, and likely developed their own signature drink using egg whites and something that’s smoked. It also might seem like the person in question was conceived while their parents were smoking something. Anyway, they’re likely to love trying a multitude of flavors, textures, and techniques when it comes to cocktails. To them, it’s more about the art form and journey rather than the drink itself.
The flip side of the Traditionalist, the Mixologist is typically lots of fun to buy for because you pretty much can’t go wrong. Anything out of the norm would suit their tastes just fine, including smoked whiskies and obscure liqueurs (see the Besk below). Just remember that you’ll probably be drinking whatever they end up making, so don’t go too far off the deep end.
If you want to do a little research into the latest and coolest in cocktails, check out liquor.com or reddit.com/r/cocktails (one of my favorite resources). Otherwise, this list below can help guide you to some non-traditional choices for your non-traditionalist friends:
The Connoisseur is the type of person who keeps detailed notes on all of the drinks they try. Like, really detailed notes. They know the date of barreling, the different elements of the nose and finish, the precise ABV %, the specific grains used in the mash and so on. What’s more, they know what each of these elements actually means and how it contributes to the overall cocktail. They’re known to usually take their drinks neat or on the rocks depending on the liquor. You’ll catch them sniffing their glasses and making that God-awful slurping noise. Most of all, though, the Connoisseur has a full experience with their drink. It’s almost spiritual to them.
By far, they prefer quality over quantity, enjoying the complexities of each glass. The perfect gift for them would be something they can really explore. They want something with depth and complexity, much like an Adam Sandler movie. (Ok, that’s obviously a bad, sarcastic joke, but it made you think for a second, right? No? Oh well, it’s staying.)
So: depth and complexity, and maybe something a little different and unknown. Japanese whiskies are rapidly growing in popularity right now because of the quality and intriguing spirits that are consistently being produced. Smoked whiskies can truly challenge the palate. That’s a word the Connoisseur will use a lot. Also: "mouthfeel." If you can throw those words around, you’ll be accepted.
Lucky for you, Ezra’s carries nothing but high quality craft spirits, so you can’t go wrong. Here’s what I recommend:
While buying booze for others (or, again, for yourself) may leave your wallet a little lighter, it’ll also leave your heart a little lighter too. Plus, when your lucky drinker opens their gift and see the thought you’ve put into it, they’re more likely to be in a generous enough mood to share some of it with you.
Rod is a foodie in the sense that he eats several times a day. He's a writer, woodworker, and whiskey drinker. Keep up on Twitter @rodwaynick