The ultimate boozy holiday gift guide

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The holidays are approaching, and it’s time to think about presents! While a bottle of wine, gin or whiskey will almost certainly be appreciated by many on your gift list, why not mix it up this year with something that spices up their home bar or highlights their appreciation of a delectable dram? Below, a veritable wishlist of elegant barware, flavor enhancers, books, goofy stocking stuffers and more for those hard (or fun)-to-buy-for folks on your list.

Age Your Own Whiskey Kit

Age Your Own Whiskey Barrel

When it comes to whisk(e)y, whether it’s Bourbon, Rye or Scotch, the magic happens in the barrel. That’s where you get the color and complex notes of vanilla, caramel, oak and leather. Grand Teton Distilling out of Driggs, Idaho (on the Wyoming border), elevates your home bar with a small new oak barrel for your kitchen counter or bartop. Drop a bottle of unaged whiskey in the barrel, check back each week, and in a month or two, you’ll have a mellow, personally crafted brown spirit. Or add already-made bourbon, tequila, cognac, rum, or spirits-forward cocktails— you’ll develop additional warmth, flavor and aging in a snap. PRO TIP: Submerging the barrel in water for two or three days prior to filling helps to avoid leaks.


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Whiskey Barrel

’70s Ladies’ Six-Ounce Wood Flask

Wood Flask 6oz 70's Ladies


Add a touch of Mod swagger to your backpack, handbag or hidden garter with this wood-wrapped flask from Spitfire Girl. Natural wood veneers are cut and stained to create a groovy retro silhouette, which is then hand wrapped around a stainless steel flask. A number of other designs are available, as is gift wrapping.



Doctors And Distillers: The Remarkable Medicinal History Of Beer, Wine, Spirits And Cocktails

San Francisco-based booze writer and Alcohol Professor contributor Camper English has been covering the field for a good long time now. He also has a background in science and is known for regularly creating massive databases and conducting careful experimentation on how to produce clear ice at home, along with chasing down accurate (as possible) booze histories. This book combines his multiple interests, looking at the long history (think monks and alchemists) of alcohol both as legitimate medical treatment and as marketed medical “miracle” (and a way to dodge Prohibition). Historic ads, obscure products and humorous observation make this an entertaining and informative read.


History of beer and wine

Malfy Gin Limone Gift Set

Italy may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of gin, but Malfy is legit. Heck, there’s an argument to be made that gin has its origins in Italy (where juniper is plentiful and historically considered medicinal). Distilled and bottled in Turin (northern Italy), it’s bright, crisp and citrusy. This set comes with two large Copa glasses, allowing you to enjoy a tasty “gintonic” they way folks do along the Mediterranean.


Gin set

Bourbon & Bites Distillery Tour

Great Jones Distilling Company, Manhattan’s first and only modern whiskey distillery, launched in August 2021. It’s proved to be a popular destination, with Happy Hour specials, a full-service restaurant, and a variety of experiences for locals and visitors alike. The Bourbon & Bites tour combines the traditional gaping at mash tuns and stills with a tasty sampling afterwards of the distillery’s whiskeys alongside cheese, chocolate and charcuterie. They’ll even explain how they’ve managed to offer five-year aged whiskey at a year-old distillery (they thought ahead). Private tours also available.


Bourbon & Bites Distillery Tour

Hijinx Ice Cream Powder

If you’ve ever watched a cooking competition on TV, you’ll know that making your own ice cream in a rush can be a hit-or-miss business, and traditional ice cream makers take time and effort, and take up precious space. Hijinx solves all these problems, and you get to customize your own ice cream. TikTok and Instagram loves this stuff, by the way. Combine the Hijinx powder with warm half-and-half (or water, coffee, Almond milk, booze, etc), blend, cool, mix in your creative combinations (think beyond chocolate chips to Cheetos, mac & cheese, jam, etc) and freeze. Ice cream! Hijinx now also offers pre-mixed flavor options, including Piña Colada, Napa Valley Merlot and Irish Cream (and they’re half the price of the original). Gift bundles are currently on sale as well.

$10 / pack

Hijinx Ice Cream Powder

Customizable Inverted Ice Cube Tray


Large ice cubes with logos or other designs is a super cool (pun intended) trend we love seeing in our favorite bars. With Siligrams ice trays, you can get a custom ice mold featuring your initials, logo or unique design. Each mold in the 4-cube tray can even feature different designs. Great for home bars or large businesses, because there is no minimum or maximum order. Added bonus: the trays are made right here in the good ol’ US of A.

 $49.99 and up

Customized ice tray

Glass Topper Cocktail Smoker

There are a myriad of methods to infuse wood smoke into cocktails, creating a richer, more complex drink. This elegant system is compact, simple and designed to smoke one drink at a time. Place the wood topper and mesh screen atop your glass, fill with wood chips, smoke with a blowtorch and cover to infuse. Et voila!

$65 without blowtorch, $100 with

Glass topper

Hog Island Beginner’s Oyster Shucking Kit

Your friend has a bottle of smoky, peaty Islay Scotch and wants to know what else to do with it. If they haven’t done oyster luges, here’s your chance to introduce them to a whole new world. The starter kit includes a shucking knife, sturdy glove set and 36 ultra-fresh extra small Hog Island Sweetwaters (or similar type depending on the season) out of California. They’ve even got an instructional video.


oyster kit

Black Mother-Of-Pearl Coaster Set

Likhâ (meaning “creation” or “to craft”) curates beautifully handcrafted home goods, jewelry, and more from artisans and communities in the Philippines. These luxurious coasters are crafted from black mother-of-pearl and each is unique. You’ll receive a set of four, along with a canvas storage pouch. Hand clean. Secure free shipping (in the U.S.) on orders over $100 with code FREESHIP.


Mother of pearl coaster

Sippers Bureau Virtual Tastings

Whether you’re still skittish about large groups or simply living somewhere it’s not easy to access the experts, this virtual tasting series, featuring industry giants walking you through the fine points of whisky, rum, bourbon, tequila and more is an excellent experience. Industry legends like Ivy Mix, Dave Broom, and Peggy Noe Stevens offer up customizable tasting experiences online as part of the universe that is Spirits Network. Book a class for yourself or a group, fill in the details, and Spirits Network will mail you a premium tasting kit (read: booze and glasses). Learn detailed information as you sip along (like Masterclass but live, customized, and with the best drinks).

Price Varies

Spirtis guide

Scotch Malt Whiskey Society Membership

For the single malt fan on your list, surprise them with a membership to this venerable Scotch-loving organization. Members have access to events, tastings, and specially sourced and blended bottles of some of the best Scotch whiskies around. Scroll down the page to the One-Year Membership and Tasting Kit (you can buy it for yourself or gift it). The lucky recipient will receive all the benefits of membership along with a tasting kit of three different 100ml single-cask whiskies, two Glencairn glasses, a small water pitcher, and an SMWS notebook for tasting notes.



Scotch Malt Whiskey Society Membership

Spicy Salt Trio

From an innovative hot sauce subscription club comes this spiced salt set. Great on grilled meats, of course, consider rimming your margarita glass or adding just a pinch to citrus-forward cocktails for added complexity. You’ll receive a jar each of Smoked Serrano, Black Reaper, and Himalayan Ghost salts. Check out their Hot Sauce Gifts for other gift boxes (the All-Star Crate is a nice introduction). Use promo code HOT to earn 10 percent off your first order.



Spicy Salt Trio

Death & Co Swish Cloths

It’s possible you became familiar with Cloud Paper’s eco-friendly bamboo toilet paper during lockdown. But they make all sorts of planet-friendly products, including these new swish cloths (also known as Swedish dishcloths). In collaboration with veteran craft cocktail bar Death & Co, these cloths feature 50s-style graphics of cool drinks, a recipe for the “Swish Cocktail” (consider including the ingredients in your gift), and are biodegradable. You get three in a set.


Death & Co Swish Cloths

Bevridge American Single Malt Tasting Experience

In partnership with Whisky Live—a multi-city whisky tasting extravaganza—this sampler kit features 10 small bottles (100ml each) of some of the best examples of the newest category of American whiskey – single malts. 100% malted barley from a single distillery, but crafted in an American style. You’ll get stellar examples from Westland (Seattle) Virginia Distillery (Lovingston), Westward (Portland) and Boulder (Colorado), along with copious tasting notes and information about each distillery. There’s also a World Whisky Tasting Experience ($100) with whiskies from America, Scotland and Ireland.


Whiskey sampler

Camp Dehydrated Simple Syrups

Simple syrups are, well, simple to make: Sugar, water, a little spice, root, or citrus. Simmer, dissolve, cool. However, sometimes it’s nice to let someone else do the heavy lifting. Camp Craft Cocktails has created Simple, a line of infused sugars (they call them “dehydrated”) that arrive as solid blocks in bottles. Store them dry more or less indefinitely. When you’re ready for Cocktail Night, add hot water, allow the sugars to dissolve (shaking helps), cool and start mixing. This gift set has four varieties, including Hibiscus, Mint, Citrus and Classic (non-GMO vegan cane sugar).


Camp craft

Drink Like A Local New York: A Field Guide To New York’s Best Bars

Author and drinks writer (and former Alcohol Professor editor) Amanda Schuster provides a much-need update on where and how to drink in NYC. Designed to inform both tourists and locals, the book is chock full of cool bars, bartender profiles, cocktail and bar histories, quirky facts, and overlooked gems. Unlike NYC guidebooks of decades past, Schuster makes certain to cover all five boroughs in detail.


Drink Like a Local

Damrak VirGin Zero Proof Cocktail Kit

Dry January, Sober October, sober adjacent. Drinking less (or not at all) is a noble trend and one that is finally receiving both respect and support, thanks to the plethora of zero-alcohol products now on the market. Damrak VirGin (get it?) is ready to get you started or provide the perfect gift for your not-drinking friend. Distilled in Amsterdam using ten botanicals (including lavender, ginger, cinnamon, and juniper), it’s designed to be blended into cocktails. On its own, it tastes lighter and sweeter than its boozy counterpart (could use more juniper, we think). The kit comes with a bottle of Damrak and three different cans of Q Tonic to make booze-free Palomas, G&Ts, and more. Combine and enjoy!


Damrak VirGin Zero Proof Cocktail Kit

Tipsy Scoop Holiday Favorites 5-Pack

If you haven’t tried Tipsy Scoop’s boozy offerings, be prepared to be pleasantly surprised. Alcohol-fueled ice cream isn’t a rarity, and lots of local purveyors offer versions in most large communities. But somehow, Tipsy nails it. Ice cream fans and cocktail fans both will enjoy this gift pack of five popular flavors, all delivered in a festive holiday box. You’ll get five, limited-edition wintry favorites, including iced Holiday Sugar Cookie Martini (whatever that might be), Whiskey Chocolate Caramel Truffle (now you’re talking) and Andes Mint Spiked Hot Chocolate. 21 and over (there’s actual booze in this ice cream), adult signature required on delivery.


Tipsy scoop

Artisanal Jícaras Mezcal Cups

Mezcal is an even more satisfying experience when sipping from Jícaras: traditional woody cups made from the husk of the calabash fruit. Right now, Catedral de Mi Padre mezcal is offering a set of four cups, with a cleaver woven reed base and handmade in Oaxaca. They’re normally $20 for a set, or you can get it for free when you buy one of Catedral’s six mezcal varietals in December. The bottles boast a cool leather base and regional family mezcaleros make the juice.

$20 / free with bottle purchase

Artisanal Jícaras Mezcal Cups

Sailor Jerry Ironsides BBQ Sauce

Move aside, whiskey-fueled hot sauces: here comes Sailor Jerry. This American-made, Veteran-owned sauce from Grill Your Ass Off has been given an extra kick-start with Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, creating a smooth, smoky sauce with a sweet heat finish. Half of the profits for this limited-edition release will be donated to the Independence Fund, a non-profit dedicated to providing physical, mental and emotional aid to Veterans (tattoo legend Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, for whom the rum is named, was a Navy vet himself).


Sailor Jerry Ironsides BBQ Sauce

Salteez Beer Salt Strips

We know what you’re saying: “Beer Salt Strips?” Yeah, we didn’t get it either at first. But it’s literally a peel-and-stick strip of salt to attach to the side of your can, bottle or glass, giving you a dash of flavored salt with each sip, minus the messy wetting and rolling. Flavors include Pickle, Sweet & Sour Peach, Mango Chili and Chili Lime. Works well with Margarita glasses too.

$25 / five packs

Salteez Beer Salt Strips

Make Your Own Single Barrel, Angel’s Envy Distillery

Distillery tours are super fun. Pouring a bottle of something interesting during a distillery tour is even more fun. Doing it at Angel’s Envy, one of the premier whiskey producers in the country? Priceless. Well, there is a price, but you get our drift. While everyone else stares at the pot stills, then heads to the gift shop, you and your buddies will approach an ex-port barrel filled with Angel’s Envy Straight Bourbon and fill up your bottle. You’ll be securing a full 750 mls of carefully curated whiskey to enjoy on your own. Experience does not include the standard distillery tour, one experience per visit.

$150 / person (up to 6 people per tour)

Make Your Own Single Barrel, Angel’s Envy Distillery

CMK Vintage Inspired Moscow Mule Mugs

Moscow Mules (vodka, ginger beer, lime, and lots of ice) date back to the mid-1940s and have been associated with copper mugs since the beginning. These hand-hammered, copper and brass classic mugs from Coppermill Kitchen keep your Mules nice and frosty and provide just the right vintage vibe. Combine them with CMK’s vintage cocktail shaker for the home bartenders on your list. Available in a set of four or eight mugs.

$175 / $275

Moscow mule mugs

Goodnow Farms Sweet And Savory Gift Collection

Goodnow Farms, an award-winning Massachusetts-based chocolatier also offers a whole host of other tasty products. This gift set features four large single-origin chocolate bars (including one made with lots of Putnam Rye Whiskey) other regional favorites like Runamok Orange Maple Bitters and Burlap & Barrel Caramelized Onions. You also score free shipping and a custom gift box.


Goodnow Farms Sweet And Savory Gift Collection

G And Tea Experience Flemings Mayfair London

Located inside the elegant Flemings Mayfair London hotel at the equally posh & compact Manetta’s Bar, this charming experience will top off a long weekend away perfectly. It’s an afternoon tea, but with gin! Pair a lovely selection of tea blends, small bites, and pastries with one of three gins: Salcombe Gin Rosè, Whitley Neill Raspberry Gin, or Nicholson London Dry (or sample all three for an extra £25).

£45 / person

G And Tea Experience Flemings Mayfair London

Savage & Cooke Whiskey Sampler

Legendary Napa winemaker Dave Phinney launched the Savage & Cooke distillery on historic Mare Island in 2018, and immediately set to making innovative brown spirits. It’s an easy trek from either Napa Valley or San Francisco and definitely worth the visit. Tempt the whiskey fan in your life with this three-bottle sampler. Each 375ml bottle holds characteristic expressions from the distillery: The Burning Chair Bourbon, Second Glance


Savage & Cooke Whiskey Sampler

Picnic Box Ceylon Traveling Bar

Modeled after the classic Victorian travel trunk, this sophisticated portable mahogany bar from Authentic Models really is the gift for the person who has everything. Featuring a two-tone black-and-tan wood finish, there are recessed spaces for bottle openers, shot glasses and napkins, and segmented compartments for glasses and bottles. A separate base and folding standing legs prop the bar up so you’re ready for service. Contact Easton, Maryland-based Benjamin (410.946.6171) to purchase. Now let’s steam to Corfu!


Picnic Box Ceylon Traveling Bar

Macallan Ice Ball Maker

A well-made ice sphere in an Old Fashioned or a dram (it’s okay if you drink your whisky with ice, we won’t tell anyone) is a joyous experience. It looks cool, the ice melts more slowly and it looks cool. This aluminum alloy ice ball maker builds better spheres than a silicone mold because you can add pressure to make a better-shaped, clearer sphere that just feels more elevated.


Macallan Ice Ball Maker

Monkey Musk Eau De Parfum

Monkey Shoulder blended Scotch whisky is a popular, easy-drinking blended Scotch that doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. We haven’t been able to figure out if this is one of those April Fool’s jokes that turned real (like the Hendrick’s pickles), or is completely legit. The perfume/cologne is designed to mimic the whisky’s aromatic notes (guided by Monkey Shoulder malt master Brian Kinsman), but doesn’t smell like you just sprayed whisky on yourself. It’s quite nice actually: Softly floral with notes of oak and spice. Is a serious product? It’s called “Monkey Musk” and Joel McHale is the spokesperson, so it’s hard to say. But it is real, and when you order, you also score a redeemable code for a full bottle of Monkey Shoulder, so we say it’s a win.


Monkey Musk Eau De Parfum

Kahlúa Espresso Martini Kit

The espresso martini is once again on everyone’s lips (literally), so what better way to welcome in the holidays than with this elaborate kit from TV personality Gail Simmons and Kahlúa? You’ll get everything you need to make several intriguing espresso martinis, including a recipe for edible, stemless cocoa cookie cups in which to serve your concoctions, which can be rimmed with toppings like chopped hazelnuts or crushed candy canes (recipe comes with). The kit includes enough vodka and Kahlúa to serve four and have enough for seconds, along with garnishes for your edible cups, garnish board, a muffin tin, whimsical guest placards, and detailed instructions.



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Why is some alcohol called ‘hard’? And other booze facts


First of all, let’s look at the word “hard.” It’s an old Germanic word — so old that one of its first recorded uses is in “Beowulf,” the epic poem written around 700 AD. Maybe because it’s so old, the word has come to have many shades of meaning. It can mean firm and unyielding, rough and abrasive, or stubborn and obstinate.

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Mpak ART studio | Ilarion Ananiev/ istockphoto


Another meaning that developed early on was “harsh and unpleasant.” It makes sense, then, that in the 1500s, it started being used to describe alcohol that had a sharp, acidic flavor.

A “hard wine” was one that contained a lot of tannins — compounds that come from grape skins and seeds and have an astringent flavor. A treatise on good manners written in the 1500s notes that “Neither hard wine is pleasant to the taste, neither haughty behavior acceptable in company.” Indeed!



Natalia Van Doninck/ istockphoto


Another sense of “hard” that developed over time was “powerful and potent.” That’s the sense we use today when we refer to drinks with a high alcohol content, like vodka — in contrast to ones with a lower alcohol content, like beer.



VadimZakirov/ istockphoto


The final sense of “hard” we’ll talk about is the sense of an action that involves great force or that a person does recklessly. From this sense comes the expression of someone being a “hard drinker.” It doesn’t mean they drink hard alcohol (although they might). Instead, it means they drink persistently and drink in excess. Not usually the best combination.


bhofack2/ istockphoto


One other fact about “hard drinks.” You might think of them as the opposite of “soft drinks.” Today, when we use that phrase, we think of sugary, carbonated beverages like Coke, Pepsi or Dr Pepper.

By the way, if you care about punctuation, take note: The “Dr” in “Dr Pepper” does not take a period. If you have a problem with that, talk to the ad executives who decided in the 1950s to take it out because they thought it would be easier to read the name on the bottle without the period.

They were Americans, so they would normally have used a period. But I believe the British don’t put a period after the abbreviation for “doctor.” But Dr Pepper wasn’t owned by a British company at the time.


asiantiger247/ istockphoto


But the term “soft drink” originally referred to any beverage that was non-alcoholic, such as lemonade, soda water or ginger ale. That usage appeared in the mid-1800s, in an advertisement for an establishment offering “hot mutton, … custards and soft drinks.” Sounds yummy!



bhofack2/ istockphoto


Let’s jump back a minute to when I mentioned that certain drinks have a higher alcohol content than others. These drinks — brandy, gin, whisky, rum, tequila and vodka — are created by distillation.

That process gives us a hint about another word that’s used for hard alcohol: “spirits.”



IvanZivkovic/ istockphoto


Spirits are made by taking an already-existing beverage like wine and heating it in a still. Because alcohol has a lower boiling point than water (78.5 degrees Celsius/ 173.3 degree Fahrenheit versus 100 degrees Celsius / 212 °degree Fahrenheit), the alcohol in the beverage will evaporate before the water does.

So, if you collect the vapors rising from the still, and let them cool and condense back into a liquid, you’ll get a beverage with a higher alcohol content than the one you started with.

And what might those wispy vapors look like, rising into the air? A ghostly presence. A spirit, if you will.


MarianVejcik/ istockphoto


Another possible explanation for why we call alcoholic drinks “spirits” is that a person’s spirit is considered the most essential part of their being. In the same way, alcohol has long been considered essential to life, whether for palliative, medicinal or recreational reasons.

In fact, some historians believe that the reason our primate ancestors came down from the trees in the first place was to eat fermenting fruit lying on the forest floor. And that early humans began to plant and domesticate grains not so they could make bread — but so they could make beer.


Taveesaksri/ istockphoto


One thing we know for sure is that for centuries, before the advent of modern sanitation, drinking alcohol was often better for you than drinking plain water. That’s because alcohol is produced by fermentation.

And when grains and fruits ferment, they produce not just ethanol — which can kill bacteria — but also many other vital nutrients, including B vitamins like folic acid, niacin and riboflavin.  In fact, one of Noah Webster’s biographies describes his usual breakfast as “bread and beer,” which wasn’t the red flag back in the 1700s that it would be today.

And we’ll end with a final synonym for alcohol: “aqua vitae,” which is “water of life” in Latin.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by


ViktoriiaNovokhatska/ istockphoto


(1)  Orchard, Andy. A Critical Companion to Beowulf, pp. 231. Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2003 (accessed July 9, 2019).

(2)  Krebiehl, Anne. What are Tannins, Really?Wine Enthusiast, Sept. 11, 2018 (accessed July 9, 2019).

(3) Oxford English Dictionary, online edition. Oxford University Press. Alcohol, hard, soft, spirit (subscription required, accessed July 9, 2019).

(4) Encyclopedia Britannica, online edition. Distilled spirit, Distillation, Why is Alcohol Measured by Proof? (subscription required, accessed July 9, 2019).

(5) Foley, Michael. Drunk Catholic History: Spirits and the Holy Spirit. One Peter Five (accessed July 9, 2019).

(6) Curry, Andrew. Our 9,000-Year Love Affair With BoozeNational Geographic, February 2017 (accessed July 9, 2019).

(7) Alba-Lois, L. & Segal-Kischinevzky, C. (2010) Yeast Fermentation and the Making of Beer and WineNature Education 3(9):17 (accessed July 9, 2019).


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