Christmas is almost here, and if you’re like me you might be struggling to find the right gift for all the drinkers in your life. Whether it’s a sibling, a parent, a friend, or a co-worker, alcohol can make a great gift, and one that’s fairly easy to find in a hurry. All you’ve got to do is hit up your local packie, liquor shop, or ABC store and find the juice that’s right for that special somebody. If you’re looking for some suggestions, we have a few for you right here today, spread across a variety of different liquors. Not all of these products are sold in every state, and obviously you’ve got to be 21 to pick any of ‘em up, but if you find yourself walking down the aisle at your liquor store with only two days to go before the big day and spot any of these on the shelf, you can be sure that they’d make great gifts.
You’ll know if you’ve seen NEFT Vodka on the shelf at your local liquor store—it’s the vodka that comes in a small metal barrel. It’s also a vodka from Austria, so it’s got at least a couple of unusual things going on for it. That container keeps the sweet nectar within chilled for several hours (up to six, according to NEFT itself, and the barrel arrived cold in the package that was shipped to me), and has the added benefit of looking pretty amazing. It’ll definitely cut a one-of-a-kind figure in your liquor cabinet.
Of course it’s the vodka that matters, and not the thing it comes in, and fortunately NEFT kept that in mind when cooking up its recipe. NEFT boasts about its pristine alpine water from Austria, the four German rye grains that go into it, and its triple distillation process, and for good reason: this is a unique, flavorful vodka with an interesting enough profile to drink straight. The vodka is as much of a conversation piece as the barrel it comes in, going down smoothly and yet with a vibrant taste that lasts on the tongue. It’s good as a mixer, of course, but NEFT is a vodka more than worth sipping on its own.
NEFT has won its fair share of accolades and medals from around the liquor world, so it’s clearly got more going for it than a cool package. It’s a fine mid-priced option (expect to dish out $35 or so for this 750ML barrel) if you’re looking for something that can be enjoyed straight or as a mixer, or if you want to impress with a liquor that comes in a distinctive container.
If vodka isn’t the gift for you, consider something from Redemption’s line of rye whiskeys. The new Redemption Cognac Cask Finish is the result of Redemption’s MGP-sourced High Rye Bourbon finishing in casks from Pierre Ferrand Cognac for a year. That gives it a unique, complex flavor, with a deeper expression of the kind of earthy, autumnal notes I look for in a good whiskey. It makes me think of nuts, and leather, and important men sitting stoically at big wooden desks. You know, whiskey things, only with that undercurrent of cognac on the finish that makes it seem even more dignified—like it’s an important French man sitting stoically at a big wooden desk.
I typically mix my whiskey with a spicy ginger ale (Red Rock’s my favorite) and some aromatic bitters. I clearly wouldn’t do that with this, though. This is definitely a sipping drink for me, with a robust flavor that doesn’t always play well with others. It doesn’t need a mixer, but works well in something as simple as an old fashioned. The sugar sweetens that smooth bite without obscuring or cutting into the cognac taste. But it’s such a strong, pleasant flavor on its own that it’s best enjoyed straight up, perhaps with a glass of water on the side if you absolutely need a chaser.
Pretty much all liquor is an acquired taste, and for me that’s been most true with gin. I straight up could not drink gin when I was younger. It’s my wife’s drink of choice, though, and so I’ve slowly developed a liking for it over many years of finishing her half-consumed drinks. It’s still not the first thing I’d order, but after sampling two gins from Vermont’s Barr Hill Gin, it’s maybe moved up the list a slot or two.
Barr Hill’s gift pack comes with 375 ml bottles of two different gins. Both are made with honey, which helps reduce the somewhat medicinal taste I often find gin to have. The standard Barr Hill Gin mixes its botanicals with raw honey, while the Tom Cat Gin then ages that in oak barrels. I found the Tom Cat to be a bit more palatable—honey helps balance the juniper in the Barr Hill bottle, but the barrel aging gives the Tom Cat a better rounded, more distinctive and fully developed flavor. You get both in the gift set, of course, which makes it easy to compare and contrast. It also comes with a pound of the raw honey Barr Hill uses in its gins, which makes this set a little bit more useful than most booze gifts.
I’d be remiss if this list didn’t include a rum, my drink of choice the last few years. Normally I down it with some Diet Coke and lime juice, or in a variety of tiki drinks (look, I’ve got to do something with all these mugs from Trader Sam’s), but every once in a while it’s refreshing to just drink it straight. That’s made Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva one of my go-tos for a while. Although the Venezuelan rum works fine in a drink, it’s ideal as a sipper, going down smoothly and sweetly right out of a glass. And if you do want to mix it, it works well in (and classes up) almost any rum cocktail you can think of.
A bottle of Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva always makes a fine gift, especially when it comes in the official Diplomatico holiday gift set. That gets you a 750 ml bottle along with two glasses, and will typically run around $35-$40. It’s a solid deal for anybody who enjoys good rum and the glasses from which you can drink it.
Of course, almost any alcohol will make for a gift warmly embraced by a serious drinker. These four options are but suggestions. If you know your drinker’s particular tastes and preferences, then you already know what to get ‘em. Good luck, and happy drinking!
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.