If the fact that Christmas is a mere two days away is freaking you out, relax. Forget your troubles, stay away from the mall, and head to your nearest liquor store where's there's a gift for nearly everyone on your list at just about every price point.
In this wonderland of booze, you'll find champagne for your assistant, a single malt for your snobby brother-in-law, and an aged rum for your boss.
During a recent shopping expedition to Total Wine & More, I found a treasure trove of presents. Here are the ten best gifts, some starting at under ten dollars (with most under $30). Truly a Santa-worthy assortment of holiday cheer!
Sure, it's magical to be able to celebrate outdoors while the rest of the world is freezing. Of course, we pay a price for this pleasure -- namely warm wine. To that, I simply say, stop whining, put a cork(sickle) in it, and start wining (pun intended). This clever little contraption substitutes for your regular cork and keeps your Chardonnay at the proper temperature -- even while sitting out on your porch. ($16.99).
9. Absolut Miami
The perfect gift for the person who's all about Miami (also makes a great present for your relatives currently snowbound in Michigan). This limited edition vodka is flavored with passionfruit and orange blossom and tastes great in a mango martini. ($25.99).
8. Monkey Shoulder
With classic cocktails so popular, it's time you started experimenting with Scotch. The only problem is that you likely don't want to make a Rob Roy or Rusty Nail with that 15 year old single malt you have. Leave that for sipping neat and pick up a bottle of Monkey Shoulder. A blend of three different (and solid) single malts -- Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie, it's great with mixers, in cocktails, or even on its own. Plus there are monkeys on the bottle, and everything is better with a monkey. ($29.99)
7. Beer Making Kit
You know that old adage about if you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, he'll eat forever? Same goes for beer. This kit has everything you need to start a lifetime obsession. ($49.99).
6. Concrete Beach Rica and Stiltsville
Concrete Beach's taproom is not yet open to the public, but its production facilities are up and running with two beers already on the market. Concrete Beach Rica is a wheat IPA with a citrus finish and the Stiltsville is a drinkable pilsner. Bring a six pack of each to your beer loving, locavore friend and score points for being the first kids on the block to try this local brewery's new beers ($8.99 each).
5. Papa's Pilar Rum
Named after Ernest Hemingway's beloved boat, Pilar, these rums embody the writer's love for romance, adventure, and a good drink. These blended rums are finished in Spanish sherry casks right here in South Florida by Hemingway Rum Co. The dark rum is a wonderful sipping rum, while the blonde will impart new dimension to a classic daiquiri. ($32.99 blonde; $43.99 dark).
4. KAH Tequila
When is a tequila a work of art? When it's encased in a hand-crafted skull. But don't think KAH's blanco, anejo, and reposado tequilas are meant to stay on the shelf and look pretty. They're made with 100% blue agave, certified organic, and are highly rated. ($49.99 - 65.99).
3. Boodles Gin
If you have a vodka drinker on your shopping list, you might want to introduce them to the pleasures of gin. With its botanicals and crispness, gin gives new depth to vodka-based standards like martinis and bloody marys. Plus there's always the classic g&t to be savored. Boodles has hints of traditional herbs and spices like nutmeg, sage, and rosemary. Plus, this proper English gin even comes with its own butler. Seriously! Connect with Mr. Boodles on Twitter @BoodlesGin. You can ask him for party tips, cocktail recipes, or anything else. Just don't call him Jeeves. ($22.99 - 35.99)
2. Angel's Envy Rye
The first time I tried Angels Envy was at a bourbon pairing dinner at Le Foret restaurant in New Orleans. Angel's Envy's COO Wes Henderson ended the evening with what he called "something special". It turned out to be his distillery's rye, a spicy, sweet elixir that will make even a non-rye lover a convert. This is the secret to the perfect Manhattan. This spirit normally sells out quickly when released in the fall, but there are still bottles available. I'd leave a hint for Santa, if I were you. ($76.99).
1. Ole Smoky Moonshine
Moonshine is no longer the illegal bathtub hooch that gets you drunk while turning your insides into a toxic waste dump. It's reached mainstream culture and, while some still taste like paint thinner, Ole Smoky Moonshine is a treat. Just mix one part Ole Smoky strawberry with two parts vodka and you've got one ass-kicking flavored martini. But the best of all, are the Moonshine cherries. Macerate them, use them in desserts, or as a cocktail garnish. They're the new home bar staple ($21.99 - $24.99) and a gift that just about everyone will love at a price point Santa will adore.
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