Alcohol is one of the easiest go-to gifts during the holidays, so if you're not sure what to get someone, it seems safe enough to head to the local shop and grab a bottle of wine or bourbon.
In the past few years, people's boozy tastes have evolved. The craft beer explosion has introduced new styles and favorites. The demystification of wine has made people more discerning. And small batch distilleries have changed many thoughts on what makes a good spirit.
That ups the ante when you're buying for fans of those drinks — especially if you're not a fan yourself. The good news is there are plenty of options if you're looking to surprise someone who's enthusiastic about their beer, wine or spirits.
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Here are a few suggestions:
Forget most beer-of-the-month clubs. They're a crapshoot that often results in disappointing product. Tavour is an anti-club. Members order only the beers they want from the company's catalog, which is loaded with some really well-done regional beers that may not be available in your area. Buy one beer or 300 pounds' worth (someone has!), it's up to you. And no matter how much you purchase, the shipping is just $14.90. A Tavour gift card is an ideal choice for the discerning beer drinker.
Wine's not generally viewed as something that comes out of a tap, but it almost always benefits from aeration. Aervana helps force oxygen into red wine one glass at a time via a push-button tap system that plugs onto the bottle. It's efficient and it lets you pour just the amount you want and keeps the bottle fresh for a long period. It's a little clunky, admittedly, but it's also a conversation piece that enhances your drink.
Price: $39.99 per month
Know someone who loves to try new craft cocktails and craves variety? Saloonbox is a subscription service that sends everything necessary to make two pairs of high-end drinks curated by top mixologists around the country. The recipes are easy to follow and you'll get top-shelf spirits that you'd normally have to buy in a 750-milliliter bottle, which can quickly add up.
There are plenty of aerators on the market, but what makes Ullo stand out is it not only introduces air into the drink, but claims to remove sulfites at the same time. That process not only enhances the wine's flavor, but makes it more accessible to some people who get headaches from these preservatives.
Technically, Zia Valentina promotes these waffle-cone cups for coffee or ice cream, but there's no reason you can't enjoy a Nutty Irishman or Mudslide in them — and then gobble down the glass as well. The 2-ounce cones are triple-coated with chocolate, so this probably isn't the best vessel for a Mind Eraser or Jameson. Among the flavors offered are Cookies and Cream, S'mores, Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel.
Growlers are the best way to bring home one-off craft beers from the brewery, but the typical glass bottles tend to warm up quickly. Yeti's steel, double-wall vacuumed container keeps whatever your beverage of choice might be hot or cold, as desired. The container is sold in various sizes, including a hefty 64 ounces, and it pours cleanly and is sturdy enough that you don't have to worry about it banging around in your backseat as you travel to and from your local fill station, the beach or wherever you take it.
Price: $50 and up
Winc is a dual-service stop for wine lovers. If you're looking for something recurring, there is a traditional club. The service quizzes you to learn your or your recipient's tastes, then selects offerings that pair with those. But there's also a wine gift service with a variety of options and pairings — from Meritage and Caramel Corn to bottles with Riedel glasses that enhance the wine's flavor. It all comes with a personalized note in an attractive gift box — and could be perfect for a one-time gift.
This is, unquestionably, a high-end price for a single malt whiskey, but it's one that many spirits lovers will certainly appreciate. You'll taste orange and vanilla (and a bit of toffee) along with hints of raisins. And the finish is one of spicy oak. Exceptionally smooth, it's a wee dram to remember. But shop around and see if you can find it at a more reasonable price.
Price: $10 per bottle
Released on Black Friday and typically sold out in virtually no time, Goose Island's barrel-aged stouts continue to live up to the hype. You've got four to choose from this year — the original, a coffee stout, a barleywine and — if you live in Chicago — the limited-edition Proprietor's stout. This year's original is a bit more berry-forward than previous years with a chocolate backbone. It's a smooth, tasty beer that should erase any concerns about the brand after last year's infected batch.
Price: $210 and up
This small Napa vineyard was largely off the radar until it won Wine Spectator's "top wine of 2015" with this Cabernet Sauvignon. It's likely a hard wine to find these days and you may have to pay a premium for it, but the oenophile on your list will do backflips when you hand them the bottle.
Popular new styles move in fast among craft beer lovers. This year's breakaway hit has been the hazy, cloudy, creamy IPAs coming out of the Northeast. They generally have little to no hop bitterness at the finish and have a very tropical sweetness, rather than a bitter or sharp citrus taste.
The Alchemist's Heady Topper started the trend quite some time ago, and has kept it alive with Focal Banger. In the meantime, the addition of incredible offerings from places like Trillium Brewing Co. and Tree House Brewing have only escalated excitement. The very best can be hard to find, but if you know someone in the area, twist their arm for a favor and have them send you samples. The beer lover on your list will thank you — profusely.