2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Booze

Walk into any liquor store and you’ll see hundreds of options. You can zero in on someone’s favorite drink when picking a gift, or you can get creative and choose something they wouldn’t buy for themselves. Also, remember that you don’t want to come to a party empty-handed, so get in the habit of at least bringing a bottle.

And for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

BACARDÍ Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron

If you’re looking for a simple way to class up your bar without breaking the bank, Bacardi’s new Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron is a great addition for under $25. This newly released white rum is crafted to be a high-end mixer, adding a touch of sophistication to the classic cocktails made at home. Besides casually mentioning the “Gran Reserva” label to describe your concoction, you can further impress your guests with the knowledge that the rum has been double aged; it’s initially aged for a year and blended, then returned to white oak barrels for an additional three months. While immediately flavorful upon tasting with light and fruity notes, we found its bite to be a little strong to be sipped on its own. However, stay true to its calling as a mixer, whether in cubas libres, mojitos or daiquiris, and you can’t go wrong. The Gran Reserva was created to pay tribute to the Master Blenders at Bacardi, but everyone might think they passed on some of their distilling secrets to you as well.

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon

Master Distiller Basil Hayden Sr. experimented with the addition of rye to bourbon in 1796, believing the spicy flavor profile of the grain would strikingly complement the sweeter, corn-heavy mash bill, and more than 200 years later, we’re still celebrating his decision one drink at a time. While Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is the lowest proof (80 proof, 40% ABV) in Jim Beam’s Small Batch collection, it brings a near double dose of rye (27%) compared to the others. The resulting flavor profile is “blessed with rich hints of peppermint, notes of pepper, slight citrus overtones and a spicy, warming finish.” If that doesn’t sound inviting during the holidays, we’re not sure what does. We can’t get enough of this bourbon, preferring to drink it neat from a bourbon snifter to maximize its aroma and flavor. But we were also very pleased using it as a mixer in Manhattans, allowing for the rye to add an extra layer of depth to the drink. Putting this all together in a nicely packaged bottle, Basil Hayden’s is that bourbon you break out on special occasions like the holidays.

Baker’s Bourbon

Like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, each of the four bourbons in Jim Beam’s Small Batch collection brings something different to the table. Aged for seven years and bottled at 107 proof (53.5% ABV), Baker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey packs some serious heat. And while we like to put our taste buds to the test with the occasional, high-octane bourbon, Baker’s is no one-trick pony. Its small batch heritage prides itself on delivering a flavorful concoction of toasted nut, fruit and vanilla tasting notes with each sip. Complex and strong, this horse is best tamed with a splash of water, which allows for the undercurrent of flavors to shine forth. If you’re looking to gift a noteworthy liquor that will be long remembered after the holidays are gone, put Baker’s on the list.

TCM Wine Club

There are plenty of wine clubs out there to choose from, but TCM’s new venture is the only one that not only pairs wine with food, but a classic movie as well. We’re surprised someone didn’t think of this sooner, because it’s the perfect gift for wine and movie lovers who want to take the guesswork out of planning a night in by themselves or with their family and friends. As a member of the TCM Wine Club, you’ll receive a shipment every quarter that contains 12 bottles of hand-selected, high-quality varietals from renowned vineyards around the globe and collectible movie-themed wines curated specifically for the club. You can also keep track of your favorite wines and reorder at any time, and even modify your preferences so that you only receive wines you’ll enjoy. The first case (which is specially priced at under $100) features a three-bottle bonus that includes the first-ever release of Café Zoetrope, a custom-crafted red from Francis Ford Coppola Winery, as well as True Grit Limited Edition Zinfandel and The Essentials Cabernet Sauvignon. Though we only had the opportunity to sample two of the bottles being sent to inaugural members, both were solid enough to recommend to anyone who enjoys sipping a glass of vino while enjoying their favorite film.