2014 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.

Roca Patrón Silver

roca_patron

It’s only been 15 or 20 years since high-end tequilas began to compete against Cognac and single-malt Scotch for supremacy among world-class sipping experiences, with often outstanding and highly accessible results. Already by far the best known premium tequila in the U.S., Patrón is upping their game even more with a new line of super-premium boozes, Roca Patrón, named for the stone wheels used to extract the juice of the blue agave plant. Unlike añejos and reposadas, silver (aka white) tequilas are un-aged and generally best used for cocktails and shots. At an MSRP of $69.00, however, Roca Patrón Silver is definitely no freshman-year bender fodder and a great gift for the man or woman who’s sipped nearly everything. The Patrón people describe the flavor as sweet, “with notes of black pepper, pumpkin and lime tea.” We taste mainly the honey-like flavor of the agave, but isn’t that the whole point of quality tequila? Not too stuffy to accompany a little grapefruit soda or perhaps even a perfectly a well-balanced classic margarita (shaken, not blended!), this definitely qualifies as not just the good stuff, but the very good stuff. Aged Roca Patrón Reposada and Roca Patrón Añejo are available at commensurately higher price tags.

Patrón’s Holiday Classic Cocktails Kit

patron_cocktails

Once maligned by the ignorant, tequila has emerged as every bit the equal of whiskey, gin and, yes, Cognac, as the basis for a truly tip-top cocktail – and we don’t just mean a classic margarita either, as marvelous as those can be. Now, the biggest name in premium tequila is marketing its own variation on one of the ultimate cocktail classics, the Añejo Manhattan, which substitutes aged tequila for the usual bourbon, rye or Canadian whiskey. This set (MSRP $54.99) includes a bottle of flavorful mellow Patrón Añejo, two very sturdy, large coupe glasses (a more rounded old-school variation on today’s standard martini glasses) and Dashfire Brandy Old Fashioned Bitters. The latter is a tantalizing alternative to standard Angostura aromatic bitters with a strong accent of smokey cloves; no self-respecting Manhattan is remotely complete without bitters, and this artisanal brand is an outstanding choice. All your giftee needs to add is a cocktail shaker/mixing glass, some sweet vermouth (ideally Carpano Antica), lots and lots of ice, and we’re off to the races! A strong gift selection for any open-minded cocktail enthusiast.

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Crown Royal Regal Apple

Bottle and Box

I’m a huge fan of Crown Royal Canadian Whisky, so I was looking forward to trying the all-new Crown Royal Regal Apple. The flavored whisky arrived in a sweet emerald green carton with the iconic Crown Royal bag in green and gold tones. Crown Royal Regal Apple is a combination of the well-known, premium taste of Crown Royal whisky infused with natural apple flavors. It’s delicious as a chilled shot as the strong apple flavor jumps out and you can use it for a number of great cocktails as well. With the beautiful packaging and the iconic Crown Royal brand it’s also great for a gift or something to bring to a party during the holiday season.

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Drink of the Week: Eggnog

eggnogI have a confession to make.  Despite my enormous love of all things sweet and milk fatty, I was fully prepared to bale on what has to be the ultimate seasonal drink. I have to admit there were concerns for my waistline — you guys have no idea how much weight I gained as a child knocking back the carton based non-alcoholic stuff. Also, as I grew older, I usually was disappointed by the spiked nog I’d had at parties. Somehow, the booze always seemed to destroy the cheap and creamy charm of the store bought nog. It was like putting vodka in chocolate milk. (I’d rather have a shot and choco-moo chaser, thank you.)

Still, the real reason I was going to go AWOL on eggnog was that I was simply intimidated. I imagined fresh eggnog to be a very complicated drink to make; a drink that might even force me to break my no-blenders rule, classic drink though it be. The online recipes telling me that I had to start with a 6 or more eggs, separate the yolks from the whites and perform various operations on them only reinforced that assumption.

Then, however, I started Googling “eggnog for one” and a great revelation came to me. Really, all this drink is a raw egg — provisos and disclaimers to come — milk, sugar, vanilla flavor, and booze. I have to say that, even if I have a sentimental attachment for the gooey store bought stuff, this shockingly easy, if slightly messy, home made version beats that all to heck.

So, here goes, the drink recipe I never thought I’d post.

Eggnog

1.5 ounces of your choice of cognac/brandy, bourbon, Canadian whiskey, or rum
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 ounce heavy cream (optional)
2 ounces full fat milk if not using heavy cream; with cream use 1.5 ounces
4-5 teaspoons superfine or powdered sugar
Ground nutmeg (garnish)
1 cinnamon stick (optional garnish)

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