2013 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.

Craft Beer Club

If you have a beer lover on your list, you can give him or her the gift that keeps on giving. The Craft Beer Club discovers exceptional craft brews from around the country and delivers them each month direct to you or your gift recipient. Every selection is produced by small-production, independent brewers who use only traditional brewing ingredients and time-honored brewing methods. In addition to traditional bottled beers, they also embrace the hundreds of small craft brewers around the country that offer their hand-crafted beers in cans. It’s a great way to enjoy craft beers and it’s ideal for the holiday season.

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

If dad, your buddy, your tomboyish gal pal or anyone else on your holiday list loves a very good bottle of Scotch, then consider this rather dandy, unusually enjoyable single malt. Outstanding on the rocks, with a splash of water or soda, or neat for you purists, the Laphroaig 10 Year Old is also more mixable than you might assume; on the other hand, it’s good enough that many will consider even the finest cocktail made with it a crime against nature. The website tells us that it’s got traces of salt and seaweed along with the usual peat and smoke flavors, but we don’t completely agree. It’s definitely got smoke – indeed, you might get hungry for barbecue after you take a good whiff and, yeah, that’s some salt in there, but that’s not all. Every good Scotch has its share of several indescribable tastes and smells of nature. We haven’t been to Scotland, but we wouldn’t be one bit surprised to find ourselves tasting the essence of this concoction in the clear cool air of the highlands. Cheaper than super-duper premium single malts but nearly double what you’ll likely pay for Chivas Regal, this is an outstanding gift for a true blue Scotch enthusiast.

Brugal 1888 Dominican Rum

If you’re in search of a bottle for the man or woman who’s drunk everything, Brugal 1888 is something genuinely new under the sun and it’s completely remarkable. An aged Dominican rum that thinks it’s a premium Scotch or Bourbon, it has the tantalizing, woody and astringent flavor you might get in very a high-end single malt, plus a hint of something that somehow reminds us of our dad’s old fake-leather chair. (That’s a good thing, believe it or not.) At the exact same time, it has a boldly sugary undertone that goes well beyond what you’re likely to find in the sweetest bourbon. We tasted more than a hint of maple syrup or maybe turbinado. Regardless, it’s delicious and probably not like anything you’ve had before. You can drink this on the rocks, with a bit of water, or neat. You can also put on your mixologist hat and go to town as this is a flexible beverage that won’t be out of place in an Old Fashioned, especially if you use real maple syrup in place of the usual sugar or simple syrup. High priced for rum but worth every gosh darn penny, this is one boozy gift that won’t be forgotten.

Cabo Diablo

This is the best new spirit we’ve tried in a long time. Cabo Wabo is known now just as much for its excellent tequilas as it is for its founder Sammy Hagar, and this new Cabo Diablo should attract many more fans. Cabo Diablo features a delicious coffee flavor and tastes amazing when you drink it straight. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and it’s not think and syrupy like some liqueurs. So it’s a fantastic sipping drink that men and women should both enjoy. But better yet, it’s a tequila, so it’s also a great way to get a party going, as tequila makes everyone a little nuts at times. It is made with 100% blue agave Cabo Wabo Silver tequila, then kicks in notes of fresh roasted coffee, vanilla and chocolate for a striking combination. It’s excellent served chilled or on the rocks. With the holidays around the corner, this makes for a great gift for men and women, and it’s a great bottle to bring to a gathering to get the party started!

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Game of Thrones Beer!

We’re huge fans of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and many of you have followed our weekly blog of the show, so we were very happy when HBO and Brewery Ommegang sent us some bottles of their new “Game of Thrones” beer to try out. We tried the second in the series, called the “Take the Black Stout,” which was inspired by the Night’s Watch, the military order dressed in black which holds and guards The Wall. The unique label features the sacred Weirwood tree where Jon Snow and other followers of the old gods take their oaths to the Night’s Watch.

Brewery Ommegang is located on a 136-acre farmstead in Cooperstown, New York and is part of the Belgian brewer Duvel Moortgat family. “With the second beer, we wanted a big, substantial brew, something that would stick to your ribs and sustain you through long nights at watch on The Wall,” said Phil Leinhart, brewmaster at Ommegang. “A 7 % ABV stout with Northern Brewer hops, Midnight wheat, roasted barley, and chocolate malt made a perfect foundation for the beer. We also used uncommon spicing, something Ommegang is well known for. For this beer we added licorice root and star anise.”

We tried it and loved it. It’s thick and malty and exactly the kind of beer you can imagine the characters drinking on the show.

The first beer in the series, “Iron Throne Blonde Ale,” was the largest volume limited-edition beer ever brewed by Ommegang. “Fire and Blood Red Ale,” inspired by House Targaryen, will come next in the Spring of 2014, and the label will feature the three Targaryen dragons: Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion.

Beer lovers should definitely try this specialty brew, and the beer can be a great gift for fans of the show. You can also spice up a holiday party by serving this or bring it along. The beer comes in large, 750 ML bottles with a cork, so it makes quite an impression. Check it out!

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Brissy’s Best Beer Gardens

ID-10022670 beer mugs
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalImgaes.net

Now that the weather is warming up, and the smell of summer is starting to saturate the air, weekend breaks to Brisbane are looking more appealing. And what’s a better way to embrace the (almost) summer weather than a Sunday session in a beer garden? So, get booking that Brisbane hotel because the following is a guide to the best of the Brisbane beer hangouts, with insider deets about what to eat and drink!

Belgian Beer Café

Catch a European encounter closer to home with a stop at Brisbane’s Belgian Beer Café. Situated in downtown Brisbane on the corner of Mary and Edward Streets, it’s a perfect place for a bevvy with your mates, a business beer or dinner with the family. The beer garden brings together the very best in Belgian beer and Belgian food, with top drops including the smooth and subtle Maredsous 6 Blonde, and the spicy taste of the Bourgogne Brune. For the beer drinkers who prefer a fruity twist, the peche is a sure hit as is the strawberry sensation, framboise. If you’re not keen on a huge meal, Belgian-themed bar snacks are always available, including the grilled chorizo baguette with roasted capsicum.

Lock’n’Load Bistro

Hidden in the heart of the cultured and cool neighbourhood that is West End is the vibrant Lock’n’Load Bistro. Primarily populated by a creative and artsy crowd, Lock’n’Load provides great entertainment a la people-watching. It has a gorgeous courtyard area for patrons to make the most of their beers in the hot Brisbane sun. The bistro food is fabulous, with fare including dark ale-braised beef cheeks, confit duck leg risotto and Cape Grim grass-fed sirloin. The drinks are always flowing, with all of your favourite brews on tap, including Coopers, Little Creatures, Stone & Wood and Tiger. Start with a few brews in the afternoon sun before moving inside to the main bar to check out the evening’s entertainment on the main stage.

The Elephant Arms

One of the Valley’s finest hangouts, the Elephant Arms attracts the coolest of the cool to its timber-lined beer garden. With a huge, 9-metre-long bar boasting all of the best in local and international, beer and wine, it’s a great place to kick back and relax with a bevvie. Your entertainment is covered with a number of awesome acts on show every week, from duos and soloists to live cover bands. And having just changed hands and landing in the capable arms of Tourism Australia chairman Geoff Dixon and his fellow business partners, who together own eight Sydney pubs, this is one venue that will only improve with time.

Jubilee Hotel

Lying in the midst of the chaos and craziness of the nightlife found at Fortitude Valley, the recently refurbished Jubilee Hotel has transformed itself into one of Brisbane’s hottest entertainment venues. A bit of a local institution, the “Jube” was first opened in 1888. You can happily experience a bit of Brisbane history whilst knocking back a Hahn Gold. Home to one of Brisbane’s best beer gardens along an awesome indoor bar, a huge gaming room, a range of function rooms and a great restaurant serving Mexican-themed fare, the Jubilee Hotel caters to all ages and occasions. If you can, try to catch one of the epic Sunday sessions that kick off at around noon — and go on until late in the evening.

Plough Inn Tavern

Bordering the Brisbane River in the middle of Southbank is the Plough Inn Tavern, one of Brissy’s many heritage-listed watering holes. This opened way back in 1885. The beer garden catches the sun all throughout the year, and offers stellar views of Brisbane city and the gorgeous Brisbane skyline. With 11 beers on tap and an awesome selection of craft beers available, this is a spot for the serious beer drinker. If you’re also keen to sample some food while imbibing, a must-try is the house specialty of hickory barbecue pork ribs.

About the Author: Tassie-based Kaitlin Corrs is a food and wine blogger.


Drink of the Week: The Framboise Franca Bomb

The Framboise Franca Bomb. Yes, it’s been an entire week since we saluted International Beer Day. However, as I said last week, for many of you out there every day is some kind of beer day. As it happened, this week’s combo was a little too intriguing — and a little too easy to fix — to completely ignore.

The drink is comprised of two ingredients which are old enough to be considered classic but will nevertheless be new to many of you — they’re still new to me. It’s definitely a case of two fascinating liquids that blend intriguingly together.

For starters, I don’t know where Lindeman’s Framboise has been all my life, but this Belgian export is, for my money, pretty gosh darn delightful stuff. Fermented with raspberries in preference to hops, and tasting very much like raspberries, it’s just sweet enough to be cheerful but just beery enough to be actual, respectable beer. To be honest, though, it should be said that, as beer goes, I’m a pretty rank dilettante. It’s the tragic result of the fact that I don’t seem to be able to put away more than a pint of the stuff in a single evening.

The second, and only other, ingredient in today’s beverage is the world’s trendiest bitters, Fernet Branca. Beloved of Batman’s buddy, Alfred, it actually began its career in the mid-19th century as an Italian stomach medicine. Drunk straight, many will feel it still pretty much tastes like an Italian stomach medicine. I don’t complain because people keep sending me the stuff for free. Also,  when combined with other beverages, it can yield intriguing and even delicious results. Such is the case with today’s DOTW.

Shall we begin?

The Framboise Franca Bomb

12 ounces Lindeman’s Framboise (or another Framboise Lambic beer if your feeling experimental, and can find one)
1 ounce (or a bit more) Fernet Branca

Fill a pint glass with your Framboise Lambic beer. Drop a shot glass of Fernet Branca shot into glass. Start drinking and toast all that time you’ve saved by making this cocktail instead of something that requires you to squeeze lemons and what not.


This drink isn’t only easier and quicker to make than most of the cocktails I select for DOTW — and I’m already pretty darn intent on keeping these drinks easy enough for louts like myself to make — it’s quicker to write about. I suppose I could have experimented with other Framboise Lambic beers, assuming I could have even found any, but I really didn’t see any reason to mess with near perfection.

While this isn’t as spectacular a blending of bitter and sweet as say, an Americano or, better yet, an Ugly Americano, the perfumey, fruity bitterness of the nearly 80 proof Fernet blends beautifully with the raspberry sweet tarty beery of the Lindemans Framboise. Also, the more of the berry flavored beer you drink, the more you’re ready for the stronger Fernet Branca flavor.

All that, and it yields a far better buzz attitude adjustment than a mere pint of beer. All in all, a great reason to keep the Bud and the Heineken packed away and go for something a bit more exotic, I’d say.  With more drinks like this, I think I could add to my beer consumption just a bit.


Drink of the Week: The Rye Sierra

The Great Unnamed Beer and Rye Cocktail. It’s just possible that it has escaped your attention up to this moment, but today is International Beer Day. Of course, for many people, truly every day is International Beer Day, or at least every Sunday during football season.

The ironic thing is that beer, which was once just about the least respected of alcoholic brews in the United States, has achieved more of its props with the rise of craft beer, microbrews and what not. These days, many people who wouldn’t know the first thing about a genuine Old Fashioned or Sazerac and who might freak out if confronted with the ultra-bitter/ultra-sweet flavor of Campari, included in this week’s DOTW, have no problem with the more familiar but no less bitter flavors of some dark beers.

Be calm, however. There’s no need for conflict as I’m happy to say that beer and cocktails are proving to be two great things that, if handled properly, can go great together. Today’s beverage is a delightfully refreshing case in point.

Though it came to me without a name, like the good native son of the West that I am, I have christened today’s beverage the Rye Sierra, after its two main ingredients. It comes courtesy of a mysterious benefactor connected to the makers of the very excellent Templeton Rye Whiskey. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale gets a plug, too — even if I had to spring for my own bottle.

My first attempt at this drink was a true delight, but you’ve got to be certain you don’t fall from a great height with this one. Just make sure you bring plenty of ice and don’t overuse the swizzle stick.

The Rye Sierra

1 ounce Templeton Rye Whiskey
4 ounces Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Combine the rye, lemon juice, and Campari in a double rocks glass (i.e., like a regular Old Fashioned tumbler, but about twice as big). Stir, and add plenty of ice. Top off with four ounces of the very lovely Sierra Nevada Pale Ale — resist any urges to stir it again at this point. Just let the brew site on top of the summit where it belongs. Salute the mountain range of your choice.


If ever there was a drink perfect for a hot day where you’re allowed to eat nothing but popcorn, salted nuts, and wasabi peas, this might well be it. Still, I must reiterate that you are to use plenty of ice and zero stirring is allowed after you have added the beer. Much in the way an Irish Coffee must only be enjoyed through its cap of heavy cream, the rye, Campari, and lemony goodness must only be enjoyed through the ale.

Finally, I realize that a lot of you out there don’t have any double rocks glasses. I actually ran out and bought a couple myself for $3.99 each. That’s because I’m a professional. You amateurs out there can simply cut the proportions in half and drink this out of a regular rocks glass, even if you’re buzz will take twice as long that way.

Also, you have my permission to try this with other brands of rye. I did — and I bet it would have worked great too if I didn’t find out too late someone in my house had Bogarted most of the ice.


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