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.

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2015 Holiday Gift Guide: For the Home

Gifts like these might not be the most romantic if you’re buying for your wife or girlfriend, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find cool stuff that will put a smile on their face. Products for the home can be just as desirable if you focus on items with great design or that make someone’s life a lot easier, and if you stick to those simple guidelines, you’ll make whoever is on the receiving end very happy.

Click the links within the write-ups to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

iDevices Thermostat & Switch

Transforming your house into a smart home has never been easier with these new products from iDevices, which work in conjunction with the free iDevices Connected app to allow users to control, monitor and schedule their thermostat and other electronics from any compatible iOS device. While Nest may own a large share of the market with its smart thermostat, the iDevices version is a great alternative for nearly half the price. It features a sleek, minimalistic design and gives you the ability to change the temperature wherever you are, set schedules for different times and days of the week, and even create “Scenes” (like “Going to Bed”) that can be activated with Siri voice commands. The real game-changer, however, is the iDevices Switch, which controls any product (15 amps or less) that you would plug into a standard wall outlet and includes a customizable LED night light that can be turned on or off separately. Better yet, when paired with a Thermostat or multiple Switches in certain rooms or “Zones” (like upstairs or downstairs), it delivers the smart home experience that all those science fiction movies promised us. Just don’t expect it to make you breakfast as well. You can also find these devices at Lowe’s.

idevices

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 740HD Projector

The traditional moviegoing experience has gotten so bad that more and more people have decided to stay away from theaters altogether by creating one of their own inside their homes, and with the PowerLite Home Cinema 740HD projector from Epson, it couldn’t be any easier. In addition to featuring widescreen, high-definition 720p resolution, the Home Cinema 740HD offers up to 15,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio for rich details in dark scenes and boasts three times brighter colors than leading competitors thanks to its three-chip LCD technology. This results in a viewing experience that’s much closer to a typical theater chain, even if it can’t replicate it exactly. The projector itself is fairly lightweight and compact, so you can take it to your friend’s house or stage a movie night in your backyard, and along with HDMI connectivity for Blu-ray/DVD players and gaming consoles, there’s a USB port that can be used for the latest plug-and-play streaming sticks from Amazon and Roku, as well as a built-in speaker. For home theater junkies looking to upgrade their current setup, the Home Cinema 740HD is a great alternative to buying one of those massive TVs, and at a fraction of the price.

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2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Guy Stuff

Guys are pretty easy to shop for. Most of the time, you can just get stuff you’d buy for yourself. Yet sometimes, when you’re shopping for your dad, brother or any other guy on your shopping list, you have to cast a wider net, because tastes obviously vary. Still, at least you can pick up some stuff for yourself while you’re browsing.

Click the links within the write-ups to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

George Foreman Camp & Tailgate Grill

Just when we thought George Foreman had fully exhausted every possible variation of his lean, mean grilling machine, it turns out he still had a trick up his sleeve. The fully portable Camp and Tailgate Grill is a nice addition to the ever expanding product line. Whether serving up a horde of fellow tailgaters or revitalizing a troop of weary hikers, this grill boasts 200 square inches of space to cook up 12 servings of food at one time. But despite the size, it’s surprisingly light and easy to carry around. It even comes with an attachable shoulder strap for easy transport to someone’s house or camp site. We found that the grill lights up and heats up quickly, and the reversible cooking surface added a welcome touch of adaptability. From burgers and brats, to pancakes and eggs, this grill does it all. We measured success, however, not by the plethora of handy product features, but by the quality of the finished meal. The empty plates and looks of satisfaction convinced us that George Foreman remains king of grills.

FOREO LUNA for Men Ultimate Grooming Collection

Just because guys don’t talk about it as much doesn’t mean that skincare isn’t still important, and this limited edition grooming set from FOREO features everything you’ll need to leave your skin feeling invigorated and refreshed, including their award-winning LUNA for Men facial brush and Daily Revitalizing Gel Cleanser, as well as a trio of PRORASO shaving products. The centerpiece of the collection is the LUNA facial brush, which channels T-Sonic pulsations through its silicone touch-points, gently removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores of dirt and oil. This preps the skin for a more comfortable shave and helps prevent razor burn. If you’re worried about wrinkles, there’s also an Anti-Aging mode that utilizes lower-frequency pulsations that, when applied to certain areas on the face (like around the eyes), leaves the skin looking younger and more energized. The LUNA is completely waterproof and features eight different speed settings, but the one thing that really sets it apart from other devices on the market is the fact that it’s made from silicone, so it doesn’t require replacement brush heads, which can get expensive over time. Though this isn’t something that most men would buy on their own, once they experience the effects first hand, they won’t be able to start their day without it.

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2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Gadgets

Adults like toys too, so if you’re on the lookout for a memorable gift for your spouse, or just treating yourself to an early Christmas present, a cool gadget is always a great option. Of course, prices run the gamut in this arena, so you’ll need to be careful, but whether you’re shopping for the latest smartphones or something to please the audiophile in your life, you can find something that fits almost any budget.

Click the links within the write-ups to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

HTC One A9

There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding HTC’s newest addition to their award-winning One family that it looks suspiciously like the iPhone 6, and although the similarities are undeniable, if you’re a diehard Android fan that’s always been jealous of Apple’s sleek design, the HTC One A9 is the perfect compromise. It’s also a pretty solid mid-range smartphone, sporting a five-inch, 1080 x 1920 full HD display, 2TB of expandable microSD card memory, BoomSound with Dolby Audio and a 13-megapixel camera with Optical Image Stabilization. The camera includes some really cool features that photography nerds will love, like the ability to make moving time-lapse videos (called HyperLapse) and capture photos in RAW format for greater editing control; the added fingerprint sensor/home button is one of the best on the market; and the new Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS delivers improved performance across the board. The HTC One A9 doesn’t quite have what it takes to compete with the big boys, and because of that, it’s $499 price tag may seem a bit high, but for those who want an iPhone lookalike that runs Android, this is about as close as you’re going to get.

Polaroid Z2300 Instant Digital Camera & ZIP Instant Photo Printer

For as much as digital cameras have changed our lives, there’s just something about the instant gratification of a Polaroid picture that’s difficult to replace. The company aims to recapture that feeling by blending the old with the new in their latest line of products, like the Polaroid Z2300, a 10-megapixel camera that contains all the usual features – 6x digital zoom, 32MB of built-in memory, an SD card slot for extra memory and the ability to capture 720p HD video – but with the addition of a built-in printer that prints 2×3” photos. Though the Z2300 is too bulky and heavy to carry around like a normal digital camera, it’s great for birthdays, weddings and other gatherings to be used by guests who want to snap their own photos to take home as a keepsake. Of course, if you’d rather use the camera on your mobile device, or already have a collection of digital photos that you want to print out in the same wallet-sized format, the ZIP Instant Photo Printer delivers a more mobile and personalized Polaroid experience. Using the free iOS and Android app, you can add filters, text, emojis and borders, or even create a collage, for a truly one-of-a-kind photo. Both products make fun gifts, but if you’re buying for someone under the age of 35, we’d recommend the ZIP printer solely due to its smaller footprint.

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2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Movies

These days, if you don’t own a Blu-ray player, you’re missing out, especially with a variety of classic movies being offered in high definition for the first time ever. But while we could easily fill several pages with suggestions of great films and cool box sets that deserve a spot on any holiday wish list, we’ve picked some of our favorites released over the past 12 months. If you can’t find anything worth buying here, then chances are that the person you’re shopping for doesn’t like movies.

Click the links within the write-ups to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Back to the Future: 30th Anniversary Trilogy

By this point, you may well be weary of hearing about “Back to the Future,” given how much press the time-travel trilogy received when the first movie hit the big 3-0 earlier this year, but at some point you’ll find yourself wanting to revisit the fun of these three films, and that’s when you’ll want to have a copy of this five-disc set in your collection. In addition to a disc for each of the films, each of which has deleted scenes, “Tales from the Future” documentary segments, audio commentaries and various other bonus material, there’s also a separate bonus disc that includes a variety of additional mini-docs, plus a 2015 message from Doc Brown, two new commercials (one for “Jaws 19,” the other for a Hoverboard), and two episodes of “Back to the Future: The Animated Series.”

The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki is one the most celebrated filmmakers in the history of animation, boasting a unique style that shines through in every one of his fantastical stories. Though Miyazaki’s films are currently available as individual Blu-rays, this 12-disc box set – which is available exclusively through Amazon – is the first time that they’ve been offered in a single collection. All 11 movies are included, from 1979’s “Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro” to 2013’s Oscar-nominated “The Wind Rises.” In addition, there are several hours of bonus material that are perfect for the Miyazaki admirer, including his 1972 TV pilot for Tetsuya Chiba’s “Yuki no Taiyo,” three episodes of the 1972 anime series “Akado Suzunosuke,” the 90-minute press conference announcing his retirement, and a 37-page collector’s book featuring the essay, “The Great Dichotomy: Looking at the Works of Hayao Miyazaki.” It’s probably not worth the double dip if you already own all of his movies on Blu-ray (especially since the extras from those releases have strangely been removed here), but this box set is a must-have for fans of animation, as well as kids who are beginning to outgrow their Disney and Pixar collections.

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