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

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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

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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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2014 Holiday Gift Guide: Games

The holiday season is the video game industry’s busiest time of year, with publishers saving many of their marquee titles to release on the public like an avalanche of digital goodness. It can actually be quite overwhelming with so many different options to choose from, so we’ve done our best to put together a collection of what we feel are some of the year’s best titles, and ones that the gamer on your list will love.

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

Destiny

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After creating one of the most successful video game franchises in history, Bungie could have done pretty much whatever they wanted for their next project and it would have undoubtedly been a massive hit. Thankfully, the team behind the “Halo” series hasn’t strayed too far from its roots with this sci-fi first-person shooter, although it’s certainly a different experience due to the incorporation of role-playing and MMO elements. But while you can do things like upgrade your character’s abilities, weapons and armor, or team up with fellow players (via Bungie’s matchmaking system) to complete missions, the game is still very much a shooter at heart – one that has the benefits of co-op multiplayer without making you feel like you can’t play and progress at your own pace. The story doesn’t dig as deep into the post-apocalyptic premise as we would’ve liked, and the gameplay can get a bit repetitive at times, but “Destiny” is a deceptively enjoyable shooter with fantastic visuals, an addictive multiplayer mode and an open-ended structure that allows Bungie to continue to provide new content for many years to come.

FIFA 15

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Most video game sports franchises have gotten to the point where the truly innovative features are less about what’s on the surface than what’s underneath, and “FIFA 15” is a perfect example of how subtle changes can still make a world of difference. Though it plays very similar to last year’s edition, “FIFA 15” has gone one step further in bridging the gap between a video game and the real thing. Slide tackles and boot marks are visible on the pitch, the surface becomes more weathered as each match progresses, and crowds behave differently according to their specific club or country. Gameplay has received a few upgrades as well, including the ability to control teammates during set pieces, improved push/pull mechanics during man-to-man battles, and more accurate ball movement. There’s also a brand new intelligence system for goalkeepers that allows them to better anticipate shots and passes, while players now recognize situations (whether it’s a hard tackle or a series of bad fouls) that trigger an emotional response. And believe it or not, that’s just a taste of what “FIFA 15” has to offer, because this is arguably the most comprehensive digital soccer experience yet.

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2014 Holiday Gift Guide: Television

Television fans must love the holidays, because it’s the one time of year when studios unleash a host of massive box sets collecting their favorite dramas and comedies. This year is no different, with several critically acclaimed shows getting the complete series treatment. But while we like to devour an entire TV show just as quickly as the next person, sometimes a little self-discipline is required, which is why we’ve also included some less time-consuming (and more affordable) suggestions as well.

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

The Wonder Years: The Complete Series

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Can it really have been way back in 2006 when we put “The Wonder Years” at the top of our list of the 15 shows that we most wanted to see released on DVD? 2014 has been a damned good year for that list – now that “Batman” and “WKRP” are finally available, the only things left that we’re still waiting to see released are “Sifl & Olly” and “Ed” – but nothing’s made us as happy as the arrival of a miniature locker containing two faux Trapper Keeper notebooks filled with 26 discs worth of “The Wonder Years.” In addition to the 115 episodes, there’s also over 23 hours of bonus material, including footage from the recent cast reunion, tons of interviews with cast, creators and numerous guest stars, 10 newly-created featurettes, and outtakes from the filming of Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss…which, in case you didn’t know, was also Fred Savage and Danica McKellar’s first kiss as well! Lastly, when you pop open the locker – don’t worry, there’s no lock, so you don’t need to memorize a combination – you’ll also find a hardcover “yearbook” filled with behind-the-scenes pictures and notes from the cast. It’s so totally worth the wait.

Batman: The Complete Television Series

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Whether you grew up in the late 60s when it originally aired, or watched the reruns that played throughout the following decades, chances are that the “Batman” TV series was a big part of your childhood. One of the best things about the show is that it operates on multiple levels, so whereas you were attracted to the suspense, action and colorful production design as a kid, when revisiting the series as an adult, you’re able to enjoy the subtler, campier aspects. It certainly helped that it had such a game cast, from stars Adam West and Bruce Ward, to its cavalcade of villain guest stars – most notably Frank Gorshin, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Julie Newmar – all of whom understood exactly what kind of show they were making. “Batman” is one of the few classic TV series that still holds up today, which is why it’s so surprising that it took this long for it to be released on Blu-ray. The new digital restoration looks fantastic for a show that’s nearly 50 years old, with all 120 episodes presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The Blu-ray set also comes with hours of bonus material, including a retrospective on the show’s production and its legacy, a roundtable discussion with West and other Bat-fanatics, the original “Batgirl” pilot, screen tests for West and Ward, as well second-choice Lyle Waggoner (Batman) and Peter Deyell (Robin), and much more. And as if that wasn’t enough, it also comes with a Hot Wheels replica Batmobile, while the box itself plays the “Batman” theme song. Holy Fan Service, Batman!

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2014 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 to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection

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It may come as a surprise that Steven Spielberg has only won the Oscar for Best Director twice over the course of his illustrious career, because he’s made some of the most popular and critically-acclaimed films of the past 40 years. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Spielberg spent a majority of his time working under the Universal Pictures banner, and all of those movies have been collected in this fantastic box set, four of which (“Duel,” “Sugarland Express,” “1941” and “Always”) are making their Blu-ray debuts. The other films include perennial favorites like “Jaws,” “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” “Jurassic Park” and “The Lost World,” though for some strange reason, 1993’s “Schindler’s List” (his last Universal picture to date) is nowhere to be found. All of the movies have received gorgeous high-def video transfers, while the included booklet provides background info like fun facts, concept art and storyboards. Though the lesser known films will undoubtedly receive individual releases in the future, this is the only way to own them on Blu-ray at the moment, and that makes the “Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection” a must-have for any self-respecting cinephile.

Stanley Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection

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There are many stories about the difficulties of working with Stanley Kubrick. He was a perfectionist and an introvert, but he was also a cinematic genius responsible for directing some of most innovative and influential films of the past 60 years. Though it doesn’t include any of his earlier work (specifically “Paths of Glory” and “The Killing,” which you can pick up from Criterion), this new Blu-ray set is the closest thing to a definitive collection that you’re likely to find, featuring all eight movies that Kubrick directed between 1960 to 1999: “Spartacus,” “Lolita,” “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Atom Bomb,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Barry Lyndon,” “The Shining,” “Full Metal Jacket” and “Eyes Wide Shut.” The 10-disc set also boasts a pair of discs dedicated to bonus material, including the previously released documentaries “Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures” and “O’ Lucky Malcolm” (about actor Malcolm McDowell), as well as a trio of new featurettes, “Kubrick Remembered,” “Stanley Kubrick in Focus” and “Once Upon a Time… A Clockwork Orange.” If you don’t already own these films on Blu-ray, now is the time to rectify that.

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2014 Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

As gadgets and electronics become a bigger part of our lives, gadget accessories are becoming more popular as well. We’ve assembled a few cool products that fit the bill, as well as other stocking stuffers you can consider for everyone on your holiday list.

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

HISY Remote Shutter

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Here’s a great new gadget from HISY that can be a great gift for practically everyone on your list. It’s a tin, button-sized device that acts as a remote shutter for your iPhone. You can place your iPhone anywhere and then capture photos and videos without holding it by using this small device. You don’t need an app to install it, as it works effortlessly with your iPhone’s Bluetooth capability. Just pair the device and you’re ready to start taking photos. It’s great for selfies, group photos and action videos, as now you won’t be restricted by your reach. Sure, selfies with the iPhone in your arm can still be fun, particularly with someone from the opposite sex, but now you can open up the possibilities with all sorts of photos, and you can start using it right away for the holidays.

Wallets from The Wallet Shoppe

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Most guys will appreciate a new leather wallet, so you’ll find tons of great gift ideas at The Wallet Shoppe. The site features classic designs like the Bellroy Hide and Seek Black Leather Wallet that we tried out, along with newer and trendier styles as well. You can choose from wallets in classic leather or exotic options like alligator, crocodile or lizard skins. They also have some cool messenger bags as well. With all that variety, you’re bound to find something that’s perfect for the person on your gift list.

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