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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The Drinks of Comic-Con 2012

We all know what Comic-Con is supposed to be: Cannes for Geeks. Still, aside from the fetishization of all things genre-related and the increasingly Hollywood-ized atmosphere, there’s something else it’s about: drinking! But one can grab a $12.00 martini or a $3.00 shot anytime in an upscale yet funky city like San Diego. It takes a Comic-Con for the dipsomanical masses to be able to slurp their way to oblivion with a Captain America, a Spicy Hulk, or drinks saluting the warring dynasties from George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones.”

Which is not to say that the search for the great themed cocktails to be found in Comic-Con’s backyard was an easy one. At times I and my photographing buddy, Rodney Reynaldo, feared we might not have enough drinks to really make this piece sing but, as we trudged through what seemed like every bar in San Diego’s downtown Gaslamp district, we found plenty. Admittedly, we sometimes found ourselves making the news as much as we reported on it; some of these drinks are on the spot creations from some of the area’s more spontaneous mixologists. Still, most of these were created with plenty of forethought, most of them tasted good, and some were downright terrific.

The Captain America

I have to admit that I pretty much knew somebody would come up with an extremely sweet red, white and blue themed salute to good ol’ Cap. I never imagined it would induce near terminal brain freeze while tasting far better than this cocktail snob would have ever expected.

The Captain America, as crafted by Andrea of the Hard Rock Cafe on 4th Avenue, is actually three drinks. The blue is a pina colada featuring Blue Curacao; the red is a raspberry pina colada featuring Bacardi rum; and the white, and possibly the best tasting of the three, was an exceedingly sweet frozen daiquiri made with Bacardi’s Dragon Berry Rum. A million miles away from a classic daiquiri like I’d make, but what would I expect from a red, white and blue cocktail?

The Dark Knight

The Tivoli, which proclaims itself the oldest bar in San Diego, sticks to its old school image by an affinity with a certain reactionary-leaning caped crusader. The Dark Knight, crafted by the bar’s redoubtable Rosie (pictured uptop), was as dark as any black knight but it’s flavor might have pleased a fruit bat with it’s surprisingly refreshing combination of vodka, blue curacao, raspberry liqueur, and a splash of Rumple Minze 100 proof peppermint schnapps.

The Spicy Hulk

There are any number of green drinks named in honor of Bruce Banner’s ill-tempered alter-ego. Yet, it’s hard to imagine any would ever be tastier than this concoction. Whipped up on the spot by the very skilled Oscar Avila of El Vitral, the Spicy Hulk reflected our location just a few miles from the Mexican border with healthy dashes of cucumber, cilantro, serrano peppers, tomatillo, lime juice, agave nectar and, of course, blanco tequila. Nothing puny about this one.

The Marble Room Trilogy

We came to the Gaslamp in search of themed cocktails. We found our first themed bartender in Harlo Stompro of the brothel-esque 5th Avenue watering hole and restaurant. The man might be a joker, but he certainly took the time to come up an assortment of con-friendly libations.

The Alien Secretion contains vodka, both Rose’s Lime Juice and fresh lime, and triple sec. The bright green Romulan Ale might please Trek fans with a yen for another slight twist on a Kamikaze with blue curacao, vodka and fresh lime.  The Darth Vader is an homage to a Long Island Ice Tea with vodka, gin, rum, sour mix, and Chambord sitting in for the traditional triple sec. Since I kind of hate Long Islands, I found the taste appropriately evil.

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