During the holidays, all too often, a hasty trip to the liquor store passes for thoughtful gifting. We get it! It’s a stressful time with all that travel and forced communion with the family. But there’s a better way to celebrate the season than an impressive looking — albeit moderately priced — bottle of wine. Put down that Italian red you can’t even pronounce and choose from our handpicked selection of boozy alternatives. ‘Tis the season of indulgence. Embrace it with class! Next
Pretty Things cowboy glass
Das boot goes wild west in this cowboy-inspired pint glass from Pretty Things. Make the season doubly nice by pairing it up with a bomber of Pretty Things’ seasonal Meadowlark IPA or, even better, seek out their new Russian Imperial Stout, Barbapapa (old man’s beard), available for the first time this December. The high-octane imperial stout is being brewed to celebrate Pretty Things’ 5th anniversary and clocks in at a whopping 12 percent ABV. That’ll make family time a breeze for anyone this holiday.
Available at: prettybeershop.com
Price: $12 each Next
Wood Thumb six-pack holder
B.Y.O.B. is often an excuse to scrounge together a piecemeal six-pack from the fridge. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do that in style. Wood Thumb for San Francisco is putting together some of the coolest ways to imbibe, using locally sourced, reclaimed wood to craft swanky bottle openers, drinking games, and this fashionable six-pack holder. The Wood Thumb holder is conducive to any 12-ounce bottle and is perfect for picnics or hauling a mixed pack of singles.
Available at: Magpie in Davis Square
Price: $42 Next
Allagash pom pom beanie
Rob Tod’s Allagash brewery in Portland, Maine, has been pioneer of the Belgian Trappist style in New England. He also happens to be producing some of the best industry swag to complement all those Brett-infected tripels and oak-aged farmhouse ales. This retro pom pom beanie might bring to mind Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” or Kevin McCallister in “Home Alone,” but the multi-colored classic will prime any loved one for the blustery months ahead.
Available at: allagash.com
Price: $18 Next
The Complete Beer Course
Joshua Bernstein , Brooklyn-based beer journalist for Wired, Imbibe, and The New York Times, has written an impressively thorough and modern look at beer that appeals to both craft beer neophytes and condescending hop heads. Bernstein covers everything from glassware and food pairings to cellaring and Bavarian purity laws in an approachable, laid-back voice. This comprehensive tome gives tips for evaluating any style and is even a perfect coffee table book with beautiful color illustrations, hop charts, and in-depth profiles of individual breweries.
Price: $24.95 Next
Boston map rocks glass and wine carafe
Local artist Brian Johnson and his earth-friendly company, the uncommon green, have been melding style and functionality since 2009. Their sleek product-line ranges from shaving kits to end tables, but their barware is deservedly getting much of the attention. Johnson’s “Maps” series is a line of etched rocks glasses and wine carafes decorated with downtown maps of metropolises such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and of course, Boston. Each piece is packaged in 100 percent recycled post-industrial material and is manufactured just south of Boston.
Available at: The Boston Shaker
Price: $12.50 for the rocks glass and $50 for the carafe Next
Sons of Liberty single-malt whiskey
Instead of looking at small-batch whiskey, as just whiskey, Rhode Island’s Sons of Liberty conceptualize their products with great beer in mind. And why not? Both beer and whiskey have the same basic ingredients: malted grain, yeast, and water. Even the process for brewing and whiskey distillation is similar. So, for their first-ever Battle Cry single-malt whiskey, owner Michael Reppucci looked to dark Belgian ales like Chimay Blue. He uses 20 percent rye to give it spice character, a Beligan trappist yeast strain for dark fruit notes, and French oak staves for added complexity. Production is extremely limited, so grab some while you can.
Available at: Ball Square Fine Wines
Price: $27.99 for a 375ml bottle Next
Brooklyn Brine hop pickles
There’s nothing more mundane than a stocking stuffed with travel-sized toiletries, cocoa packets, candy canes, and gift cards. So, pull out that orange nestled in the toe of the boot and replace it with something savory and unique. This collaboration between Delaware’s Dogfish Head brewery and Brooklyn Brine’s artisanal pickles combines high-quality cukes in a tasty brine of Dogfish 60 Minute IPA, carmelized onions, Cascade hops, and habanero peppers. This spicy, hoppy hybrid is absolutely addictive and is the perfect accoutrement for leftover turkey sandwiches.
Available at: Dave’s Fresh Pasta
Price: $8.99 Next
Hermetus bottle opener and sealer
This ingenious bottle opener, manufactured in Germany, doubles as a re-sealing cap for larger format bottles. Now the beer nerd in your life can sample several bombers at once without the fear of spoilage. The underside on the Hermetus is adorned with a soft rubber gasket capable of maintaining critical CO2 levels for up to two days. There’s no need to guzzle the last third of that Three Floyds Gumballhead or Prairie Artisan Ales Pirate Noir you’ve been hording. You can take your time and give it the respect it deserves.
Available at: Craft Beer Cellar Belmont
Price: $14 Next
Trillium’s rare barrel-aged offerings
If you weren’t already convinced that growlers have arrived in the mainstream, look no further than windows of your local, West Elm. But beyond their practicality — and their role in home decor? — the growler affords craft breweries the opportunity to release experimental and small-batch offerings beyond in-house taps. Surprise that special someone with a truly unique surprise and tie a bow around a bottle of Trillium’s Pot&Kettle oatmeal porter that has been aged in used Bully Boy whiskey casks. Also available in early December will be a limited amount of Trillium’s Wakerobin farmhouse red rye, aged in barrels that formerly housed Grand Ten Distilling’s almond liqueur.
Available at: Trillium Brewing in Fort Point
Price: Priced upon release Next
Bug Hill Farm shrubs
One of the most exciting cocktail trends of 2013 was the incorporation of shrubs (one part fruit macerated with sugar and boiled with vinegar ), a drinking vinegar that dates back to the 18-century. You might have seen these Colonial-era concoctions used by saavy mixologists like Sam Gabrielli at Russel House Tavern and John Drew at Blue Dragon. Now thanks to Bug Hill Farm in Ashfield, you can add your own twist to tasty kirs and bloody marys. The USDA Certified Organic farm incorporates local honey and fresh peaches, raspberries, blueberries, and black currants. Unlike other bottled examples, they are not made from concentrates and are perfect as a substitute for lemon or lime juice. They make delicious vinaigrettes, toddies, margaritas, and natural sodas. The list is endless.
Available at: The Boston Shaker
Price: $16 each Next
Samuel Adams bad sweater koozie
No holiday season would complete without the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick,” Uncle Eddie guzzling eggnog in a dickey, and that cheeky new tradition, the bad Christmas sweater party. But with Sam Adams’ new sweater koozie, you can enjoy all the gaudy fun year round. This knitted koozie is perfect poolside or fireside and even helps shroud your guilty pleasures in a cloak of coolness.
Available at: samueladams.com
Price: $5 Next
Shuki sake set
Sake is really the last of the world’s great fermented beverages yet undiscovered by most of Americans. Believe me, that tepid carafe of jug sake you ordered on a lark at your local sushi spot was not representative of the depths of flavor present in the better Ginjo and Daiginjo examples. Like great wine, sake can range from sweet to bone-dry and cover every imagineable aroma from fruity, to briny, to downright funky. Surprise that adventurous someone by chilling a bottle of Takasago “Divine Droplets” or Sato No Homare “Pride of the Village” and gifting it with this stylish sake set designed by famed Japanese architect and furniture designer Daisaku Cho.
Available at: Abodeon in Cambridge
Price: $65 Next
Coravin wine opener
Local medical-device entrepreneur Greg Lambrecht has forever changed the wine game. Using his background in vascular technology, Lambrecht has created a way to enjoy wine without removing the cork, thus avoiding oxidation. The Coravin system inserts a thin, hollow needle through the foil/cork to extract the wine, pumps in pressurized argon (an inert gas), and reseals the cork as you remove the needle, returning your wine to its unopened state. Liz Vilardi at Belly Wine Bar is a major advocate for the device, using it on library offerings like her 2004 magnum of Chateau Pibernon Bandol and a 1993 Breton Bourgueil “Les Perrieres.” But at home it’s an ideal solution for single-glass pours of your favorite Pinot Noir or Riesling.
Available at: Coravin.com
Bully Boy unaged spirits gift pack
For brothers Will and Dave Willis, quality hooch runs in the family. Their fourth-generation family farm once housed some of Prohibition's most coveted moonshine. Seventy years later, Dave and Will discovered the cellared selections and — inspired by that daring and cavalier spirit — started their own distillery. Using a 600 liter copper pot still and a majority of organic ingredients, Bully Boy is now producing some of the best whiskey and rum in New England. Just in time for the holidays, they’re offering three unaged spirits — a white rum made with black strap molasses, a wheat vodka, and an unoaked whiskey — in a fun carrying case. When everyone shows up with a bottle of wine at your holiday party, you’ll look like a genius with this trio of Boston’s finest.
Price: $49.99 Next
Zesty Double Chocolate Stout cookies
Boxford’s Zesty Cookie Co. is making the closest thing to homemade out there. Founders Heather Amaral and Liz Pool make “cookies for a mature palatte” without preservatives, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, or colors. These deliciously tender cookies are kneaded with artisanal items like rich espresso, cayenne pepper, and real cacao. Recently, Zesty collaborated with Newburyport Brewing Co. to incorporate their draft-only Joppa stout, a dry Irish stout that lends a punch of milk chocolate creaminess. Lay off the same old chocolate chip and snickerdoodle varieties this holiday and dazzle Santa’s taste buds with this boozy alternative. Next
Night Shift Barrel Society membership
Treat those loved ones who have been especially good this year to the spoils of Night Shift Brewing’s expanded barrel room. The Everett-based brewery’s unconventional approach to traditional wheat ales and saisons (a recent sampling of their beers included additions of Hawaiian lava salts, rosehips, gunpowder tea leaves, and habanero peppers) has proven so popular that they’ve had to expand twice within the last year just to keep up with demand. One of the biggest draws is membership to their Barrel Society, a priority club which offers unique barrel-aged offerings that never make it to the general public. Besides exclusive access to some of these rare beers, members also receive two pieces of stemware, a t-shirt, exclusive tap lines and priority purchasing at the brewery, and first rights of refusal for membership in subsequent years.
Available at: nightshiftbrewing.com
Price: Aficionado (1 bottle of each beer = 7 bottles total; $150 membership), Connoisseur (2 bottles of each beer = 14 bottles total; $250 membership), and Cellarmaster (4 bottles of each beer = 28 bottles total; $450 membership). Next
Boston Shaker’s Yarai gift pack
If you’re still shaking your Manhattans and martinis, just stop. Shaking “bruises” the spirits, leading to watered-down, oil-slicked gin and bourbon. Stirring is the preferred method for a number of classic drinks and there’s no better way to accomplish this than in a Japanese Yarai mixing glass. Unlike a regular pint glass, the wide base on this sturdy, cut-glass vessel allows more room for layers of ice, which chills your drink faster, preventing dillution. The Boston Shaker in Somerville is offering a Yarai gift pack this holiday that also includes a long-handled bar spoon and Modern Mixologist’s sexy, stainless steel julep strainer; a must-have designed by pioneering bartender Tony Abou-Ganim.
Available at: The Boston Shaker
Price: $79 Next
GTD Fire Puncher Black and Taza chocolate
South Boston’s GrandTen Distlling is one of the main reasons local spirits are on the rise. Matthew Nuernberger and Spencer McMinn’s small-batch Irish whiskey, gins, and liqueurs can compete with any of their more expensive, pot-distilled competitors. Now they’ve partnered with Somerville’s Taza chocolate to creat Fire Puncher Black (Taza reciprocated by making a Fire Puncher chocolate), a chocolate/chipotle-infused vodka that adds complexity to any number of holiday drinks: white russians, spiked eggnog or coffee, and anything with allspice dram. GTD only made enough to sell through the winter months, so pick up some from your favorite liquor store, or even better, head down to Southie and pick up some from the source.
Available at: Social Wines
Price: Fire Puncher Black $26 and Taza Fire Puncher chocolate Mexicano$5.75 Back to the beginning
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