Christmas drinks: best alcohol gifts, including spirits and wines
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For many of us, Christmas is a time to enjoy a handsome tipple or two. Some of us will be restocking our drinks cabinets in anticipation of a wee dram on a winter’s evening, or looking to ensure we have lovely bottles on hand to gift to those we love.
But while a handy bottle of Bailey’s may never go astray - called, as it is by some, Christmas milk (and on sale for £15 at Tesco’s just now), sometimes you’re after something a little more special. Be it for you - wanting to ring in the festive season with a new drop of splosh - or as a present - this is the time to indulge in a different drink.
We’ve got you. From spectacular rums, to a Chianti so good you’ll forget you ever associated it with Hannibal Lecter, to a Royal-approved whisky - here are the Christmas spirits that will truly make you feel jolly. Of course - enjoy them responsibly, please.
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Oh - and a note. You may be tempted to buy a whisky lover ‘whisky stones’ - stones that go into the freezer, allowing drinkers to cool their dram without diluting it. In our not inconsiderable experience, this is a poor idea. Nobody we know who is an avid whisky fan uses the whisky stones they have been gifted - and most of them have been gifted several sets. Maybe this is anathema but we’d avoid them as a purchase unless you enjoy seeing your gift head straight to a charity shop.
Santa Teresa 1796 Rum
Discerning rum lovers will often turn to Barbados, Cuba or Jamaica for a premium expression of the sunshine spirit.
But this solera rum from Venezuela is absolutely worth your time. The solera method is usually used in the production of sherry, where a mixture of different aged iterations of the same drink are blending together to aid oxidisation and create a consistently excellent drop.
The results, in the case of Santa Teresa Rum, are delectable.
With hints of vanilla, chocolate - leather on the nose, and a slight hint of nose, this is a smooth, satisfying sipping rum. Enjoy neat.
Seignette VS Cognac Gift Pack
A lush gift for anyone who enjoys making sophisticated cocktails.
Seignette VS Cognac is made using traditional methods, but according to the distillers ‘throws out the category rule book.’ Think citrus, dried apricot, honeysuckle and vanilla.
This intriguing cognac opens with a good burst of sweet, fresh flavours. Then vanilla and oak. Hint of spice and a balanced creamy finish. Light and summery. It’s fine neat but really shines paired with Crémant or champagne for cocktails.
The art deco gift box is gorgeous, too.
Royal Brackla 12 Year Old Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish
Lying in blissful serenity in the Highlands, not far South of the town of Nairn, Brackla is a distillery that holds a Royal Warrant, first bestowed in 1833. It’s a mark of quality that is born out in this lovely drink.
This 12 year old single malt from Royal Brackla was finished in Oloroso sherry casks, which imparts a fruity, spiced depth of flavour.
It’s a sophisticated drop for the price-point: The fruit and the caramel come across very harmoniously. It is sherry-forward, and slightly nutty with a good portion of oak spice. Perfect for long winter evening.
Trambusti Chianti Flask Celsus Red Wine 75cl (Case of 6)
If you’ve a dinner party to cater for (responsibly, of course, with adherence to current social distancing rules) and need plenty of gorgeous red wine to fuel it, this Chianti is a terrific choice.
In the traditional raffia flask bottles, it will look glorious on a loaded table. The plonk inside is gorgeously drinkable - light, fruity, with gentle cherry fruit flavour with a smooth, curved end.
Crystal Head Vodka bottle
Know someone fond of a crisp martini or a cocktail?
There are few better gift options that Crystal Head vodka. Firstly, it’s an excellent tipple, with a super silky mouth feel and a clean nose - no burn as she sups.
Secondly, the bottle is stunning - made in Italy in an eye-catching skull shape - it’ll look gorgeous in their drink’s cabinet.
(If they’re a Ghostbusters fan, by the way, they’ll be interested to know that Dan Aykroyd owns the company)
The Ultimate - Cheese & Fine Wine from Cheesegeek
This is a great gift for a couple you know who adore wine and cheese evenings. A cheeseboard is an absolute essential at Christmastime, but people can often be left baffled as to what cheeses to choose.
Here - eight award-winning cheeses have been ideally paired to eight fine wines. You’ll find a morbier-style Ashcombe offset with the light sweetness of a Riesling, or a creamy Irish Gouda bought to life with the zinginess of a Muscadet.
(They say it’s for 2-4 people, but unless your ideal wine serving is a thimble full, we’d say this is for 2).
The Kocktail Mixed Case
We’re big fans of Kocktail here at Recommended - manufacturers, as they are, of ready-to-drink letterbox cocktails par excellence.
If you want to introduce a merry tipple to your Christmas celebrations, but don’t want to labour with jiggers and sugar syrup, the Kocktail mixed case will keep your celebrations swinging. It features six of their delectable concoctions, including:
Espresso Martini, Cherry Cola Old Fashioned, Winter Spiced Negroni, Chocolate Negroni, Rhubarb & Cucumber Spritz and Lychee & Elderflower Spritz.
The Espresso Martini is award winning - one sip and you’ll see why.
M&S Clementine Light Up Snow Globe Gin Liqueur & Prosecco Gift Box
Labelled as ‘this season’s must-have Christmas gift’ by Marks and Spencer, this year the brand has crafted a clementine flavour gin liqueur, and comes paired with a bottle of prosecco.
The sparkling light-up bottle, with edible 23-carat gold leaf, is a stunning new design for 2021 inspired by The Nutcracker ballet.
It pairs perfectly with the limited-edition Christmas Conte Priuli Oro Prosecco, presented in a beautiful matching gift box.
An online-exclusive set.
The Lost Explorer Tobalá Mezcal, 42%
As with most spirits, the price of tequila and mezcal can get very high, with the factors contributing to price usually down to rarity of ingredients and time.
The Lost Explorer is a new brand with three mezcals on the market, each named after the variety of agave used to make them. Espadín uses agaves aged 8 years and costs around £60; Tobalá uses rarer 10 year old wild agaves and costs over £100; and Salmiana, costing nearly £140, features a much less well known variety which is harvested at 12 years.
Lost Exporer’s Salmiana is harder to get hold of so we suggest you turn to Tobalá for some neat sipping action. It’s full of character, with the freshness underpinned by rustic notes of wood, leather and tobacco.
We also detected some hints of sweet, smoky vanilla and a slight burst of orange juice but, as with expensive Scotch whisky, every drinker will discover their own flavours within each sip.
Kings County Peated Bourbon, 45%
Although Kentucky is undoubtedly the home of bourbon, production of the spirit isn’t confined to the county and, perhaps without the pressure to operate along traditional Kentucky lines, many of the new distilleries from elsewhere seem more inclined to do things differently.
Kings County is a Brooklyn based distillery founded in 2010 (the first in New York City since prohibition) that has branched out into new territory, successfully dabbling with a peated bourbon.
Give it a sniff and it has the instant smell of sweet vanilla familiar to many bourbons, with the peat practically undetectable. Get your taste buds in on the action and that sweetness becomes more subdued, revealing dry leathery flavours and some bitter fruits among the toasted spices.
This is clearly a very different kind of bourbon, but without reading peat on the label you might be hard pressed to fathom why: instead of the briney smoke associated with Scottish peated whisky, in this instance the peat seems to have provided some depth you normally associate with more aged spirits.
A very enjoyable departure from the Kentucky norm.
Gallimard Les Riceys Cuvee Reserve
This Champagne is made in the less well known region of Aube, in the southern part of the Champagne producing area that’s close to the border with Burgundy.
Produced by the Gallimard family, who have been making their own Champagne for close to a century, this is made exclusively from the red Pinot Noir grapes.
It features lovely ripe red fruits with notes of toasted brioche and oranges. It’s a good, light Champagne that really over delivers for the price point.