I swear it was just summer yesterday, wasn’t it? Yet all of a sudden it’s time to figure out what I’m getting everyone (and asking for, let’s be honest!) for the holidays this year. I mean Thanksgiving is next week people…next week! And we all know that time passes at warp speed between Thanksgiving and Christmas so let’s get this done and onto enjoying all the parties, events, cocktails and food that are to come. And I don’t know about you but I have a lot of birthdays in the first few months of the new year as well so not only do I need to be thinking about holiday gifts but gifts all year long!
Yaaasss! A Craft Spirts Sampler Subscription
First things first…have you heard about Shots Box? We’ve been talking about them quite a bit lately and will continue to do so because we LOVE what they’re doing to support craft distillers around the country. They’re solving a big problem that all of us craft spirit sippers have had for years…how to get craft bottles we love into our hands at home! Here’s how it works…give the gift of a Shots Box membership (with this flaming hot deal through 11/27!) and they’ll get 10 sampler size bottles of craft spirits sent directly to their door each month. It’s like a Christmas freaking miracle!
Getting craft spirits from all over the country is hard to do, expensive and risky since you often have to shell out some big bucks for a full bottle when you simply want to try it (why do you want to try it? Because you’ve heard how awesome it is here on The Crafty Cask, duh!). This way you get to try before you buy, support small craft distillers from all over the country AND then go back to buy full size bottles when you find one you want to enjoy on the regular. I know, I know…I’ve sold this too hard and now you don’t want to buy it for someone else, you want it yourself. Do it – you deserve it! Buy a 1, 3, 6 or 12 month gift membership here or a standard membership for yourself here.
The Educational & Entertaining Craft Beer Towel
Ok, for you ladies buying for a boyfriend or husband I love this gift as a tongue-in-cheek way of suggesting maybe a bit more proactive help with the dishes. So here’s my theory…if you throw this dish towel at your man when you’re feeling like it’s his turn, he’ll first get a little distracted with reading some of the fun facts and then chuckle as he gets your hint. And then give you a smooch and get to it. No? Am I living in a fairy tale? Seriously I think this is a super cute stocking stuffer for your favorite beer lover, man or woman. Wait! This artisan designer makes these towels for Whiskey, Wine, and Gin lovers too. You get a towel, you get a towel…everybody gets a towel!
A Little Cocktail Inspiration
As someone who has an overflowing bar and is not a mixologist herself (gasp! I know…but I have great mixologist friends!) I often want a cocktail but feel overwhelmed by figuring out what to make. Enter The Periodic Table of Cocktails. This book is a great resource and a fun read, but what I love is that whatever spirit I have on hand (from my monthly Shots Box!) I just flip to the appendix, find that spirit and eni-meeni-mini-mo my way into cocktail fun! Never stand at your bar wondering what to make again.
Mixing Things Up!
Ok, so that last gift idea got you in the cocktail mood, huh? I agree. You know what another easy way is to make incredible cocktails at home? Having incredible mixers on hand. Funny story – for years I thought I hated gin, but come to find out it was the damn cheap tonic most bars were using! As soon as I found great tonic I fell in love with Gin and Tonics and then was able to appreciate gin on it’s own and in other drinks.
The magic of high quality, craft mixers! Like this Essential Cocktail Mixers Set from an entrepreneurial couple in Phoenix Arizona. What I like about these vs. some others I’ve seen out there is that they are unique flavor profiles that you likely aren’t going to make yourself. I personally don’t think things like “old fashioned” or “margarita” mixes are necessary since they’re easy to make yourself with fresh ingredients.
Similarly with basic simple syrups, they’re so easy to make yourself normally I wouldn’t suggest buying them. But when there’s a craft producer making more complex, yummy simple syrups like these it can be pretty awesome for quick, impressive drinks.
And, of course, don’t forget the bitters! This is one of those details that seem insignificant to non-mixologists like me but incredible bitters really can elevate a cocktail from good to great. Trust me, I’ve tasted the difference more times than I can count!
Honestly for my non-tippling nights soda water with a few splashes of craft bitters like these ones I love from Hella Bitters.
Build Out That Home Bar!
Now that we’re making cocktails like we’re married to Don Draper we can’t be serving them out of boring ‘ol water glasses. So let’s get that barware up to spec this holiday season! Some of our favorites, are in our shop.
‘Tis The Season For Getting Into Cider
While I don’t have the Shots Box of Cider ready to share just yet (but yes, I’m working on it!), cider does tend to be a bit easier and less costly to get into consumers hands so while the amazing craft cider out there still is not as turnkey for sampling and regular purchase as I’d like, there are some great options. Here are two of our local favorite cider makers that you can get shipped to many states across the country. You can find a few more here. Also make sure to check out Cider in Love, which is a cider curator and online store.
What I love about Ethic Ciders is that their cider is clean and straightforward while still having complexity. So I find it’s a great place to start if you’re new to cider and not looking for anything particularly sweet or funky since their ciders typically land right in that balanced spot. They’ve also recently been having some fun, although more limited in release, with modern styles like their Scarlett which features a subtle layer of raspberries and blackberries and gives the cider a beautiful rose glow. Rosé all day officially has a new meaning!
On the other hand, Tilted Shed is where I refer my more exploratory cider enthusiasts. Partially because their broad range of ciders fit almost any palate, but also because I really enjoy that they are always playing with new recipes, techniques and approaches to cider while still keeping them in what I consider in the cider forward range. Don’t get me wrong, things like Watermelon Prickly Pear Cider have their place, but when I’m craving traditional craft cider with a touch of intrigue, Tilted Shed is my go-to. Check out my video all about them here, you’ll see what I mean.
I haven’t given wine much love, have I? While I have loved wine for a very long time I first really fell in love with wine…deep in my soul…on my very first visit to California wine country. As much as it has changed in the 15 years since it always holds a sweet spot for me. So my gift to you is helping you weed through the Disneyfication of wine country to get to experiences that are truly unique and memorable.
A Wine Country Experience to Remember
So first up, meet my friends at Max Napa Tours (ignore the word Napa in there. They do Sonoma and Russian River as well and if I had my way they’d be expanding globally!) So, why is this so different than the million other wine tours out there? Well, your driver is not just a driver. And no, he’s not just a super well informed driver because he’s been doing this for years either. Your driver is a certified sommelier.
A sommelier who has chosen to leave the world of restaurants and wine bars to instead develop personal relationships with their guests and curate custom experiences for you at the actual wineries. And these wineries are super off the beaten path with incredible wines. Honestly half the places they go to I had never heard of before becoming friends with them. They go into the tastings with you, layer on their own knowledge to the visit, and, of course, can teach you everything and anything you’ve ever wanted to know about wine during your time in the car as well. Genius! This is great for true wine lovers or those just getting into wine but really excited and invested in learning more. If someone bought me a wine tour like this I’d feel like I hit the Christmas jackpot!
Or…Bring Wine Country to
This one, similar to Shots Box is hot off the press. It’s a brand spankin’ new wine club, Vinely, with a really cool premise and great benefits. But first, let me break some hearts. Currently this club only available to people who live in California, but there are plans to expand. So the more support and love they get early on the faster they’ll get to you no matter where you are! But if you’re buying a gift for someone who lives in CA (ahem, hi Mom & Dad!), pay attention here, this is fun.
So unlike your typical wine club where you end up drowning in one winery’s wine after a few shipments, this wine club sends you 3 bottles from a boutique CA different winery every month. AND you get member benefits (read free tastings and deep bottle discounts) when you actually visit the winery in wine country. So by the end of the year you’ll have 12 wineries where you get free tastings and discounted wine. That’s enough for like 3-4 full days of wine tasting trips! All of the wineries are local, craft wineries (which The Crafty Cask will be writing about for Vinely soon, so stay tuned for that!) so you can also feel good about supporting small businesses with every sip! Like we needed another reason to drink more wine…
…and bam! Holiday Shopping Is Done
Phew, Christmas shopping is exhausting! Although I really like it when I can check pretty much everyone off my list in one fell swoop. And from my couch. Thanks interwebs. Join me in making this a holiday season to celebrate craft cider, spirits, wine, beer and more. Every item on our list is a small, independently owned business. Some are even new start-ups just launching this year! At The Crafty Cask we believe strongly that we vote with our dollars and we’re excited to spread some holiday cheer by supporting all of these artisans and entrepreneurs.
And remember…when you’re getting a little family-ed out this holiday season (it’s ok, it happens to the best of us!) go visit some local breweries, cider houses or distilleries! And, of course, let us know if you find some that we should check out. Drink craft, drink local and have a wonderful holiday season!
What did we miss? Should your product be on this list? Should a product you know and love be here? Let us know and help all of us gift givers out!