One of the truly wonderful things about the most wonderful time of the year is that we’re more likely to spring for a bottle of liquor we can’t afford. And then give that bottle to someone else. Because here’s the thing: when you’re a liquor nerd, there are few things more exciting than ripping off the wrapping paper and discovering a $28,000 bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle 25-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
All right, confession time: that’s never happened. But dare to dream that one day your best friend will win LottoMax and then spend the money recklessly and foolishly and—most important of all—drunkenly. Vaguely related, why is the winner always some completely uninteresting lifer in his early 60s who works in a ball-bearing plant in Sudbury, and who answers “Maybe buy a new truck or a lawnmower” when asked what he’ll be doing with his $52 million payout?
But back to the common rabble, which is to say us.
The weird thing about never having enough money is that it has never stopped you from dropping $120 on drinks on an average night at your favourite cocktail spot. Because you have no hesitations about bankrupting yourself when out for the night, chances are you’re a bit more careful when stocking up for home.
Where this becomes a problem is that, as a confirmed liquor nerd, you’ve got a bit of taste. That means the days of making your Manhattans with Bodacious Bourbon wine and Kirkland-brand vermouth are now thankfully in the past. Between paydays you go with mid-range options like Jack Daniel’s and Canadian Club. Every second Friday it’s time to splurge a bit for Basil Hayden’s or WhistlePig 10 Year.
But, as what 50 Cent might call a mad-as-fuck window shopper, you normally don’t even bother looking in the direction of the Michter’s 10 Year Old Kentucky Straight bourbon or Canadian Club 42 Year Old Chronicles rye. Yet all that changes during the holiday season. In “Christmas Is A-Comin’”, Bing Crosby once noted “The more you give at Christmastime the more you get”. That’s entirely accurate, of course—give ’til it hurts, and what you get is a Mastercard bill that takes until the following summer to pay off.
And who gives a shit. because spending more than you should means seeing a genuine appreciation on someone’s face come Christmas Day.
As sure as Sweet Baby Jesus was born in a goddamn barn, there are endless liquor options when you’ve decided that a box of Pot of Gold Chocolates and a Mickey Mouse light-up tie won’t do in the raging Müllcontainer feuer that’s been 2020.
Even if it’s for all the wrong reasons, this year’s been one that no one is going to forget. And in case you’re worried someone might, why not pony up for the gift of Belvedere Bespoke Polish Vodka ($109.99). This one’s pretty cool, in that you can personalize the metal label on the light-up bottle with a name, date, or festive phrase. Great news if your giftee is named Mark, Sarah, or Pat, probably bad if their parents christened them Mahershalalhashbaz. No word if Belvedere will engrave Fuck 2020 on the bottle, but it’s worth a shot.
Sometimes a famous name goes a long way towards showing you really care. Which explains why a bottle of Tequila Ocho Single Barrel Extra Anejo ($224.99) is guaranteed to light up the face of a hard-core tequila aficionado, but the average dudette might not know it from a El Jimador Reposado. Gift it anyhow, and then ask them “Do you know that this is?” without sounding patronizing in case they don’t. You can also show you care with a rare-in-these-parts Mezcal Koch Tobala ($129.99 at Legacy Liquor Store), where the star of the show is the tobala, a slow-growing Oaxaca varietal that’s dubbed King of Agave.
Or you can leave a Casamigos Mezcal ($99.99) or Casamigos Reposado ($82.99) under the tree, thus giving someone the gift of six degrees of separation from George Clooney. (The actor and philanthropist started the company as a private endeavour, eventually taking it public when word got out). No need to include a lime and a bag of salt, because all of the above are tequilas made for sipping.
If you really want to show that you care, spring for Appleton Estate’s 21 Year Old ($159.99), recommended as “extraordinary” by the judges at last year’s Ultimate Spirits Challenge in New York. A little more budget-friendly is Ron Matusalem 23 Year Old Rum Gran Reserva ($79.99), which makes for a brilliant twist on an Old-Fashioned.
Nothing says “God Bless America and pass the Colt .45” like bourbon. And admit it—while the States might be more of a shitshow than ever this year, it’s still arguably the most fascinating country on Earth. (Note: If you haven’t been to New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, and Miami, you’re not allowed to weigh in on this.)
Booker’s Small Batch ($97.99) will kick your Revolver or Tamarind Whiskey Sour up a couple of notches. Bulleit Barrel Strength ($84.99) makes a solid choice, meanwhile, for those who love spaghetti westerns, chewing tobacco, and everything about the badlands of Arizona.
Or crack open that piggy bank shaped like Ebenezer Scrooge and lay down $259 for a bottle of Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Cornerstone. After all, Christmas only comes once a year. Thank Christ.