It’s that time again — time to stress about pretty much everything. Which gift are you going to get your Uncle Joe? Do you have enough food for everyone for family dinner? How are you going to find the time to hang all of your decorations? In this time of stress and stress eating, we’re here with our annual gift guide: hopefully to give you some ideas about delicious spirits and interesting products to give as gifts, or even just for yourself (to relax just a little and actually enjoy the season).
How Much Should I Spend on a Bottle of Spirits?
The world of spirits is wild. There are some bottles that retail for under $10, and some that go for multiple thousands of dollars. The range is pretty much infinite.
For the purposes of this gift guide, all of our prices are based on a 750ml bottle of spirits (which is the “standard” size). There are half bottles available at 375ml, and even smaller single shots available, but the 750ml is the gold standard. That’s the size we recommend to gift, as a smaller bottle is kind of odd for a gift. (Although, in all fairness… we here at Thirty One Whiskey are whiskey experts, not gifting-etiquette experts.)
How much is that bottle going to set you back? Well, according to our database, as of November 2022 we have 36 five-star reviewed bottles of all kinds of spirits. (For us, three stars means that the bottle is worth the price — but five stars means that the bottle is an above-and-beyond experience for the price you pay.) For those five star reviews, the average price per five star bottle is $49.94.
Expand the range a bit to three stars and above (of which there are 323 out of our total 459 whiskey reviews) and you’re looking at an average of $44.91.
So, translated into plain text: for a “good” bottle of spirits, you should be expecting to pay roughly $45 to $50. But for a truly great bottle, you might only need to increase that budget by another $10 or so. It all depends on how much you really like your gift recipient, I guess.
Best Spirits of 2022
We’ve reviewed a lot of stuff this year, reaching past 400 reviews and still climbing! There are a couple of bottles that specifically caught my eye, and these are my top selections from all the stuff that we’ve reviewed in 2022.
New York might not be your first thought for a distillery location, but Tuthilltown is making some great stuff. The label isn’t my favorite, but the contents taste like a rich and delicious apple pie.
I’m going to give you a bit of a warning on this one — it’s very peaty and salty. Like standing on a seashore in a slate cottage. For those who like that kind of thing, this is the absolute tops for the price. But it is a bit of an acquired taste.
There isn’t much that LeBron James can’t do well, and that apparently includes making tequila. This initial offering from King James was reviewed by our man Dan and got perfect marks, but the link to a sports star and the reasonable price puts it on the top of our list for gifts.
We only just recently reviewed this gin, but it has been on the market for quite some time. And it is absolutely delicious. The added lime flavor and other citrus components make this a delightful spirit to drink, and the label is a festive holiday theme all in itself.
What About a Gift That Isn’t Alcohol?
While a bottle makes a great gift, it can also be a little complicated. Things like different state laws regarding shipping alcohol, age restrictions for purchase, and other annoyances can sometimes make it a difficult gift.
For those times when the spirit itself isn’t an option, here are a few suggestions for alternate gifts:
Cocktail Recipe Books
Books are some of the easiest gifts to ship, so they make a great for someone in your life who appreciates a good cocktail — but the last thing they want is a generic list of cocktails that they probably already know how to make (or could easily Google). The key here is finding something unique and personal to them. Here are just a few of my favorites:
Navy Pilot’s Cocktail Checklist
This gift is perfect if you’ve got a pilot on your “nice” list for the year — or at least someone who really likes flight simulators. Someone who appreciates aviation and also enjoys a good cocktail should enjoy the fun-yet-straightforward presentation of this recipe book and the unique twist it brings to the format.
Drinking with Chickens
Cocktail recipe books can go one of two ways. Some take a more straightforward approach, simply reciting the fan favorites in a new and interesting way. Other books, like the quirky Drinking with Chickens, try to put a fun and interesting spin on the concept and present those cocktails in a new light. This author uses ingredients and elements from their own home garden in the mixture, and then enjoys the results with their pet chickens. (And yes – there are lots of photos with chickens!) I guarantee you’ve never seen a cocktail book like this one.
The Savoy Cocktail Book
Cheeky and fun cocktail books are great, but sometimes the genuine article is a more appropriate gift. Especially if you’ve got a budding mixologist who needs to understand the root of the fancy concoctions they are whipping together, or if you’ve got a history nerd that appreciates the fact that this book from the 1930’s has not only stood the test of time but continues to influence cocktail recipes to this day. That’s where The Savoy Cocktail Book comes in handy, a valuable piece of mixological history that is as relevant today as it was back when “The Great War” didn’t have a sequel.
Doctors and Distillers
Cocktail books are a solid choice, but sometimes you’re giving a gift to someone who already knows them chapter and verse. Another cocktail book is like another stone at the summit of Mount Everest — it just doesn’t have the same weight. That’s where something a bit more investigative or historical might be useful. My wife recently gave me Doctors and Distillers, which came out just this year and investigates the medicinal history of spirits.
If this small-but-varied selection is any indication, there’s a vast selection out there. You may have to do a bit more searching, depending on the preferences of your intended recipient, but I guarantee there’s something that will fit them.
Tools, Glassware, and Accessories
Glassware and bar tools are a common gift idea, and not a bad one. But I do want to issue one warning here: a gift recipient just starting down their path towards being a home mixologist might be more open to whatever kind of shaker or glasses you want to send their way, but the more advanced cocktail artisans likely have very strong opinions about their tools, and probably own most of the “basic” items already.
If that’s the case, have no fear — we’re here with some less-common gift ideas for a home bar.
Whiskey Aging Barrel
There’s something really neat about aging your own whiskey, taking a base spirit that is low quality or mediocre and spending the time and attention to really make it shine. I’ve done it a couple times now and it always is an interesting experiment, and likely one that your intended recipient would enjoy as well. We’ve reviewed the Red Head Barrels oak barrel offerings and that’s what I’d recommend (possibly spending a bit extra to get their initials engraved into the barrel as well as a nice touch).
Okay, so I know I said we were featuring unique, less-common gift ideas. But no matter your recipients level of expertise, if you want to drink good spirits, you should probably have some good glasses to drink it out of. Having good quality glasses goes a long way towards improving the overall experience.
Sure, there’s a ton of them on Amazon. And if you’re gifting them to someone who is just getting into the world of spirits, they do have some decent options.
But for the more discerning drinker, I like to recommend these handmade whiskey glasses from Simon Pearce. The craftmanship on these cannot be beat, even if the price might be a tad high for some gift price ranges.
Foghat Cocktail Smoker
Some spirits are naturally smoky. But for those of us who are a little “extra” and want our drinks to come with a show, a cocktail smoker makes a great gift. There are some really impressive looking versions using a glass cloche — but as someone who doesn’t have all the storage space in the world, this Foghat Cocktail Smoker comes in handy.
The idea is pretty simple: there’s a small basket where you burn some oak barrel wood chips, and the smoke from those burning chips fills the cocktail glass underneath. There’s a handy lid for the whole contraption that lets you cover it up, move it to the table, and then release all of the beautiful and impressive smoke all in one go.
This is really something that would appeal to those cocktail enthusiasts who want to go the extra mile, and won’t break the bank as a gift idea.
Pet Toys and Accessories
For the spirits aficionado who loves their pet as much as a good cocktail, why not throw in something a little extra for their furry friend?
For his recent 16th birthday, my wife bought our dog this “Claws Awoof” dog chew toy, a fun spoof on a bottle of Clase Azul (just close enough but still technically different, so the company that makes them doesn’t get sued out of existence).
This is something that’s an inexpensive option but guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of any pupper parent, especially those who enjoy a bit of tequila now and again. It might be worthwhile to tack on as a little bonus gift even, just to jazz up the main event and bring that little extra bit of cheer. There’s other liquor and alcohol related pet toys out there as well, from Jack Daniel’s to Jose Cuervo, and interestingly enough the company behind them recently won a court case against Jack Daniel’s making these toys 100% legal.
Whiskey (and whiskey related accessories) have always been an easy, go-to gift for any occasion, but especially around the holidays. Nothing like knocking out four or five gifts with one trip to my local distillery or liquor store! And extra points if I can get all that done while still in my pajamas, relying on sites like Drizly, Zachy’s, and Total Wine to ship whiskey to loved ones near and far. (At least, in the United States — and even then, your local laws may vary.) But if you have a local distillery, please consider supporting small businesses and using them to buy your gifts whenever possible.
Happy shopping — and feel free to comment with your own holiday gift finds!