At Christmas last year, a friend lovingly declared that I was too tough to shop for, then proceeded to give me one of my favorite gifts: a bottle of good champagne and a single delicate gold-rimmed flute for drinking it. She topped the beautifully wrapped package with a champagne key chain that she found, along with the glass, at Anthropologie.
It was a thoughtful present that signified, to me, that I deserved to indulge myself here and there — and that champagne for one is a perfectly reasonable proposition. Today, I smile every time I hand wash and put away that elegant champagne flute, which stands taller than all the other wine glasses in my cabinet.
I, too, like to give the gift of spirits — and little extras that help the recipients enjoy them. Here's what's hot on my list this holiday season:
Online retailer CB2 has a wide range of old-fashioned glasses that would make the ideal accompaniment for a bottle of Memphis-made Blue Note Bourbon. Choose from the Dip, a handmade, yet thoroughly modern take on hobnail milk glass, the micro-thin Marta, the vintage-inspired Mars Smoke Stacking glass, or the tortoiseshell Franklin. Pick up a couple of glasses (prices range from under $5 per glass to just over $10), and pair them with a bottle of Angostura Bitters, the aforementioned Blue Note Bourbon, a box of sugar cubes, and a few lemons. Add a personal touch by handwriting the recipe for making an Old Fashioned on a postcard or Christmas card. Locally, I like to shop at Flashback for vintage glassware and bar accessories. Score a great cocktail shaker, and pair it with mixers, elixirs, and an ice-cube tray. Or pick up a new but vintage-inspired tea towel (I love the cheekiness of the Blue Q line, which I've spotted at Flashback, Maggie's Pharm, and Novel) and pair it with a set of cocktail stirrers and drink markers. Wrap up your favorite brand of booze in the tea towel, fasten it with a ribbon, and tuck in or tie on the stirrers or markers, and voila — you're ready with a hostess gift. For stocking stuffers, try airline-sized booze bottles, available at any liquor store in town. Stop by Lit Restaurant Supply for other inexpensive items, including bottle stoppers, spouts, mini-whisks, and more.
Most Memphis shops offer a wine-by-the-case discount, so if you're short on ideas, buy a dozen tea towels and pair each with a bottle of your favorite wine. Scribble a note about why you like it. Or, for someone really special, buy a dozen different bottles, so they can think of you as they enjoy a new bottle every month of the year. If you want to make an even bigger impression, splurge on membership to a Cheese of the Month Club to go along with said wine. There are dozens to choose from, but my favorite is the $75 option offered by Murray's Cheese, which ships three varieties on the second Thursday of every month.
Last year, I splurged on a few dozen $4 neoprene koozies from Etsy seller CoffeeItDesigns, located right here in Memphis. The koozies I selected feature a bear emblazoned with Memphis on one side and the statement "We grind here" in a calligraphy-style font on the other. I stuffed each koozie with a can of local beer, then randomly paired them up in gift bags for couples I know. You can also order a personalized beer growler and pint glasses on Etsy — be sure to fill up the growler before giving. Or, pick up a cute coffee mug to go with a bottle of Kahlúa, Amaretto, or Bailey's Irish Cream.
Need to go kosher? While most local liquor stores have a large selection of kosher spirits, Buster's has a particularly good variety of Israeli wine in stock, including the Galil Mountain Pinot Noir from Galilee, a bright, cheery red that sells for under $17 per bottle. Traditionalists can also spring for the Manischewitz, which goes for under $6. At that price point, you can spring for a half-dozen wine glasses — I love stemless, easily purchased at a box store or at the Williams-Sonoma outlet in East Memphis.