Christmas Eve has always been the most frantic of shopping days as it’s when all those last minute gifts are purchased. Often they’re gifts for people you may like very much but not so very much that you’re going to go out of your way to plan a gift for them weeks or even days in advance. No, you have mere hours.
And that’s when a trip to liquor store is called for.
Now, I think the impulse often is to get these sorts of second- or third-tier giftees a bottle of “nice wine.” Unfortunately, wines are very subjective and the field of choices is so very large, your odds of actually picking something suitably nice is slim at best.
That’s why, at times like these, I recommend turning to spirits (to buy as gifts, although a quick snort before braving the Christmas Eve queues wouldn’t hurt, either). With a minimum of effort, you will be able to come up with something curious and unexpected — you may even fool the lucky recipient into believing you worked very hard on their gift.
So, here are six spirit routes you can take towards getting a nifty, last-minute gift….
1 SCOTCH: Start here for any men you have left on your list. Guys love getting scotch even if they don’t particularly like drinking it. Just having a bottle in a cupboard, even if it’s gathering dust and the owner is only dimly aware of its presence, will boost a man’s coolness quotient immeasurably. The only problem with scotch is it can be very expensive. Basically, you can spend pretty much whatever you want on it so I recommend matching the price of the scotch to the amount of guilt you’re feeling for leaving this gift to the last minute. If you’re not particularly concerned about how this gift will be perceived, a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label will suffice. On the other end of the spectrum, you can blow a whopping $160 on a bottle of Highland Park Single Malt 18-Year Old and rest easy knowing you can coast on this present for years to come.
2 GIMMICK BOTTLES: It’s like bric-a-brac and booze all rolled up in one. The field of crazy bottles out there is quite broad and I suspect these are basically designed to be last-minute gifts — they have a really big wow factor. I bet they fly off the shelves this time of year. Probably the most striking is Crystal Head vodka which comes from Dan Ackroyd’s distillery. The bottles are shaped like the name suggests: like a crystal skull. They’re pretty cool, I’ll concede. And a safe buy as the contents — a passable vodka — will likely be appreciated. The only problem with Crystal Head is the price: nearly $60 for 750 ml, or you can blow in the neighbourhood of $65 and get a gift pack with two skull shaped glasses included..
3 SOMETHING “LOCAL”: If you’re buying for someone new to Regina or for family who’re from outside the province, a bottle of Saskatoon Berry Liqueur ($20) is the perfect present. Also, if it’s someone who’s new to Canada or if you’re buying for overseas relatives, there’s Sweet Sippin’ Canadian Maple Whisky which has the added benefit of coming in a gimmick bottle as well.
4 SOMETHING SWEET: Liqueurs make perfect holiday gifts. Safe bets are Frangelico, Kahlua, Bailey’s, Galliano, Parfait Amour, Irish Cream, Tia Maria and Grand Marnier. All of these can be drunk on their own and they can also be used as cocktail ingredients.
5 SOMETHING DARING: If the person you’re buying a gift for is at all interested in cocktails or spirits, you can always go for something a little obscure they might not have dropped the cash on already. For instance, you could pick up a bottle of Green Tree Absinthe for $36 — everybody wants to try this infamous liqueur, but many are scared off by its reputation. There are also a range of international spirits that your gift recipient may not have considered trying before, such as Aquavit, Escorial, Chartreuse, Benedictine or Slivovitz. You could even go with a bitter like Campari or a fortified wine like Dubonnet.
6 GIN: I have it on good authority that certain prairie dog writers — especially the ones who write weekly, on-line booze columns — will never say no to a bottle of Hendricks.