If someone's looking to buy me a gift, they can never go wrong with whiskey.
Any bottle-shaped package under the tree gets me excited. But the holiday is also about giving, so in the interest of being a better gifter, I asked a few of my more experienced tippling associates what type of booze they'd like to see in their stockings this holiday season.
My Aunt Therese, an accomplished amateur mixologist, hosts a Christmas gathering at her house every year featuring an admirable selection of liquor. I figure it's a good place to start my research.
For the party, Therese purchased a bottle of the new Crown Royal XO, a special blend of Canadian whiskies aged in cognac casks. Crown is the official drink of all Powers family gatherings, so it's no surprise that this new iteration is at the top of Therese's gift list.
"I love the vanilla in it," she says.
In addition to the vanilla, I detect a decent amount of spice, which is unusual for a Crown product. Their whiskies tend to be smoother with limited flavor profiles, making them great for mixing. The XO, however, has enough going on to be appreciated neat or on the rocks.
Also in attendance at the party is Butch, an old family friend with an affinity for bourbon. Even before I ask him, I have a feeling his gift of choice will be some variety of American whiskey.
"I would like another bottle of Blanton's," he tells me. He speaks slowly, as if even talking about it allows him to savor the taste. "It is so good. It is so smooth."
While the term "single barrel" is thrown around a lot these days, Blanton's was the first bourbon ever marketed with that label, starting all the way back in 1984, long before the bourbon renaissance of the last decade. Blanton's is truly a trendsetter, and it comes in one of the most gorgeous bottles around.
After I leave Therese's party, I head over to Abe's on Lincoln to meet up with a few friends before we all scatter for the holidays.
B.J. drinks Jameson this evening, his drink of choice, but he doesn't usually give Irish whiskey to others. He does, however, stick to Ireland when selecting gifts of the liquid variety.
"I find Bailey's is an easy gift," he says. "Everybody is grateful for a bottle of Bailey's."
I agree. I'll take Bailey's over eggnog any day. When Savannah winters actually get cold enough to allow it, Irish cream and a fireplace to sip it by make for a perfect evening. B.J. is from Iowa, so he's had a lot more cold days to deal with.
He says, "There have been times where I've used Bailey's 24 hours a day to straight up drink my way through family gatherings."
That's not a practice I'd recommend, if only for the sake of your diet. One measured cup of Bailey's has something like 700 calories.
Catherine, an Atlanta native who spent time in the Northeast, likes to spread her Southern heritage with her gifts. She sends faraway friends an alcoholic sampling of a Savannah staple: sweet tea.
"If they don't live here," she says, "I give them Firefly. I figure if they're not in a Southern area, they need to try it."
While there are several sweet tea vodka brands now on the market, I usually pick Firefly, if only because it's the first I tried. Therese, though, has been converted to Deep Eddy's take on this distinctly Southern spirit. Whichever brand you choose, send it to your friends up North. If we get enough people drinking it, maybe I'll finally be able to order a tea in a Northern restaurant and not have to mix in sugar myself.
The last person I ask for a gift recommendation is my old friend Chris, with whom I've shared more than a few glasses of whiskey. His selection doesn't come as a surprise.
"I'd recommend Johnnie Walker Black," he says. "It's a blend, not a single malt, but it's affordable. It's my favorite Scotch, and the bottle looks fetching."
Chris is right - the folks at Johnnie Walker know how to craft a classy bottle. It looks even better in the glow of Christmas lights.
Whatever you decide to give, just remember the spirit of the spirit. Sit, sip and share some time with friends and family. That's a gift that lasts much longer than the contents of a bottle. Cheers!
Zach Powers is a writer and novelist. When he's not busy imbibing, he helps run the literary arts nonprofit Seersucker Live. Get to know him at www.zachpowers.com.