Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Guide to Scotch Whiskey | How To Drink Whiskey

The Beginner’s Guide to Scotch Whiskey

Every distilled spirit has its own personality, but few are as rich in character and history as Scotch whiskey. The earthy alcohol has a reputation for robust, biting flavor, and quite a bit of burn if you’re not careful. It’s associated with high-end bars as well as boardrooms, and savored by the people who make things happen in life. Scotch scares off a lot of people with its sheer intensity, but getting to know it is certainly worth the trouble. With the right approach and a little know-how, this Scotch whiskey guide can help even beginners quickly develop a passion for Scotland’s most divine draught.

What Is Scotch Whiskey?

A lot of us might accept the odd whiskey-based drink and enjoy it, but the world of whiskey is pretty complicated for most to delve into it further. As you can imagine, Irish whiskey comes from Ireland, and Scotch from Scotland, but the differences go deeper than that.
For instance, Scotch is aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels – usually from bourbon or sherry. It is typically distilled twice, whereas Irish whiskey is often distilled three times. There are also differences in the fermentation process, since Irish distillers have the option of adding enzymes to their batches that create sugars before fermenting actually starts. Scotch also has a more rigid classification system, based on these two types of whiskey:
  • Single Malt: This variety is made using only water and barley. It must be made at one single distillery by way of batch distillation, using a pot still.
  • Single Grain: Single grain whiskey is made at one distillery, but can include ingredients other than just barley and water. These other whole grains can be malted or un-malted. It’s important to note that the word single refers to the use of one distillery – multiple grains and cereals may be used in the production of single grain whiskey.
Blending different whiskeys of one or both types allows for the creation of distinct flavors and aromas depending on the combinations. In terms of classification, blended whiskeys are categorized into:
  • Blended Malt: Blended malts are just what they sound like: a proprietary combination of two or more single malt whiskeys. They can be of differing ages, as long as the label lists the age of the youngest ingredients. You can identify a blended malt by the absence of “single” before “malt” on the label, and you won’t see a distillery name.
  • Blended Grain: Because grains are relatively easy to find as well as ferment, the demand for blended grain Scotch is quite low. When it is made, two or more single grain whiskeys are combined to improve drinking flavor and aroma.
  • Blended Scotch: This form of whiskey would win any popularity contest hands down, since 90 percent of the whiskey produced in Scotland is blended Scotch. Its creation involves combining both single grain and single malt whiskeys into a consistent, identifiable Scotch blend. Some blended Scotch brands you may recognize include Johnnie Walker, Dewar’s and The Famous Grouse.
Scotland’s classification rules are extremely specific, and for good reason. The Scottish Whiskey Regulations were implemented in 2009 in order to protect the iconic beverage from being undercut by foreign competitors. Now, in order to be labeled as such, all single malt Scotch whiskey must be bottled in Scotland.

Where Did Scotch Come From?

Scotland’s stringent rules governing the production of its signature drink aren’t just to protect profits, they’re to protect the drink’s historical status. Whiskey has been a part of Scottish culture for centuries, and it’s been evolving all the while.

The first reference we have to whiskey distilling in Scotland is in a tax record from 1494. One of the entries lists a delivery of “eight bolls of malt” to a Friar, John Cor. The record specifies that the malt was for the making of “aqua vitae,” or “water of life,” and that volume of it would have been enough to distill about 1,500 bottles.

Not only does this tell us that the practice of distilling was already well-established by this point, it tells us a little bit more about the role of Scotch in society. During the 16th and 17th centuries, whiskey was distilled primarily by monks. However, due to the dissolution of their monasteries, the practice quickly spread throughout the general population. Whiskey was touted as a cure-all, good for everything from relief of palsy and colic, to the fortification of longevity.

Whiskey became so popular, in fact, that it was used as political fodder for the Scottish Parliament. In 1707, the Act of Union with England drove taxes on whiskey through the roof, and the distillers went underground. Scotch survived 150 years of taxation simply because its distillers turned to secrecy and smuggling. By the 1820s, the government was confiscating up to 14,000 illegal stills – but despite this, more than half of the Scotch enjoyed by the nation was consumed tax-free.

That tenacity paid off eventually, when the Excise Act was passed in 1823. It allowed the distillation of whiskey as long as the government received a licensing fee of £10 and a flat fee on each gallon of spirit. Smuggling almost immediately became a thing of the past, and distillers were able to reach new heights of creativity. Before 1831, single malt was the only scotch available. But that year, Aeneas Coffey invented the Patent Still, which allowed for a continuous distillation process, and therefore the distillation of grain. Distillers were able to experiment with blending, allowing the international masses to enjoy the fierce bite of single malt with the smoothness of grain spirits.

What finally catapulted Scotch to international stardom was actually the work of a surprising source. During the late 19th century, France was beset by a phylloxera frenzy. These ravenous beetles decimated French vineyards, and the world saw its supply of wine and brandy dwindle perilously. Luckily, Scotch was there to fill the gap, and quickly replaced brandy as the world’s go-to spirit.

Today, Scotch is still going strong. It is consumed in more than 200 countries, supports 40,000 United Kingdom jobs and brings in nearly £4 billion in revenue every year. More than 99 million cases are exported annually. Are you ready to stake your claim on the sensation that is Scotch?

Where Is Scotch Made?

It may come as a surprise to some, but Scotch comes from areas delineated much like the wine country of France. Certain areas are known for their particular flavors, distilling processes or ingredients. Here are a few of the more well-known Scotch production areas:
  • Highland: The highland area is recognized more for its sheer size than for any generally shared characteristics in its Scotch. Overall, you can expect a full-bodied experience, with a moderate bite of smoky, peaty flavor. Of the many distilleries in the area, some of the most famous include Glemorangie and Dalwhinnie.
  • Lowland: The lowlands are a good place to start for the best beginner Scotches, since they’re home to the lighter spectrum of spirits, with clear, mild floral flavors and delicate aromas. The scenic area is home to a few famous distilleries, including Auchentoshan and Bladnoch.
  • Islay: In contrast to the lowlands, Islay is a destination for only the most avid of Scotch drinkers. Its robust Scotches are packed with powerful taste and smokiness, so much so that only experienced enthusiasts are likely to enjoy them. Islay’s unique geographical location may have to do with the singular strength of flavor in their Scotch, as well as the abundance of peaty flavor. Islay Scotches are an intriguing goal to set your sights on, but their potency and price point make them risky for beginners.
  • Campbeltown: Though it’s now home to only three functioning distilleries, Campbeltown used to be the premier producer of Scotch in the country. Even though its fortune has turned, it still remains among the ranks of the greats due to the characteristically salty or briny Scotches distilled by Glengyle, Glen Scotia and Springbank.
  • Speyside: This region upset Campbeltown to become the top producer of fine single-malt Scotch, producing 60 percent of Scotland’s whiskey. The name comes from the river Spey, which cuts through the area and provides a constant source of fresh water to be used in distilling. Speyside Scotch is sweet and complex, and some of the area’s most famous distilleries include Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and Johnnie Walker.

How Is Scotch Made?

The art of creating Scotch is almost as simple today as it was centuries ago. There are only five steps to this fascinating process:

  1. Malting: First things first, barley has to be turned into malt much the same way you do when brewing beer. Barley is thoroughly soaked in water, drained and spread across a floor for about a week to start the germination process – which is what turns starches into the sugar maltose. Then, the barley is dried using the smoke from a furnace. Many distilleries use peat to fuel the fire, leading to the distinctive peaty and smoky flavors in the resulting Scotch.
  2. Mashing: The dry malt is then pulverized into rough flour, mixed with hot water and allowed to steep by a machine called the mash tun. The sugars in the malt are released into the liquid, leaving us with what is called wort.
  3. Fermenting: The wort is drained off into large vessels where it’s mixed with yeast for fermentation. The yeast feeds off the malt sugars and produces alcohol over the course of about two days, resulting in the liquid called wash, which is around 5-8 percent alcohol by volume.
  4. Distilling: There are two parts to distillation. The first separates water from the alcohol by boiling the wash and collecting the condensed alcohol at the top of the still, which is now about 20 percent alcohol by volume and called low wine. The low wine now goes for a second, much more closely monitored distillation where the first and last portions of the distillate are discarded to maintain purity and drinkability. Once it comes out, it’s the whiskey we know and love at about 40 percent alcohol. However, it’s still a clear liquid.
  5. Maturing: The maturation of Scotch is what gives the spirit its familiar color and flavor profile. It must be aged in oak barrels, and takes on their color over time. Different types of barrels lend different flavors, as well. Traditionally, Scotch was aged in sherry barrels, but bourbon barrels are much more common today. Some distilleries even experiment with barrels that used to hold other alcohols, like beer, port or wine. The smoothness and amount of flavor in a Scotch is usually correlated to how long it’s been aged, which is why older whiskeys tend to be more expensive.

Choosing Your First Scotch

It can be nerve-wracking to try and figure out where to start with Scotch, especially with its rich history and the wide variety to choose from. If you’ve never tried a true Scotch before, you might be tempted to jump headlong into one of the more complex brands and figure it out as you go, but that’s almost always a surefire way to turn yourself off to the drink altogether. While it’s best to stick to the milder flavored varieties to begin with, the best Scotch for beginners is the one with a flavor profile that piques your interest. Take a look at these four Scotch varieties, and see which one interests you the most:
  • Auchentoshan: This Scotch’s name is Gaelic for “corner of the field.” It’s a great Scotch for beginners given that it’s unpeated, which means some of the intimidating intensity is missing. The lack of peat leaves the spirit more delicate and sweeter than most, with less of the burn that can scare off first-timers. The triple-distillation process also lends an extra note of smoothness on the finish.
  • Highland Park 12-Year-Old: If you’d like to brave a bit of peat in your beginner’s Scotch, but don’t want to go overboard, Highland Park 12 is the single malt for you. It boasts a honeyed sweetness paired with a smoky aftertaste, and notes of fruit in between. It’s an excellent balance of economical, complex and welcoming to the Scotch beginner.
  • Monkey Shoulder: If single-malt isn’t your speed, Monkey Shoulder offers an excellent introduction to blended Scotches. It errs more on the creamy side than the fiery, delivering a supple and malty flavor. You’ll notice vanilla and a bit of pumpkin pie spices with berry mid-tones that finishes with a bit of spicy oak. This triple-distilled Scotch is perfect for first tastes and developing your palate, as well as being a star in mixed drinks.
  • Dalwhinnie: Sometimes called the Gentle Spirit, Dalwhinnie is a soft introduction to the world of Scotch whiskey. It’s an excellent Scotch for beginners because the flavor profile, while being crisp, isn’t very complex. For the developing palate, Dalwhinnie provides a light body and clear flavors of fruit, honeysuckle and apple blossom which leaves a lingering smoky finish. It’s a bit more expensive than some, but still a great candidate for best beginner Scotch.

How to Properly Sip Scotch

Comparing label and tasting notes is a great way to get a feel for your options in the world of Scotch, but there’s no substitute for actually taking your first sip as a Scotch enthusiast, Make sure you do it right! If you’re ordering a glass of Scotch, be aware that most enthusiasts and bartenders refer to a Scotch serving as a dram. While in a literal sense a dram is one-eighth of an ounce, it’s become a common term in the world of Scotch whiskey. Don’t worry, your bartender will know what you’re talking about. When it comes to how to drink Scotch and downing a dram properly, you’ll want to follow these steps on the proper way to drink Scotch:

  1. Choose a Glass: That’s right, there are special glasses just for whiskey. There are two main types favored by Scotch enthusiasts – the copita style and the Glencairn – and both are designed to narrow at the top to concentrate the aromas of the spirits they contain. The copita is based on the traditional long-stemmed Spanish drinking vessel which was used to taste sherry. The Glencairn, in contrast, has a short and solid base with thicker glass. It’s bigger at the bottom, so it can help beginners learn to swirl whiskey and open up the aromas for tasting. However, there’s nothing wrong with a regular old glass to begin with.
  2. Consider Water or Ice: Purists scoff at the notion of watering down Scotch, but there are a couple of good reasons it’s beneficial to beginners. For one, a bit of water will help disperse the harshness that many beginners balk at in their first dram. If you choose to add ice, the chill will lessen the burn that comes with Scotch. This is, of course, only advisable for your first few forays into Scotch-drinking, since it mutes the flavors and aromas that give Scotch its complexity. However, placing an ice cube or a dash of water into your glass can help you ease into fierce flavors of this spirit while you’re still finding your palate.
  3. Nosing: At this point, it’s time to introduce yourself to the scotch you’ve poured by giving it an initial nose. This involves bringing the top of the glass to chin level so you can get an idea of its aromas without any of the alcohol burn. If you’re getting any of that burning sensation, you should lower your glass slightly and try again.
  4. Swirl your Scotch around in the glass to release the aromas. If you’re using a copita or Glencairn, try holding it from the bottom – the warmth you’ll confer often frees even more scents from the Scotch. Bring it to and from your nose a couple of time, noting the different nuances that come out of the dram. Try to isolate some of the particular smells you can identify, and remember that no note is too outlandish, especially as you’re just starting out.
  5. Sampling: Once you’ve savored the nose a few times, it’s time for the moment of truth: tasting. Scotch is not a spirit to be gulped, so at first you should only take a few drops to get the most flavor. If it’s one you like immediately, you can move forward and let it permeate your tongue, and swish it against your cheeks before swallowing. If your first few drops are less than palatable, you can pause to take in a bit of air before continuing. If you’re taking notes on this experience, you’ll want to document the flavors you can identify from the nose to the main body and through the finish of the Scotch.

The key to drinking Scotch is to truly appreciate the composition and flavor of the spirit, and to be able to articulate why you do or don’t like particular iterations. It’s usually relatively simple to find master tasters’ notes on specific Scotches, and use them to augment your own experience.

The Top Source for Scotch Whiskey

Now that you’ve got a thorough Scotch whiskey guide in hand, you can go confidently into the world of Scottish spirits. Wine Delight is your go-to marketplace for any Scotch you can imagine, from the familiar Johnnie Walker and Glenlivet to the more exotic Lagavulin and Dalmore. Browse our extensive fine Scotch collection, and find the spirit that calls to you.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Guide To Your Wedding Day | Alcohol Guide for Your Wedding Day

The Best Guide on Alcohol for a Wedding Day

Wines, beers and spirits have been around since ancient times and have been part of big celebrations — including weddings — for most of human history. In biblical times and even earlier, spirits and wine were a part of weddings and religious ceremonies. Today, the tradition continues. Not only is champagne a big part of the wedding toast, but top-shelf liquor, spirits and wine also make great wedding gifts.

If you’ve been stressing over what to give a couple on their special day or are planning a wedding and wondering how to honor your bridal party, look no further. You aren’t limited to traditional gifts like small jewelry items for bridesmaids or a coffee maker for the happy couple. With luxury liquor brands and personalized bottles, you can offer unique gifts everyone on your list will appreciate.

Foodies love wines and liquors because they can be great with or in food and hard-working groomsmen will enjoy having liquor they can use when unwinding or entertaining. And, of course, if you’re planning your own big day, choosing a special commemorative engraved bottle for every table and a special bottle for your wedding toast can make your wedding day even more special.

If you want to explore truly special wines, champagnes and liquors for a wedding, turn to WineDelight for quality wines, champagnes, whiskeys and liquors in elegant engraved bottles. WineDelight allows you to custom engrave bottles for that special day so the memories last long after the last drop is gone.

If You’re Planning Your Wedding

Congratulations! Now that you’re planning your big day, you’re probably thinking about how to make your special day even more special and wondering what to get the most important people in your life. Let’s take a look at a few ideas:

1) Groomsmen

Groomsmen can be especially hard to shop for. Trying to pick out something significant can be difficult, especially since everyone is different: What works for the techie will not work for the professional. Gadgets are a popular gift for groomsmen, but the big drawback is they might become obsolete before you even wrap them up.

For all these reasons, liquor makes a great gift for groomsmen. Yes, your groomsmen will drink the gift and it will be gone, but a quality bottle of liquor is always appreciated. It will age beautifully, so it can be kept for a special occasion. Go with a personalized bottle of whiskey for your groomsmen or opt for other liquors. Tequila, bourbon, and scotch are all solid choices. Custom engraving makes the bottle even more special and will remind your friends and family of your big day. You can be sure a customized bottle will take center stage in any home bar.

Another great option for groomsmen is to put together a custom gift pack. Since everyone loves a Manhattan, for example, you can create a present to help your friends and family mix the perfect drink. Your gift pack will need a shaker, bitters, sweet vermouth, maraschino cherries and, of course, rye. Buy WhistlePig Rye with the groomsman’s name engraved and you’ll be taking your gift to the next level — each time your buddies put together a perfect Manhattan using this high-quality rye, they’ll remember you and your wedding.

2) Bridesmaids

While it can be a challenge to find something for groomsmen, the opposite challenge exists for bridesmaids — there are so many ideas and gift options that it can be hard to choose. Everything from jewelry pieces to accessories is a possibility. Some brides choose to give items of clothing, bags, robes or other fabric accessories, but these can have a short life.

An engraved champagne bottle is always classic and an appreciated gift. For a wedding gift to your bridesmaids, you can offer a personalized bottle of the same champagne served for the wedding or a different type of champagne. Another option is to gift a personalized bottle of wine to each of your bridesmaids. Both wine and champagne capture the spirit of your wedding and will keep well for a special occasion or important dinner. When your friends serve the wine, the engraving will remind them of your big day.

Cocktail shakers, liqueurs and other cocktail arranged in cocktail kits let your bridesmaids experiment with different mixed drinks. These kits are great for girls’ nights out or for any entertaining your bridesmaids do. The next time they need to whip up a drink for themselves or someone else, they’ll have what they need. Look for kits that come with recipes or include note cards with your favorite mixed drink recipes so your friends have a few new ideas to try.

3) Wedding Party Time

You’ll probably want to take your bridesmaids and bridegrooms to a rehearsal dinner, thank you dinner and bachelor or bachelorette parties. There’s no better way to celebrate these milestones to your wedding than with customized bottles of liquor, champagne or wine. It’s a beautiful way to show your loved ones how much you appreciate their role in your big day. And you can be sure that the bottles will stay with them for years as a reminder of the fun you had together at your wedding.

4) The Toast

Wedding toasts are a way for your friends to send you off to married bliss. Some couples don’t think twice about the champagne or wine that’ll be used for their wedding toast or leave their reception drinks to get sorted out by the wedding venue. If you want to start married life sipping on delicious champagne or wine, though, this is a detail you’ll need to pay attention to.

Since a toast will happen anyway, why not get a special engraved bottle of premiere champagne from WineDelight? Order several bottles and you’ll be able to get everyone to toast your love from bottles that are engraved with a special message. After the wedding, the two of you can keep your engraved bottles as keepsakes. Full bottles can be tucked away so you can toast your wedding anniversaries.

And you’ll need guest gifts after the toast. What could be more elegant and sophisticated than a personal, engraved bottle of high-end liquor, wine or champagne? Each time your loved ones peek into their selection of wines, they’ll remember your big day. And quality wines and liquors such as Macallan scotch or Dom Perignon champagne is sure to leave a lasting impression.

4) Specialty Drinks

Every couple wants their wedding to be as unique as their love. But if you’re wondering how to create those truly memorable unique touches, don’t fret. A simple way to bring a special something to the wedding reception is to serve a custom drink — one named after the happy couple. You can even give each guest a bottle of liquor as a gift so they can make the same drink at home. If you get engraved bottles of luxury liquor from WineDelight you can have “your” special drink recipe engraved right on the bottle for a gift your guests are sure to rave about.

If You’re Going to a Wedding: Gifts for the Happy Couple

Even with wedding registries, finding the right wedding gift in your price range can be a challenge if you’ve been invited to a wedding. You want something the couple will use and that will be significant. A toaster, no matter how practical, may not have the flair or the sentimental value you want. Many people recommend offering home accessories or coffee makers as gifts, but these inevitably end up being replaced — sometimes within a few years.

Luckily, there are a few great choices beyond just appliances and home linens:

1) A Commemorative Bottle of Wine or Champagne

Many couples don’t end up eating much or having much of a chance to taste the champagne and wine at their own wedding reception, because they’re busy talking to everyone and mingling with guests. A bottle of quality champagne, wine, or liquor — especially in an engraved bottle — ensures the couple can toast to their new life in private.

There’s another reason why giving wine or champagne can be a great choice as a wedding gift. In the past, couples would sometimes freeze pieces of their wedding cake to keep as a memento of their big day. A bottle of champagne or wine makes a much better memento and a great gift.

Champagne or wine can last for years and the taste can even improve with time. In a personalized bottle, it can be displayed in a newlywed’s home instead of being kept in the back of the freezer. An engraved bottle of wine for the couple can help create a new wedding custom: On their anniversary, they can pop open a bottle of bubbly or a quality bottle of wine to commemorate their wedding day.

2) A Wine Rack Filled With Wine (Or Other Accessories)

Furniture can be tricky to buy, but some pieces are a great option because they are luxurious touches newlyweds might not think to buy themselves. For instance, a luxury wine rack, a portable bar or wine fridge are great additions to any home — especially if they are filled with a custom-engraved bottle of wine or liquor to start a couple’s new collection.

If a wine rack is too cumbersome, there are many other gifts that pair flawlessly with a luxury bottle of champagne, liquor or wine. Glassware and liquor or wine, for example, pair together wonderfully. Tumblers, goblets, wine glasses, snifters for brandy or whiskey, beer mugs and liqueur glasses — there can be a lot of glassware involved in entertaining or just relaxing at home and enjoying a drink properly. Glassware is always a great gift, especially since it’s something that can be used for years. You can pair the glassware with a personalized bottle of scotch or wine so the happy couple has something to enjoy in their new glassware.

Simple bar accessories can also have a big impact when paired with luxury whiskey, liquor, or wine. For example, beautiful wine stoppers or decanters can last for years and make a thoughtful, practical gift. Whiskey stones are another great option. These stones keep whiskey (and other drinks) cold without diluting them with ice.

Beer tankards, coasters, neon bar signs and drinking games are also good options. Cocktail-making sets, personalized flasks, elegant cocktail shakers, wine racks and novelty corkscrews or bottle openers also make great gifts — especially when accompanied by engraved bottles of wine, champagne, whiskey or other liquor.

3) A Special Moment for After the Wedding.

Newlyweds will want to spend as much time on romance and togetherness after their big day, so why not offer them a way to celebrate their love in style? Buy a luxury wine or champagne, such as Veuve Clicquot or Ghost Block Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon and have the bottle engraved with a beautiful poem or toast from you to the happy couple.

Add two glasses and the newlyweds will have everything they need for a special toast just for the two of them. On the honeymoon or long after the wedding is over, they can sit back and enjoy a special moment just for two. They can then save the bottle or label to remind them of the special memory. This is a special, unique gift that’s sure to be appreciated because it gives the couple what they most want: romance and time together.

If you want to make your gift even grander, pair a commemorative bottle or champagne or wine with something else. For example, buy a cheese board but include a personalized bottle of wine for your wedding gift, so your friends have everything they need for a wine and cheese party. Another option is buy an elegant picnic basket and tuck in elegant napkins, a blanket, cutlery and bottle of wine.

For a luxurious gift offering lifelong memories, give the newlyweds an engraved bottle of luxury wine and send them to a nearby vineyard for a day so they can learn more about wine. Or, sign them up for cooking classes or a wine tasting and wrap the class certificate around an engraved bottle of wine that will complement the meal. A spa treatment for couples can also be a great option — especially when you include an engraved bottle of champagne.

Anything that gets the couple out and having fun together (or getting pampered together) is a great choice. Most couples spend the months before their wedding worrying about wedding details, so it can be wonderful to have a chance to relax and reconnect after the big day.

Getting Ready for the Big Day

Buying gifts for weddings doesn’t have to be daunting. There are plenty of options out there. With
bottle engraving for groomsmen gifts and other wedding gifts, WineDelight makes shopping even easier. WineDelight offers same-day engraving and bulk services, so you can buy all your wedding party gifts in one place. Choose from luxury tequilas, champagnes, wines, scotches, whiskeys and liqueur and then personalize each bottle with names, dates, a message, a logo or even a picture. With outstanding customer service and free shipping on orders over $250, WineDelight makes it easy to buy gifts to amaze even the most finicky recipient.

Now, you can buy an engraved bottle of whiskey for groomsmen, for a bridesmaid or for a couple — or choose from personalized wine and champagne bottles. Quality products together with timely, beautiful personalization means WineDelight lets you create a just-for-them gift to make the big day all the more memorable.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gifts For Your Clients | Business Gift Guide

Corporate Gift Giving Guide

You’re coming up to the end of another (hopefully) successful calendar year in the corporate world, but don’t wrap up the year quite yet. With the holidays just around the corner, now is the time to think about corporate gift ideas. Wait until the last minute, and you’ll be stuck handing out stale fruitcake or the cheap mugs with the company’s logo that you can’t seem to give away.

Your gifts for employees or clients shouldn’t be memorable for the wrong reasons. You don’t want to be the person known for being cheap, impersonal or completely off the mark. Instead, choose gifts for clients, colleagues and the boss that keep your company in mind, show you care and reflect the recipient’s tastes. Do that and you’ll be the talk around the water cooler.

Gift Giving Considerations

Before you reach for the first thing that grabs your attention, consider the implications of corporate gift giving. If you give your Aunt Ida a gift she hates, she might not speak to you at the next family gathering. (Maybe that’s not a bad thing.) But offending a client, business partner or employee can hurt your business.

Keep these things in mind when choosing gifts on behalf of your business:
  • The recipient: It’s easy to buy in bulk for everyone on your corporate gift-giving list, but this option also feels a little impersonal and lacking in thought. If your list of recipients is relatively short, pick out something special for each person.

    If a client barely knows how to boil water, a cooking-themed gift will likely flop. If the recipient never leaves town, engraved luggage tags won’t likely get much use. Choose gifts that take into consideration the preferences, interests and lifestyles of the recipients for the best reactions.
  • The budget: This relates both to the actual cost and the perceived value of the gift. Sure, a low-cost gift saves your company money, but everyone can spot a cheap gift a mile away. On the other end of the spectrum, spending an extravagant amount or gifting something with an exaggerated value gets tricky. It can look like you’re trying to buy your clients. Instead, stick with the middle of the road with a gift that shows your gratitude without looking like a bribe.
  • The purpose: Ask yourself why you are giving a gift to this particular person. You want to show your employees your appreciation for their hard work all year. You want to thank your clients for their business and show them you care about their needs. You want to find a gift for your boss that shows your gratitude for the opportunity to work for them and maybe to earn a few brownie points so they keep you in mind for that raise and promotion.

    Choose a gift that shows how you feel or that fills a need for the recipient. A tool the recipient can use for work purposes shows you are aware of their needs and care that they are filled, for example.
  • The unique nature: In the corporate world, clients or business partners likely get a lot of swag during the holidays. Printed mugs, stale boxes of chocolate and bottle openers with your company’s logo all have their place, but they won’t do much to make your gift memorable. They may even end up in the garbage or in the storage closet with all the other cliché gifts. Stand out from the crowd with a gift that is out of the ordinary and something the recipient genuinely likes.

Relate the Gift to Your Company

One major perk of giving gifts, especially if your clients are the recipients, is to make the recipient think of you and your company. It’s a great way to thank the recipient while also promoting sales or repeat business. Each time the recipient sees the gift, it reminds him of your company or line of work.
For example, a high-end fountain pen with your editing company’s logo on it reminds your corporate clients of editing work they need to send your way each time they jot down a note. A novelty flash drive reminds clients of the services offered by your IT company every time they save documents.

Gifting something useful that also relates to your company’s purpose or business benefits both the recipient and your sales.

Make Them Remember You

You’ve heard it a million times: It’s the thought that counts. It’s very true when giving gifts, but it’s also a perk if you can make the recipient think about you long after the Christmas tree and holiday decorations get packed away. One option is to give something the recipient uses on a regular basis — even better if you can add your company’s name or logo without making it look like a cheesy gift. It serves as a constant reminder of your company each time the recipient uses it.

Another option is to keep the gifts coming all year long with a subscription to an item of the month club. Knowing what your intended recipient likes or how they live and work can be a big help in choosing the right membership.

A gourmet food of the month club is an option for the foodie on your list. If the recipient likes to add a little flourish to their wardrobe and has a sense of humor, try the sock of the month club through Sock 101. They’ll always have a new pair of socks to wear to the office. These types of clubs are available for almost anything you can think of, from razors and beauty supplies to healthy snack foods.

Since a subscription usually means the recipient has to wait a while for the first shipment, attach a card to a bottle of their favorite wine or liquor explaining the membership and letting them know when to expect the first shipment. They get the gift of alcohol right away with the monthly reminder of how thoughtful you are once the subscription kicks in.

Give the Gift of High-End Liquor

The holidays and liquor go hand-in-hand, so it’s a logical option to give a bottle of liquor as a corporate gift. Knowing what the recipient likes to drink comes in handy with this gift option.

Buying tequila for a scotch-only drinker won’t earn you any points, although they will be able to throw an amazing Cinco de Mayo party for employees next year with that tequila. Others on your list may be more open to various types of liquor. If you’re not sure what type of liquor the recipient likes, ask around or invite them for a drink so you can do a little research. It helps to know a little about the basic types of liquor. Here’s a quick primer if you’re not sure which way to go:

Don’t head to the local supermarket and grab just any bottle of liquor. If you’re going to give alcohol as a gift, it needs to be something special. Choose premium alcohol with a unique story to show you know your cognac from your whisky. WineDelight offers all sorts of unique liquor options for your gift-giving needs.

High-End Liquor Gift Ideas

Macallan Rare Cask is made from some of the scarcest and most precious Spanish sherry seasoned oak casks. Many of these handpicked casks are first fill.

WhistlePig 10YR and 12YR is created using a unique double-barrel process. The results of this process are celebrated as the perfect combination of age, proof and purity. This straight-rye whiskey has earned 96 points from Wine Enthusiast — the highest rating they ever gave — along with accolades from Maxim, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and many others.

 For the tequila lover on your holiday shopping list, check out Casamigos Anejo. This tequila, which is only produced in small batches, is made from the finest hand-selected blue weber agave that grows in the cool climate and red, rich clay of the Jalisco Highlands in Mexico. Its process includes roasting slowly for 72 hours in traditional brick ovens. The juices then ferment over 80 hours in a unique yeast blend. Finally, it ages in an oak barrel for over 14 months.

Gift the distinctive Germain-Robin. It’s a Very Special Old Pale, which designates a blend of brandies with the youngest aged for at least four years.

For a classy, elegant gift, opt for a high-end cognac, such as Remy Martin XO. This fine champagne cognac is a blend of more than 300 eaux-de-vie, aged 10 to 37 years old. The result is a rich, layered aroma, velvety texture and long-lasting finish.

The gin drinker in the group will appreciate their very own bottle of Nolet's Silver Dry Gin. This Double Gold Medal Winner from the 2011 San Francisco World Spirits Competition is considered the “new face of gin,” thanks to its fresh notes of raspberry, peach and Turkish rose. It is the result of 300 years of Nolet family experience. Any lucky recipient of this bottle of alcohol will likely feel like giving you an award for Best Holiday Gift Ever.

El Dorado 15YR and 21YR are two great choices for the rum drinker in your life. El Dorado Special Reserve 15 Year Old Rum is layered with flavors, from dark coffee, almonds and dark chocolate to candied orange, rich vanilla and pepper. It’s vibrant, silky and moderately full-bodied. El Dorado Special Reserve 21 Year Old Rum has a tropical spice and fruit nose with touches of dark sugar and honey. The mellow, round, full-bodied palate is rich with flavor. 

WineDelight offers a wide selection of liquor in any variety. We’re happy to ship the liquor directly to the recipient. Or you can deliver it yourself. The recipient may let the holiday spirit overtake them and offer you a drink on the spot.

High-End Liquor Gift Add-Ons

Once you select the bottle of liquor for each recipient, add in a related gift to give something to go along with the alcohol. Here are some ideas:
  • Glassware: Choose something fun and unconventional to really make an impression. Try Himalayan salt tequila glasses, stainless steel shot glasses or other unique glasses. Match the glassware to the type of alcohol you give.
  • Bar accessories: Add in some tools to help the recipient enjoy the liquor — or impress their friends when they pull out the new bottle at their next gathering. Chilling stones make a classy gift and allow them to enjoy cool liquor without worrying about watering it down. A cocktail shaker in a fun shape or design works well paired with alcohol designed for mixing. Or get them a whole set of bartender tools so they can serve up their new bottle of alcohol with flair.
  • A mixing guide: If you’re gifting liquor to someone who doesn’t know a lot about it, throw in a drink mixing guide. Choose a hardcover book with colorful images so it doubles as a decorative piece. Match the theme of the drink mixing book to the type of alcohol you give.

Or Go With the Safe Bet: High-End Wine

Whether the recipient is a wine connoisseur or doesn’t know their merlot from their pinot noir, a bottle of wine is always a suitable option for gift giving. Wine is classy without being too stuffy, so it works for everyone from that uptight executive to the most outgoing employees at your company. Plus wine is easy to serve. Remove the cork and it’s ready to drink. No special recipes, measuring or mixing required.

WineDelight offers all types of wines, both from the U.S. and other parts of the world. With a wide range of prices, you can find a bottle that fits your corporate gift budget.

If you’re not sure which wine to choose, it helps to know the range of both white and red wines. While white wines are generally sweeter than red wines, both varieties have a range of sweet to dry:
  • Red wines from sweeter to drier: port, shiraz, malbec, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, cabernet franc, chanti
  • White wines from sweeter to drier: white port, ice wine, moscato, riesling, chardonnay

High-End Wine Gift Options

Choose a bottle of wine that has significant meaning for the recipient. Gift a bottle of Cade Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain Napa Valley to a client who started with your company in 2012. If your company started in 2009, commemorate the anniversary by giving out bottles of Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon from the same year. Relive the business trip you took with a colleague to the Napa Valley with a bottle of BV Georges de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. Finding a special connection through the wine you choose makes the gift that much more meaningful.

If you don’t have a special request based on year or origin, go with a high-end bottle of wine based on the taste preferences of the recipient. Terrazas knows how to do red with its Cheval Des Andes Mendoza and has a celebrated Cabernet Sauvignon: its Single Vineyard Los Aromos Cabernet Sauvignon.

Montes Alpha 'M' 2005 is powerful, with rounded and soft tannins. This intense dark red color has well-defined, elegant character. Its Folley Syrah 2005 features a range of aromas and flavors, from leather, asphalt and toasty cedar wood to vanilla and spicy berry.

High-End Wine Gift Add-Ons

Round out the gift with a wine-related item. Pack it all in a gift basket or wooden crate for a creative presentation. If you’re not sure what to include with the wine bottle, consider one of these wine-themed gifts:
  • A corkscrew: This gift addition ensures the recipient doesn’t have to wait to test out their gift. If you want to add a personal touch, buy a customized corkscrew. Add a special message and the recipient’s name or your company’s name so the recipient remembers you every time they open a bottle of vino.
  • A decanter: Help your work acquaintance get the most out of their bottle of wine with a decanter. You’ll find decanters in a variety of styles, including those with different compartments of funky twisting shapes. They’ll be proud to display their new decanter every time they serve wine.
  • A wine rack: Keep their wine bottles under control with a wine rack. You can go big with a multiple-bottle design or stay small with a novelty single-bottle display stand. Either way, the recipient gets to show off their new bottle of wine — at least until they can’t take it anymore and have to pop the cork.
  • A wine guide: This option works well for those novice wine drinkers. Choose a coffee table-style book to make this gift option seem substantial. They can brush up on all the different types of wine. You just may turn them into a wine connoisseur after they learn everything there is to know about wine.
  • A wine stopper: We know it’s hard to believe, but some people don’t finish a bottle of wine in one sitting. For those who want to draw out the enjoyment of their wine gift, a wine stopper is a fun addition to the gift. Choose a fun design that matches the recipient’s personality and interests for bonus points.
  • Serving gear: Give the recipient everything they need to enjoy the wine by including a set of wine glasses. Go stemless for modern simplicity. Or choose a decorative glass option to make the glasses as pretty as they are functional.
  • Gourmet food: Wine and snacks go hand-in-hand, so this is a natural addition to the wine gift collection. Fill a basket with artisan cheeses, breads, chocolates and fruits to please the palette of the recipient. Add in a personalized cheese board to round out the gift.

Turn the Bottle Into a Gift

If a bottle of alcohol makes the cut on your list of corporate gifts, take it a step further. Engraving on the bottle is a simple way to turn the gift into a personalized present that says a lot. Engraved bottles for corporate gifts allow you to put thanks into words, recount a milestone with a client or add an inspirational quote. Plus the bottle becomes a keepsake and constant reminder of your thoughtfulness, even if the alcohol doesn’t last long.

WineDelight offers bottle engraving on most of our available wines and liquors. The wide selection of available liquor and wines — including white, red and bubbly — means you can find just the right bottle for each recipient. Or order in bulk so your employees don’t fight over who gets what. We can even engrave these bulk orders if you want to spread a certain message to everyone.

All engraving takes place in house with the attention to detail you can only get from WineDelight. This allows us to get your personalized liquor bottles to you faster. We can even do same-day engraving and shipping on certain whisky bottles, including WhistlePig Rye. Your clients can still get a personalized gift even if you wait until the last minute to order.

Let WineDelight Help With Your Corporate Holiday Gifts

WineDelight offers an extensive selection of liquors and wines, many that are difficult to find in stores. With such a wide selection, you can take care of everyone on your shopping list in one spot.

But we aren’t a one-size-fits-all alcohol store. We’re here to customize your experience so you get just what you want. Not only can we engrave your bottles, but we can also take care of the packaging, with options for gift wrapping, custom packaging and gift tags. Trust us. Your assistant will love the fact that they won’t get stuck wrapping all those bottles. We also offer picture proofs to ensure your vision of the gift is being achieved and dedicated account reps who work with you every step along the way.

We can also take your mailing list and ship the gifts directly to the recipients. All you have to do is place the order and sit back until the sincere thank you notes from all of the recipients start rolling in. If wine or liquor is on your corporate shopping list, check out the WineDelight options.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Holiday Cocktail Guide | Mixed Drink Guide for Holidays

A Home Bartender's Guide for Surviving the Holidays

The holidays are a time for making memories with family. Generations gather in a single home, sharing heartwarming tales while they sit around a crackling fire. Children quietly play while the adults catch up after months apart. You can finally relax because your boss gave you a week off since she understands the value of a good work-life balance. Everyone is happy.

At least this is what the greeting card companies want us to think. But the holiday reality is very different.

A recent study shows that, during the holidays, 68 percent of people experience increased fatigue, 61 percent experience increased stress and 52 percent experience increased irritability.

For more than half of us, the holidays aren’t a time to relax. They’re the exact opposite: They’re a time for higher blood pressure, acute stress headaches and cold sweats.

But we don’t need science to tell us why the holidays can be such a drag. No matter what the holiday commercials say, we know the true holiday experience is a far cry from the idyllic scene described above.

So let’s paint a more accurate picture:

Children scream because hugs from Grandma smell like weird, ancient perfume. Your uncle, who started drinking cheap beer around 6 a.m., is well into an uncomfortably racist rant about the country’s future. Your mom not-so-subtly steers every conversation towards your perpetual singlehood.

You’ve only recently arrived at this delightful family get-together, and it’s eerily familiar. Before arriving, you first had to attend a mandatory work holiday party where the lady in the cubicle next to you overdid it with the cheap perfume, all of the office bros were pounding cheap beers while reliving their college years, and your “work friend” kept explaining how you blew it with your ex.

Needless to say, there comes a time at every holiday gathering when you need a cocktail, and you need it quick.

To make surviving the holidays a little easier, we have collected a list of recipes for our favorite holiday drinks. Some are strong, some are light and all are designed to make celebrating the holidays more of a celebration and less of a chore.

Hopefully, after artfully employing these holiday cocktails, either your family will start to relax and stop nagging you or your mind will get just hazy enough to make all of the stress seem like a heartwarming Christmas special. Either way, the holidays are about to get survivable!

So make a list of the necessary ingredients, make sure you have a cocktail shaker and the proper glassware handy and get ready to drink your way towards a more bearable time with your family.

The Best Cocktails for Thanksgiving Dinner

Before we get to our more wintery holiday drinks, let’s start with the Christmas/Hanukkah warm-up known as Thanksgiving.

The centerpiece of this November whirlwind of gluttony is a dinner known for its autumnal flavors, including cranberries, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and the traditional turkey — it’s not known for being a light meal.

You have one of two options when approaching Thanksgiving cocktails: You can either embrace the tendency towards indulgence or you can instead try to counteract the calories with lighter, less filling options. Either way, booze is the key to surviving the most stressful Thursday of the year.

The Lighter Options

  • Pass the Turkey

Don’t be deceived. Despite its name, this cocktail is a refreshing cranberry drink with a hefty dose of booze.

Unsurprisingly, the punch in this cocktail comes from one and a half ounces of Wild Turkey 101. Before adding the bourbon, muddle one sage sprig and one thyme sprig with two ounces of apple cider in a cocktail shaker. Add the bourbon with one tablespoon of cranberry jelly and ice. Shake well and then strain into a glass rimmed with turkey jus and breadcrumbs.

This is a great cocktail if you want to trick your family into getting toasted with you. The thanksgiving flavors mask the intense booziness of the 101-proof bourbon. If you think surviving turkey day will be easier if your great aunt has a nice buzz, just sneak her a couple of these. Just make sure to save at least one for yourself.

  • Fall Sangria

This is a big batch cocktail that you can serve in a punch bowl, ensuring your family will have a hard time keeping track of how many you’ve had.

Combine one chopped and cored apple, a bottle of unoaked chardonnay, a half cup of peach brandy, a quarter cup of raw honey, a quartered orange, a quartered lemon, a quartered lime, two cinnamon sticks, three whole cloves and two quarter-sized slices of ginger. Refrigerate this mixture overnight.
Before serving, strain the sangria and then place it in a punch bowl filled with sliced apples. Serve in a cinnamon-and-sugar-rimmed wine glass topped off with club soda.

Although this sangria is lighter on the booze, it is easy drinking. Don’t be afraid to double the recipe if you have a stressful family.

The Heavier Options

  • Warm and Toasty
This is an unapologetic dessert drink: creamy, warm and wonderful. If you don’t want to waste your pie calories on something non-alcoholic, this is a great alternative.

In a coffee mug, combine five ounces of hot apple cider, an ounce and a half of cranberry puree, and an ounce and a half of bourbon. Top with a heaping helping of whipped cream and cinnamon and garnish with an apple slice.

Drinking to make your family more tolerating may seem cold, but with this warm drink you can easily ignore that frigid feeling growing in your heart. And if the conversation becomes so burdensome that you have to go run into the backyard or retreat to the toolshed, you’re holding something warm in your hands as the late autumn night gets frosty.

  • Pumpkin Martini
Thanksgiving might as well change its name to Pumpkin Spice Day. And while pumpkin everything may be wearing on the nation’s patience, we still think it’s a good fit for at least one day out of the year.

Combine two ounces of vodka and two ounces of pumpkin liqueur in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with whipped cream and garnish with a cinnamon stick.
This is a simple cocktail to make, so if you find yourself wracked with acute family-related stress, you won’t have a complicated recipe to remember. As a bonus, it’s mostly alcohol.

Perfect Cocktails for a Work Christmas Party

The dreaded work holiday party: Inappropriate co-workers. A drunken, flirtatious boss. The IT department “dancing” to Beyoncé. Nothing sucks out your soul quite like mandatory fun at the last place you want to be during the holidays.

Here are a couple drink ideas to make those parties a little more tolerable. Just don’t get so drunk that you start to flirt back with your boss. You don’t want those rumors making their way through the office email chains.

  • A Flask Full of Tequila

Maybe your company is providing drinks for the party. But your company is probably also cheap, meaning that the drinks will be watered down and terrible.

Take out a funnel and a flask and fill it with tequila. Add tequila to any lame punch or cocktail being served at the party. Or skip the punch and just sneak sips in the supply closet. We won’t judge.

  • Rum and Grapefruit Spritzer
Another way to make your company party more tolerable is to volunteer to make the drinks yourself. This spritzer is a crowd pleaser and easy to make.

Combine three fourths of a cup of light rum, two cups of pink grapefruit juice and one cup of ginger ale. Serve in a salt-rimmed glass garnished with candied ginger.

This recipe serves four, so multiply the recipe accordingly. And if you feel it needs to be stronger to make the party go faster, a little more rum won’t hurt.

Perfect Cocktails for a Family Christmas Party

Now that you’ve survived the warm-up acts, it’s time for the main event. You fly halfway across the country to sleep in your childhood room along with your cousins and great uncle Barry who suffers from the worst sleep apnea you’ve ever heard. You wake up in the morning having slept about 20 minutes total and choke down some burnt, cheap coffee, only to see your grandma walking around in an ancient threadbare nightgown.

It’s almost enough to make you want to start drinking first thing in the morning.

We do insist that you wait at least until brunch. But once it becomes socially appropriate, we want to help you survive the holidays.

Whether you are celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, family is family, which means stress headaches and heartburn. Thankfully, a good stiff drink can help you relax and make the experience a little more tolerable.

With that in mind, here are a few of our favorite holiday survival serums.
  • Holiday Mimosa 
If you can’t wait until the evening to start numbing your senses, then add this holiday themed mimosa to your brunch menu.

In a pitcher, combine one chilled bottle of champagne, one cup of chilled orange juice, half a cup of chilled cranberry juice, and orange slices. Serve in a champagne flute garnished with an orange wheel.

The best part of having a mimosa is that people forget it’s a cocktail designed for the morning. So while people might judge you for drinking a martini with your eggs, you can usually sneak a few of these without getting too many strange looks.

  • Gin and Rosemary Cocktail
This is a good one if you ate a little too much Christmas goose: Gin is an excellent digestif and the herbal flavors of the rosemary help with an upset stomach. And gin is liquor, so it’s good for helping make incessant questions about what you’re doing with your life more tolerable.

In a small saucepan, simmer a half cup of water, four rosemary sprigs and a half cup of sugar. Strain the rosemary syrup into a pitcher. Add one cup of grape juice, half cup of club soda and one fourth of a cup of fresh lemon juice. Finally, add three fourths of a cup of gin, pour the mixture over ice, and garnish with grapes and a sprig of rosemary.

This is a classy cocktail, which will help give your family the impression that you actually are an adult. Plus it’s tasty and balanced, so you can have additional drinks as needed.
  • Belgian Winter Fizz
This is definitely a drink for an experienced mixologist. If you have the chops to put it together, you will find yourself enjoying a winning combination of sophistication and alcohol.

Shake two ounces of Tanqueray, one teaspoon maraschino liqueur, one heaping teaspoon of orange marmalade, a fourth of an ounce of lemon juice and one small egg white vigorously. Next add ice to the shaker and continue to shake. Pour into a snifter. Next, pour three ounces of Belgian beer into the shaker and swirl, pouring the foamy mixture into the snifter. Garnish with fresh cinnamon.

While this drink is certainly worth the effort, the involved preparation may invite more inquisitive relatives to ask the same kinds of nagging questions that you are drinking to avoid. Plan your preparation accordingly. Try slipping away just as the game of charades is about to begin: Everyone will be distracted and you can mix alone in peace. In fact, you could just stay in the kitchen and drink in peace too!

  • Easy Eggnog
Eggnog is a classic. You can buy it in its far less exciting non-alcoholic form in any grocery store once the holidays start. But good eggnog also helps you cope with pinched cheeks or screaming children. We recommend leaving the store-bought eggnog to the kids. Just make sure you don’t confuse your special grown-up version with theirs.

In a medium saucepan, bring two cups heavy cream, a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg, and a half cup of sugar to a simmer. In a blender, add four large eggs and blend on the lowest setting. Without turning off the blender, add the hot cream and let it combine until it is frothy. Turn off the blender and add three fourths of a cup of brandy. We recommend serving this eggnog warm.

Technically this recipe serves four, but considering how stressful the holidays are, you might as well keep all four servings for yourself.
  • Chartreuse and Lime
This is an alpine classic. Chartreuse is a beguiling green herbal liqueur flavored with anise, licorice, basil and spearmint. If you need to cleanse your palate after eating yet another one of your aunt’s terrible fruitcake bricks, this is a great option.

Combine half a cup of light rum, half a cup of club soda, one third of a cup of Chartreuse, and another third of a cup of lime juice. Serve over crushed ice and garnish with a cherry.
Admittedly, this drink requires a refined taste. But if such sophistication is a reflection of your own drinking habits, then this is a perfect cocktail, because your wine cooler sipping cousins won’t ask you to share.

  • Gingerbread Martini
The best thing about martinis is that they are made of alcohol and not much else. This gingerbread martini is no exception. It tastes like dessert, but it’s as alcoholic as the punch at a frat party.

Combine two ounces of vanilla vodka, two ounces of Frangelico, and one ounce of butterscotch schnapps in a shaker filled with ice. Shake and then strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with ginger beer and pour some dark rum over the back of a spoon to float on top of the cocktail.

The best part of this drink is its versatility. If you want to drink your dessert, go right ahead. You can blissfully doze off while the rest of the family gathers to watch a black-and-white Christmas movie for the millionth time.

But if you want to get the rest of the family to fall asleep, just make one of these for everyone. They taste so good that everyone will drink them quickly and start snoring on the couch before they know what hit them.

Of course, you still have to find a way to get the kids to leave you alone. Hopefully their parents packed them hand-held video games.

Bonus: A Holiday Hangover Cure

The one drawback to drinking in order to cope with family: The next morning you might have a killer holiday hangover. But have no fear — we have a perfect seasonal cure just for the occasion!

Combine three cups of tomato juice, three fourths of a cup of vodka, two thirds of a cup of lime juice, two teaspoons of Worcestershire Sauce, one teaspoon of horseradish, half a teaspoon of celery salt, half a teaspoon of hot sauce, half a teaspoon of salt and a fourth of a teaspoon pepper.

Pour this life-restoring Bloody Mary over ice and garnish with a celery stalk and a couple of sliced jalapeños.

Depending on your family, nursing a hangover with a little hair of the dog may raise some eyebrows. So you can prepare this ahead of time and hide it in the garage or sealed in a jar stuck in a snow bank. That way, when everyone else is checking out what they have in their stocking, you can sneak out the back and enjoy your cure in peace.

Spice Up Your Holidays With Your Favorite Cocktails

Hopefully this guide to Thanksgiving and holiday stress avoidance has made the prospect of spending time with your family just a little more bearable. Maybe you’re one of the lucky few who actually enjoy spending time with in-laws. Thankfully, these cocktails for a Christmas party are just as good for sharing with company you enjoy keeping. If, like the rest of us, you need a little libation to get you through the holidays, these drinks are sure to do the trick.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you to drink responsibly. If you do drink, make sure you either have a guest room to crash in or someone else to drive you home.

But since holidays with your family usually mean you’re stuck with your family overnight, you’re probably good to go. So raise a glass to health and drink up. It’s what the holidays are all about!

Monday, October 5, 2015

21st Birthday Drinks & Cocktails | Mixed Drink Guide

Our Guide to Memorable and Affordable 21st Birthday Party

Most of us (hopefully) remember our 21st birthday party. This American rite of passage is one of the last gateways into adulthood. There is something satisfying about flashing that ID with your birthday printed on it, proving to the bartender that you are now officially a legitimate customer.

But we’d like to suggest another way to experiencing this momentous day. As the cost of a celebratory night on the town can quickly get out of hand, consider keeping the party at home. With all the right details, including a personalized bottle of wine for the birthday boy or girl, you can create a memorable party at home.

To make planning a 21st birthday bash a little easier, here’s our guide to a memorable home party.

Start with Preferred Flavors

The first step in planning a 21st birthday party for your friend or family member is to figure out what he or she likes. Wine and liquor come in many forms and each style is geared toward a specific palate.

Wine, for example, is often described as either sweet or dry and light or full-bodied. Certain liquors, like rum, are sweet while others, most notably vodka, try to be as flavorless as possible. Bourbon is much more complicated, with each brand focusing on a specific flavor profile, and gin features an array of botanicals designed to give it an herbal flavor.

Begin your party planning process with a little research on your birthday girl or boy. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does she have a definite sweet tooth or does she prefer spicy food? 
  • How much sugar does he put in his coffee? 
  • Does she prefer orange juice or cranberry juice? 

Not only will this help you determine what type of alcohol to buy, but it will help you determine what type of mixers to use when making that perfect birthday cocktail. Mixers refer to non-alcoholic cocktail ingredients.

There are far too many liquor and wine variations to list them all in a short guide, but here’s a quick table listing the six most popular base spirits to get you started:


Rum: A Taste of the Caribbean

Rum is certainly a popular liquor, and considering its sweetness — it’s made from either molasses or sugar cane — it is often one of the first liquors that novice drinkers become acquainted with. It comes in two basic varieties: light and dark, which correspond with how long the rum has been aged.

The darker the rum, the more time it has spent in a cask. Both varieties are sweet, but different cocktails require one or the other, so start with a cocktail that appeals to your taste and choose your rum accordingly.

Here are a few of our favorite cocktail recipes to get you started.

Cuba Libre (Rum and Coke)

This is a classic cocktail that is easy to drink and will appeal to a number of newly-minted 21 year olds. Plus, it’s such a simple recipe that first-time bartenders likely won’t mess it up. We recommend using Bacardi Gold, although a higher-end rum, like Zaya Gran Reserva 12YR, Angostura 1824 Limited Reserve 12YR, or El Dorado 12YR will give this drink an added dose of sophistication.

To create a Cuba libre, mix the following ingredients in a tall glass over ice:

  • 1 ounce rum
  • 3 ounces cola
  • Lime wedge for garnish


This is a classic drink that is sophisticated but simple. It’s especially refreshing in the summer and is a must in warmer climates. So if you’re making drinks for a first-timer who also wants to appear like they know what they’re doing, a mojito is a safe bet. Just make sure to use light rum, like Diplomatico Reserve Blanco or El Dorado Cask Aged 3YR.

You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • Club soda
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 2 ounces light rum
  • Mint for garnish

Put the sugar, mint, and a little club soda in a tall glass. Muddle the mint, squeeze the juice of the lime over it, placing half of the lime in the glass, and then add the rum. After stirring well, add ice and the rest of the club soda, garnishing with a mint sprig.

Tequila: A Treat from South of the Border

Many young adults bemoan the hangovers caused by tequila, but generally that’s because they drank too much, not because they had tequila. This Mexican liquor, made from the juice of agave, is delightfully sweet with a pleasant hint of earthiness. Like rum, tequila comes in both white and gold varieties, and different cocktails call for different types. Here are a couple classics:


The margarita is synonymous with tequila. This delightful lime-flavored cocktail is easy to drink and perfectly balances sweetness with the signature spiciness of tequila. We like ours on the rocks (over ice), but they can also be made straight up (chilled without ice) or frozen (made with ice in a blender.) And we believe a margarita should always be served in a salt-rimmed glass. We recommend a white tequila like Mejor Silver or Milagro Silver.

You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 ounces tequila
  • 1/2 ounce triple sec
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • Lime wedge as garnish
  • Salt rimmed glass

Add ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake well and then strain into the salt-rimmed cocktail glass with fresh ice. Garnish with the lime wedge.

Tequila Sunrise

This visually stunning cocktail is perfect if you want a drink that combines the acidity of citrus with the sweetness of tequila and grenadine. Because the grenadine and orange juice do not mix well, the bright red grenadine falls to the bottom of the glass, creating the signature sunrise effect.

Typically, white tequila is used for this drink, but a top shelf dark tequila, like Mejor Anejo or Gran Centenario Anjeo, will add a smoky variation. Just be careful because these drinks go down easy, so pace yourself.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 4 ounces orange juice
  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 1/2 ounce Roses grenadine
  • Orange slice and maraschino cherry for garnish

Add tequila and orange juice to a highball glass with ice cubes. Stir and then slowly add the grenadine down the inside rim of the glass, making sure to let it settle in the bottom of the glass naturally. Add an orange and a cherry to garnish.

Brandy: Old World Tradition

Brandy is a sophisticated liquor made by distilling wine or other fruit juices. It retains much of the fruit’s sweetness, but age and alcohol content give it a strong, syrupy smokiness. Brandy comes in a number of varieties from different parts of the world, but the finest are said to be made in France.

Brandy is typically used in many traditional cocktails and most do not try to hide the liquor’s distinct flavor. This is a great option for a birthday party that longs for a certain degree of class. Here are a couple to get you started:


Brandy Cocktail

This cocktail is the epitome of classic, so it doesn’t need a fancy name. It’s certainly sophisticated, so make sure it will match the birthday boy or girl’s tastes. Such a sophisticated drink requires a high-quality brandy, such as Courvoisier VSOP Cognac.

Here’s what you need:

Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish.

Brandy Alexander

This creamy cocktail is a wonderful treat for those who like something smooth and spicy. Combining chocolate and nutmeg, it is rich and evokes a wintery warmth, even if it is served cold. So keep this one in mind if you’re planning a birthday celebration during the winter months. Also, make sure to use a good-quality creme de cacao, like DeKuyper Crème De Cacao.

Use the following ingredients:

Mix the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and then strain into a cocktail glass. Sprinkle nutmeg on the surface of the drink.

Gin: Pure English Class

Gin is an acquired taste. A combination of a neutral spirits and botanicals, it is spicy and herbal — and it makes a stunning cocktail. Most gin cocktails delicately balance different strong flavors, resulting in a mellow cocktail. But not all gins are created equal. With gin especially, you get what you pay for. So make sure to purchase a good-quality gin if you want to impress people with your cocktails. Here’s a particular popular classic:

Gin and Tonic

Famously, this drink was invented to make tonic — which contains quinine, an important medicine for battling malaria — more palatable. While the tonic you buy at the grocery store contains far less quinine than the original, it retains its distinct bitterness. Yet, when mixed with gin, the result is a remarkably refreshing and sweet drink, despite the ingredients. Use a classic gin like Bombay Sapphire or mix it up with a more modern take, like Tanqueray Rangpur.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 ounces gin
  • Tonic water
  • Lime wedge for garnish

Simply add gin to a highball glass with ice, and top off with tonic water. Stir and garnish.

Vodka: The Neutral Spirit

While every other liquor strives to offer the perfect flavor, the best vodka is as close to flavorless as possible. It’s clean and delicate and makes for the perfect mixer because it lets other ingredients shine. If your party goers aren’t the type that go for old-fashioned drinks, vodka is probably your best option.

However, there are also vodka drinks for the sophisticated crowd, such as James Bond’s famous shaken vodka martini. In fact, considering its versatility, you can’t go wrong with vodka. Here is just one option:


This gorgeous and delicate pink cocktail is quite popular among urban ladies. But it’s also pretty simple to make and will be a hit among a wide range of party goers. Choose a bottle of nice vodka, such as Grey Goose or Belvedere, and some Cointreau or Gran Marnier to bring the city home.

Use the following ingredients:

Mix together with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish.

Whiskey: Malt Made Perfect

Whiskey comes in a wide range of varieties with distinctly different flavors. Scotch is by far the smokiest, while Bourbon can have a wonderful caramel sweetness. All are made from some variety of corn or malt and then aged. Depending on your tastes, whiskey can easily be enjoyed straight, although it’s equally wonderful in a cocktail. Choose a special bottle of whiskey for the birthday boy or girl to celebrate in style. Try this classic to get you started:

Old Fashioned

Like the name suggested, this is an old-fashioned cocktail, but that doesn’t mean it’s stuffy or boring. Taking advantage of bourbon’s natural sweetness, this drink is fancy without being showy. It’s perfect for a 21st celebration that wants to maintain an element of class without being overly exclusive. Just use a good bourbon, like Woodford Reserve, Michter’s US*1 Small Batch Bourbon, or Buffalo Trace to make this cocktail truly memorable.

You will need the following:

Place the sugar cube in an old-fashioned glass and soak with the bitters. Add the orange slice and muddle. Fill with ice and then add the bourbon, garnishing with the cherry.


Shooters: The Life of the Party

While there’s a wide range of fancy cocktails, sometimes a 21st-birthday party simply needs a good shooter. Typically sweet and often featuring suggestive names, these drinks are designed to be thrown down quickly. So while we strongly insist that you drink responsibly, these drinks are sure to make sure the party gets shaking quickly.

Here’s a list of some of our favorites:

Buttery Nipple

Layer the two ingredients, with the Butterscotch Schnapps on the bottom.

Mind Eraser

Mix ingredients over ice.


Simply combine.


Simply combine.

Sex on the Beach

Simply combine.

Wine: Memorable and Easy

Finally, sometimes the best way to enjoy your 21st birthday is with a memorable bottle of wine.

With wine, there’s no need to mix ingredients. Simply find some glasses and a corkscrew and you’re ready to share an unforgettable evening. There are as many wines as there are tastes in the world, so you will need to explore to find the perfect bottle. Take some time looking around, and remember nothing makes a 21st celebration special like a personalized bottle of wine for a birthday.

Whether you want to get your buddy a bottle of scotch for his birthday or have a girls’ night complete with shooters, we hope this guide has helped you plan a memorable and safe 21st birthday party.

With these recipes, you’ll impress your guests and make sure the new 21 year old has a night to remember (hopefully) forever.