Wine & Spirits: Liquid Gifts for a Spirited Holiday

by WL Author

Wine- and cocktail-themed gifts this holiday season make for happy recipients (who may even share them with the lucky giver…) Read on for four creative ideas inspired in part by DC wine and spirit movers and shakers.

By Kelly A. Magyarics

Cookie zen

Gift #1: Merry Calimocho
Before shooters (and even individual glassware, for that matter,) there was the porrón. Like a cross between a wine carafe and a watering can, these typically hand-blown vessels are a convivial way to share a beverage like the Calimocho (red wine and Coke) or Clara (beer and lemon lime soda.) Use the spout to pour the beverage into your mouth without touching it to your mouth.

A porron from La Tienda is a great addition to a Spanish-themed wine gift.

A porron from La Tienda is a great addition to a Spanish-themed wine gift.

Spanish hotspot Estadio has embraced the porrón on its drinks menu. It makes for thirst-quenching as well as a form of entertainment—half the fun is perfecting the “dismount” (stopping the flow of the beverage without it dripping down your chin or onto your clothes,) and the other half is watching your friends do it. The porróns from La Tienda ($19.95, are hand-blown from recycled glass. Give an adventurous friend a holiday treat by arranging one in a large basket, along with a bottle of Garnacha, a few bottles of Coke (glass, natch) and Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters from Fee Brothers. Tuck in the recipe for the Calimocho (half wine, half chilled Coke, and a few dashes of bitters.)

Gift #2: Punch…Drunk
Punch is hot. No, not the Sprite and rainbow sherbet version. “Punch is basically a sour cocktail that’s been spiced and extended with something non-alcoholic,” explains Phil Greene of the Museum of the American Cocktail. Thought to have derived from the Hindi word “panch,” meaning five, punch’s five requisite ingredients are spirit, lemon, sugar, spices and water (or tea.)

Punch fanatics are in luck this holiday season. Mixologist and cocktail historian David Wondrich has just released his book “Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl” ($16.29, Brimming over with recipes and cool historical anecdotes, Wondrich’s tome is the definitive source on what to serve for your next large gathering.

Add to the gift a cool vintage punch set from Ebay, or go for this one with modern appeal (my choice) from

This punch set from Crate and Barrel is simple yet very stylish.

This punch set from Crate and Barrel is simple yet very stylish.

Crate and Barrel ($39.95, Gina Chersevani of PS7 and Chantal Tseng of The Tabard Inn love to make beautiful ice rings with flowers, herbs and fruit for their punches. You can get a similar effect with by ordering a Tupperware JelRing ($15.49, Fill with punch and your choice of garnishes, freeze, and unmold. Your bowlful will stay cold and refreshing without getting watered down.

Finally, include this classic recipe with the gift card to get the thirsty recipient started. This is a large batch for a large crowd—but the beauty of punch is that it’s easily scalable:

Caribbean Punch
From The Bartender’s Guide, by Trader Vic (1947)

3 750 mL bottles white rum (such as Mt. Gay Eclipse)
½ pint Jamaican rum (such as Myer’s)
1 gallon water
1 pint fresh lemon juice
3 oranges, sliced
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced
4 oz. orange Curaço (such as Bol’s)
1 pint fresh raspberries
Falernum, to taste (see Note)

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large punch bowl. Add ice or ice mold when ready to serve.

Note: Falernum is a syrup with notes of lime and ginger. You could also use Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, or another liqueur or cordial.

Gift #3: Bubbly and Cookies
When it’s a question of what cold beverage to sip with a plateful of cookies…Champagne is the new milk. Falls Church-based company Cookie Zen’s “Cookies and Corks” line features bite-sized gourmet cookies designed to pair with your favorite bottle of wine—red, white or bubbly. The sparkling wine box ($7.95, at Whole Foods or includes five each of Iced Lemon (great with Brut Champagne,) Parmesan Thyme (try with Prosecco) and Sea Salt Chocolate Oatmeal.

Vino duo Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts of Cork and Cork Market believe alternative sparklers in the same style as Champagne (like Crémant, Cava and California traditional method bottles) will be hot in 2011—not to mention more wallet-friendly. Stop by and select a bottle or two. And to preserve those precious bubbles if you don’t finish a bottle in one sitting (hey, it could happen,) I love VacuVin’s Champagne Saver and Pourer ($11.99, World Market)

Gift #4: Festively Fizzy

The release a few years ago of high-quality tonic and club soda from Fever Tree and Q Tonic has spawned a new interest in mixers. After all, mixers comprise a large percentage of the liquid in a cocktail, so why shouldn’t they be top notch? Soda siphons from iSi ($69.99, are great for making your own carbonated water, flavored seltzers and Italian sodas. Don’t forget to order some extra soda chargers ($10.00 for a ten pack). Even easier is the new iSi Twist and Sparkle ($49.95, available exclusively at Williams Sonoma. Fill the bottle with your favorite beverage (plain or favorite water, juice or even wine), twist the charging wand, and voila: a carbonated beverage. I recently sampled this product and it’s fabulously easy and just plain fun.

Soda siphons from iSi are perfect for mixing up homemade flavored seltzers and sodas.

Soda siphons from iSi are perfect for mixing up homemade flavored seltzers and sodas.

To get the gift recipient started with DIY fizzy drinks, attach this soda recipe from Adam Bernbach of Proof and Estadio. It uses fragrant Meyer lemons, which are in season from November to March and are a tad sweeter and less acidic than the standard supermarket variety lemon. The soda is great all by itself, or mixed on the rocks with gin (I love the hint of ginger in gin from D.H. Krahn ($26,

Meyer Lemon and Anise Soda
Courtesy of Adam Bernbach, Bar Manager of Proof and Estadio

The peels from 2 whole lemons, or the post-juice shells of 2 lemons
5 toasted star anise pods
4 oz. sugar
1 oz. strained Meyer lemon juice
1 qt. hot water

Dice the lemon peels or shells, and crumble the anise. Add all to boiling water. Remove from heat and let steep for 1 hour. Strain, and add sugar and Meyer lemon juice. Let cool, and pour into charged soda siphon.

Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her website,, or on

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