We all have a friend who makes more jokes than the rest about beer-o'clock, brings cocktail fixings to the office holiday potluck, and maybe has a "drink of the season." (Bonus points if they've created a signature drink and named it after themselves, as I have — see below for the recipe!) If you don't have that friend, you might be that friend. For your favorite happy-hour gossip, your partner in crime for cooking and sipping, or the friend who needs a boost to get them through the seasonal frenzy, here are a few merry, boozy, and bright ideas that are still thoughtful.
(His/Hers, Hers/Hers, His/His decanter set from Love & Victory. via Honey Kennedy.)
For the lovers of toddies, I could go on all day…but a nice treat is a drink in a cup: a fun mug filled with fixin's. Try a couple of honey sticks, bundle up some toasty wintery spices (I love cardamon pods and star anise, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg), and a lemon, and pair it with a good book, a tiny bottle of brandy, or a bigger bottle of White Christmas. Shameless plug…our new feministory mugs go great with this gift: Valentina Tereshkova with sci fi or Russian lit, Jackie Ormes with comics, Frances Perkins or Ella Baker with an activist documentary. Mix it up with hot cocoa and peppermint sticks, cider mulling spices, or tea (all great with brandy, or great on their own).
For the tequila lover, or the person who really really needs a beach vacation: Make your own chili salt with fleur-de-sel from the bulk spice aisle (or kosher salt), chili powder, a little bit of cardamon or garam masala, and pair it with a small bottle of tequila and some fruity lemonade blend…I like mango. (The salt is great with fresh watermelon or pineapple too.) Up the ante by infusing tequila with jalepenos…pick one with a nice bottle, seed and dice 2 jalepenos and soak them in the bottle of tequila for a couple of hours (seriously – this gets spicy fast!), strain them out and re-package.
For the person you love to cook and sip with, or the friend/family member you won't be able to see this year…A favorite recipe and a bottle of wine is a nice reminder of why you love each other so. What to Drink With What You Eat is a practical guide to pairing ANY drinks (wine/beer/coffee/tea/water) with food, and might be easier to mail than a bottle if you're far away.
Better yet, do the work for them…try making oatmeal cookies with bourbon-soaked currants (brilliant idea: soak them in cinnamon whiskey – we like Fireball because it's sweeter than some of the others). Soak the currants overnight or while you're at work and save the bourbon afterwards, it's delicious in hot toddies or over ice. Gift the whiskey too, in a glam thrift-store bottle, and pair it with some fruity bitters or a set of giant ice cube trays…they look really over-the-top but they also let you drink the drink more slowly without watering it down.
For the gin lover, try a book on classic cocktails like Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails… the 80 or so drinks in this book came from uncommon sources (word is some were found carefully penned into old cocktail manuals or on scraps of paper and may never have been published). To go with it, check your local thrift store for some classic champagne saucers or martini glasses, mix up a nice assortment of olives, gift a mint plant in a bright window pot, or pair it with some modern deco jewelry or a fun cocktail ring.
Friends and family, feel free to give me anything on this list. I promise you I will NEVER say "beer o'clock", but I'm probably that person.
Bonus recipe: Ginger Rogers Brown
It will make you dance, or sing. Maybe.
Fresh ginger (quite a bit?)
Cucumber slices (a few)
Mint leaves (as many as you want)
Your fave gin...preferrably something extra juniper-y or herbal (1.5-ish shots)
Pimms (1/2-ish shot)
Muddle together the cucumber, mint, and sliced or shredded fresh ginger in a pint glass with the gin. Fill glass with ice, then ginger ale. Add a splash of Pimms. Pour back and forth into a cocktail shaker to mix. Drink. Add a dash of bitters, splash of grapefruit juice, or soda and more gin if it's too sugary. Disclaimer: this is really my "summer drink."