1. Sweetdram Escubac Botanical Spirit, London, England; $26 (375 ml)
Recommended by Nima Ansari, spirits buyer at Astor Wines and Spirits, New York City
Nima Ansari says that this botanical spirit from London’s Sweetdram, while still relatively under the radar, is easily one of his favorite new spirits. The ginlike (but decidedly not gin) spirit, which is made with a bevy of botanicals but no juniper, has “broken the mold,” says Ansari. While the spirit is tough to pigeonhole into an existing category, Ansari says it’s highly drinkable and versatile as a base spirit, modifier, or “secret ingredient” in cocktails. He adds, “This has easily been one of the most exciting spirits we have come across all year.”
Perfect for: A stocking stuffer for the cocktail enthusiast.
2. Breathless North Coast Brut Sparkling Wine, NV, Healdsburg, California; $25
Recommended by Bryan Cooper, owner of Sonoma Wine Shop, Sonoma, California
“This is an excellent bubbly from Sharon Cohn and her sisters, in Healdsburg,” Cooper says. The sparkling wine is produced by three sisters who also operate Rack & Riddle, a custom bubbly house for other wineries. Breathless North Coast Brut is made using méthode Champenoise, which Cooper says gives “a great texture” to the final product. As a bonus, Breathless donates a portion of the operation’s proceeds to local nonprofit organizations.
Perfect for: Anyone, really—who doesn’t love bubbly during the holidays? Supporting worthy nonprofits with each purchase is an added bonus.
3. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Frankfort, Kentucky; $22.95
Recommended by Jeff Robertson, manager at Rose City Liquor, Portland, Oregon
It’s pretty much impossible to go wrong with a bottle of Buffalo Trace, which has long been appreciated in the industry as a true bartender’s whiskey. It comes from the same distillery that produces Blanton’s, Elmer T. Lee, Eagle Rare, and the crown jewel of bourbon obsessions, Pappy Van Winkle. In terms of value, Robertson says it’s tough to beat. “The bourbon has a slight vanilla, caramel, and toffee taste and is smooth,” he says, making it equally suitable for sipping or mixing into a cocktail.
Perfect for: The bourbon curious. The low rye content minimizes the sharp spice found in bourbons with more aggressive amounts of rye in their mash bill, “which is nice,” says Robertson, “if you are buying it as a gift for a causal bourbon drinker or someone who is new to bourbon.”
4. Cacique Maravilla Pipeño País, Valle del Bío-Bío, Chile, 2016; $14.99
Recommended by Terrence Tompkins, wine buyer at Downtown Spirits, Seattle
Tompkins says that the Pais grape is relatively unknown in the States and has mostly been used in making “plonk” in Chile. “But these vines were planted in 1766, and the wine is made by a seventh-generation winemaker,” he says. That winemaker, Manuel Humberto Moraga Gutiérrez, was born and raised in the Chilean valley that’s home to Cacique Maravilla, and he employs natural, ancestral techniques in cultivating his vineyard and producing his wines. Tompkins describes the Pipeño País as super-light-bodied, earthy, and lightly smoky—and “it comes in a one-liter bottle, making it my pick for the most gulpable wine in stock.”
Perfect for: A value-oriented wine fan who loves to be surprised. Because of the relatively obscure grape, Tompkins describes Pipeño Pais as “super geeky.”
5. Valdespino Tio Diego Amontillado Sherry, Jerez, Spain; $25
Recommended by John Keife, co-owner of Keife & Company, New Orleans
This dry Amontillado sherry from Jerez is aged for a combined 15 years (10 in a solera and an additional 5 of oxidative aging). Keife finds this sherry to be “rich and nutty, warming and elegant,” and a great value for the price. “It’s wonderful,” he says, “on a chilly winter night.”
Perfect for: Bookworms who’d enjoy sipping this by the fireside while reading Edgar Allan Poe, of course. (“For your English Lit grad,” Keife says.)
6. Meinklang Pinot Noir Rosé Frizzante, NV, Bergenland, Austria; $23
Recommended by Taylor Bone, buyer at Holeman & Finch Bottle Shop, Atlanta
This darker, heavier, sweeter effervescent from an organic Austrian estate is Holeman & Finch Bottle Shop’s most popular rosé—“hands down,” says Bone. He attributes its success to its unusual Austrian pedigree, ripe red cherry and strawberry profile, and slightly more sessionable alcohol content (13%).
Perfect for: The festive host. Bone says that rather than attempting to pair it with food, this rosé is best used for purely celebratory functions: “It’s a party rosé.”
7. Medley Brothers Bourbon, Owensboro, Kentucky; $25
Recommended by Joe Keeper, founder and chief spirits curator, Barkeeper Silver Lake, Los Angeles
This family operation in Kentucky has a deep bourbon pedigree, as evidenced by the Medley family portraits on the label. Keeper, whose Silver Lake shop stocks bottles meant for “the ritual of consumption” (as opposed to getting wasted), says this bourbon is incredibly smooth for 102 proof and can hold its own in cocktails or over ice.
Perfect for: The spirits-sipping homebody. Keeper says he loves savoring an overproof bourbon like this one at home because the higher proof allows it to keep some backbone as it dilutes.
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Gray Chapman is an Atlanta-based journalist who writes about spirits, beauty, and culture; she was formerly the managing editor of Tales of the Cocktail. Follow her on Twitter.