First Draughts

Robert Alan Wendeborn

An easy gift that (most) everyone will love: Booze

Buying gifts is one of the most tedious tasks this time of year. Though, the internet makes it easier to buy a “thoughtful” gift for someone – pairs of funny socks, comfy PJs, or candy boxes – without having to even get dressed. The internet, with everything usually priced the cheapest, means that the hardest part of shopping is actually thinking about the person you’re shopping for. I’m not very good at this part, but I’ve created some rules for buying everyone gifts that makes it appear that I’m being thoughtful.

Limitations can help you narrow things down. For example, one year I bought all of my presents at Kohls all in one afternoon. I made a list of people, I wandered around until I saw something that reminded me of the people on my list, and I bought the thing. One year I bought everyone books. One year I bought everyone some type of craft or art supply. It simplifies everything and takes off a lot of pressure.

This year, consider buying everyone in your life a boozy gift. Sure, there are people in your family that don’t enjoy alcohol, like your Mormon aunt or uncle, your in-treatment brother, or your 5-year-old niece, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a nice booze-related gift for them.

Let’s start with the easiest boozy people to buy for: your borderline alcoholic friends/relatives. They’ll all love a lunchbox filled with ice cold beer. Just get a decent-sized cooler lunch box, some ice packs and cram as many beers in there as you can, tape it shut, throw a bow on it, and your gift is set for 24-plus hours of ice-cold refreshment.

Maybe they’re into hard liquor? One of my favorites here is to make your own travel-size shooters. Go to Walmart, buy some of those empty bottles for traveling with liquids on airplanes, your favorite hard liquor (or least favorite if you hate the person you’re buying for), some sheets of self-adhesive address labels, and a tiny funnel. Fill the bottles with your booze, make some zany/cute/endearing label, get some ribbon, a bow, maybe dip the top in wax or something, and voila! A really cheap and thoughtful gift for your favorite person who likes to get drunk in small doses. Bonus points: Pre-make your own cocktail and fill your little bottles with that (someone do a good job doing this and put it on pinterest or some shit).

I know what you’re thinking, what about the children? Listen, children love drinking things, and in Japan, they have beer for kids (it actually tastes like cola but looks like a super fizzy beer, and has no alcohol, and comes with a little kid’s beer mug). If you can score some Japanese kid beer, that’s the ultimate. Do that. Short of having some weird Japanese fizzy beverage shipped across the Pacific just so you can legally buy your under-21-year-old girlfriend a beer, there’s also brewery-branded sodas and coffees. If you have a special toddler in your life who isn’t also your roommate, consider buying them a can of Hotbox Roasters Nitro Cold Brew (Hotbox Roasters is a coffee company started and owned by Oskar Blues). I’m sure it will wreck their parents’ world for the next three days.

For the people in your life who have a more intellectual appreciation of booze, might I suggest a book? We all know the best books have lots of pictures, so I suggest, “Beer Pairing,” by Gwen Conley and Julia Herz. This award-winning cookbook has tons of beautiful photographs, but also amazing food and beer pairings (duh). If the person you’re shopping for is young and rebellious, I’d suggest Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential.” Though it is not technically a booze book, there is a lot of drinking, a lot about wine, and beer, and alcohol, and drugs, and debauchery. Honestly, “Kitchen Confidential” is like the contemporary version of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” It’s a book that’s influencing culture so profoundly and deeply that we don’t even notice it, but ask any up-and-coming young chef or sommelier or bartender and they’ll tell you it’s their bible, or at least the apocryphal supplementary text.

And for the adults in your life who don’t drink alcohol? I don’t know. Get them some brewery socks or something? Maybe fancy ice trays? A good cup? Do they even celebrate holidays if they don’t drink?

Robbie Wendeborn is the head brewer at Svendæle Brewing in Millerton, New York. He is also a former beer plumber at Ska Brewing.