Holiday Spirits

The best bottles of booze for last-minute gift-giving

Maxime Iattoni

Need a last-minute host or hostess gift? If your friends and family like a nip or two, I can think of no better year than this one to give the gift of booze. Why? Here are ten great reasons, for a wide range of budgets.

Karlsson's Vodka Batch 2009

Because the young Solist spuds that make up this single-varietal Swedish potato spirit yield the mellowest, earthiest vodka I've ever tasted. Heck, I drink the stuff warm out of the bottle, and I don't even like vodka. ($85)

Crave Chocolate Chili Liqueur

Because even though the bottle is cheesy, this liqueur makes the best adult hot chocolate around, and it's even better mixed with cream and that vodka I just told you about for a spicy, new spin on a chocolate Russian. ($18)

Qui Platinum Extra Añejo Tequila

Because this one-of-a-kind platinum tequila—distilled and aged like a regular añejo, and then filtered and distilled again after aging—is smooth, sweet, and, in its black velvet collar and beveled edges, stylish as all get-out. It'll look great on your favorite home mixologist's wet bar. ($57)

Caorunn Small Batch Scottish Gin

Because this dry, aromatic elixir, composed of five bonny botanicals (rowan berry, heather, bog myrtle, dandelion, coul blush apple) so perfectly balances astringency and sweetness that it proves the Scots' talent for spirits-making beyond whisky. ($37)

Corsair Barrel Aged Gin

Because the citrusy spice of this gin, and its burst of juniper, mellowed by aging, demonstrates that a white spirit can be just as warm and wintery as its brown compadres—especially if you throw it in old spiced rum barrels and leave it there for 5 months. ($40)

Brugal 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar

Because five generations of Dominican distillers have honed this molasses-based rum into a beauty. Aging in both American white oak and Spanish sherry casks yields luscious cafe con leche, coconut, and caramel notes, as well as a remarkable smoothness. ($50)

Bowmore 25 Years Old

Because this gorgeous, gentle—and very rare—old scotch shows what a quarter-century of lying in cask can do for a single malt. There's a delicious tropical aroma to this scotch; a complex interplay of baked fruit and sherry with earthy, peaty, and nutty flavors; and a Zen mellowness that you just have to respect. ($300)

Clement 10 Year Old

Because this fascinating spirit from Martinique demonstrates that a rhum agricole, made from fresh sugar cane juice, can age gracefully but retain its distinctive quality. It's like the picture of Dorian Gray, getting younger tasting as it sits on your palate: bourbon-barrel burnt sugar and cake spice notes resolve into a sweet, grassy cane flavor. ($70)

Mandarin Napoleon XO Grande Reserve

Because this intense reserve orange liqueur proves that more is more: a dizzying number of herbs and spices—27, to be exact—mingle with Mandarin orange peel and fine cognac for a thick, rich elixir that's so like marmalade-like (in a very boozy way) that it's a natural for mixing in a whiskey sour. ($240)

Sam Adams Utopias 10th Anniversary

Because you just have to celebrate the birthday of the most audacious brew in the craft beer world. Brewed with maple syrup, aged in a variety of whiskey and fortified wine barrels, and clocking in at 29 percent alcohol, it's a dark, chocolate-covered rum-raisin of a beer, meant for the snifter, not the pint glass. ($190)