Great Christmas gift ideas for smart drinkers

Still haven't found a gift for the cherished connoisseur in your life? Thinking you'll just resort to shot glasses, a cruddy cream liqueur or the cheapest brown liquor that falls into your shopping trolley? 

Come on, you can do better than that, and your trusty drinks slinger is here to show you how. I know exactly how hard those pesky, discerning drinkers are to please – because I'm one of them! 

Which gin were they obsessed with again? Was it Scotch or bourbon they were proselytising about? 

With so many choices available, it can be tricky to remember exactly what our loved ones want from Santa.

So if you're looking for something that's sure to delight even the most finicky imbiber this festive season, here's a few options to help you out.

The glass of fashion

The last thing you want to do is add another dull tumbler or clunky beer glass to someone's collection. To treat them to the proper stuff check out the ranges from Riedel, Glencairn and Denver & Liely, all readily available in Australia.

The three of them produce fantastic glassware for spirit lovers, while Melbourne-based Denver & Liely have ramped it up this festive season with their suave Explorer Pack.

Beer fanatics can also enjoy new glasses from Glencairn and Spiegelau. Glencairn's Crystal Iona Beer Glass is perfect for appreciating complex brews, as is Spiegelau's Classic Pilsner glass. The Speigelau folks have even released a glass designed specifically for IPA's for the seriously obsessive hop heads out there.

Cocktail kit

Bartenders make it look easy when making great drinks because they use cocktail gear that's specifically designed for the purpose (years of hard graft and training might also have something to do with it).


But for those out there who love to mix a drink and look the part while doing so, you can now purchase stylish cocktail kits from two of Australia's leading bars, Sydney's The Lobo Plantation and Melbourne's 1806.

And if you're shopping for a frequent flyer who loves to indulge in a well-made cocktail, you could get them this classy Beliya Cocktail Travel Pack. A local product, it includes a range of bottles that will pass the carry-on test, as well as garnish jars, a stirrer and a cocktail guide book all smartly incorporated into a leather case.   

The cask

Okay, so not everyone has the moolah to splash out on a whole cask of whisky. But if you have the means, a cask from one of Australia's distilleries would be the ultimate whisky gift.

The Archie Rose Distillery in Sydney gives you the opportunity to design every part of the whisky making process with their Tailored Spirits range (the same service is available for tailored gins and vodkas, too).

Choose either a single malt or rye whisky, select the cask size, the wood type, the smoke level of the grain, you can even have the cask delivered to your door so you can mature the whisky at home and 'check' on its progress whenever you like.

Barrels of the award-winning Sullivan's Cove single malt could also be gifted to the proper enthusiast. But if Scotch is more to your loved one's liking, the recently established Ardnamurchan Distillery near Scotland's west coast is also offering you the chance to purchase casks of their spirit.

You can go for peated or unpeated spirit, different casks types and sizes, and when it's ready, about ten years is the estimate, they'll bottle it up and send it out to you. I can definitely vouch for the quality of the spirit having tasted it a few months ago. It's well good.

Chill out 

I'm sure your treasured aficionado wants to keep cool this summer and put some ice in their swish new glass. However, ice that comes out of the freezer smelling like last month's fishing trip should never be allowed near a quality drop. To remedy this, try the Wintersmiths range of ice balling kits or go all out on the 2.75" Cirrus Ice Ball Press. There's also the Sphere Ice Ball Mould for something more basic and affordable.

On booze

Books on booze make brilliant gifts, and plenty of interesting titles were released this year. On the whisky front, A Glass Apart delves into the untold story of Irish pot still whiskey, while Charles MacLean's Spirit of Place: Whisky Distilleries of Scotland is a beautiful photographic examination of Scotland's 50 greatest distilleries.

For gin lovers, bypass the many gin books released this year and head straight to Dave Broom's Gin: The Manual (actually, anything by Dave Broom should work). More locally, Melbourne-based Clare Burder has just published Tipsy, a refreshingly unpretentious guide to the world of booze appreciation that's well worth a look.

The grand tour 

Australia's breweries and distilleries are becoming popular destinations in their own right, and arranging a visit to them is a clever Christmas manoeuvre. Aussie Brewery Tours run highly regarded expeditions to Victoria's breweries and cideries, while Dave's Brewery Tours explore many of Sydney's best craft breweries. Both do gift vouchers.

Nothing beats going to the source, and the distilleries of Tasmania should be on everyone's list. Tasmanian Whisky Tours can show you around, and they offer gift cards for the experience. Anyone heading down there should also check out at the beer and cider trails while they're at it.

Right, I hope that's given you a few more ideas to check out before the big day. Now go and be joyful and merry, whatever you give or receive.

Happy holidays. 

A professional barman in one of Australia's most revered whisky establishments, Luke McCarthy has also travelled the world to learn more about the spirits he serves. The result is two parts drinks culture and one part global trends, served with a dash of critical assessment.

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