How is it that we always find ourselves in this situation: You're on your way to a holiday party or family dinner or office celebration, and you realize that, while you found the time to make your pot-luck dish and tripped into a reasonably respectable festive outfit, picking up that host/hostess gift/Secret Santa item/present for the cousin you see once a year seems to have slipped your mind. When in doubt, bring a bottle. However, nothing says "I forgot to get you a gift until I was on my way to your house tonight" like a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau stuck in one of those gift bags they sell at the checkout line. So how about you get a little creative at the liquor store this year? If you shop at Total Wine, they make it easy for you by stocking a billion giftable things, in addition to the typical offerings. Bonus: They're open until 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve, so you really can wait until the very last minute to get something good.
1. Whisky Stones ($19.99) "Ice melts, whisky rocks," says the tagline on this box of cool-blue sandstone cubes that you can pop in the freezer and drop into your drinks to keep them cold. They're handcrafted in Vermont, and they come packaged in a spare little box with a muslin bag for storage. If you don't see the point, obviously you've never faced the extreme disappointment of taking a sip of good whiskey on the rocks, only to find that it's been disappointingly diluted by melted ice cubes. Whisky Stones to the rescue.
2. An adorable bottle of BeanBlossom Hard Cider ($4) The illustration on the bottle of this hard cider from Oliver Winery in Bloomington, Ind., is eye-catching and irresistible. The cider may taste godawful, for all we know, but it almost doesn't matter because the fact that this bottle would make the cutest little stocking stuffer totally makes up for it.
3. KAH Tequila Reposado in a hand-painted Day of the Dead bottle ($49.99-$59.99) Not only does this tequila come in awesome bottles painted to look like 3-D Mexican Day of the Dead skull masks, this stuff is also certified kosher, organic and aged in French Limousin casks for 10 months before it's bottled. It promises to be extra smooth, with full body and intense flavor. Not that anybody will ever open the bottle – it's such a cool-looking piece to have on display that they'll probably just keep it on the shelf as a conversation piece.
4. A big bottle of Hitachino Nest Beer White Ale ($9.99) Put a bird on it! Or give them something with a bird on it. Because everyone knows that anything with a bird on it automatically becomes 25 percent cooler. So if you pick up a bottle of this Hitachino Nest beer from Japan to bring to the party, you'll automatically seem hipper and more fun to be around.
5. Dog Nativity scene Christmas card ($3.95) Sometimes the occasion doesn't really call for full-on gift treatment, but you do want to at least let someone know you care enough to send some dead-tree sentiments their way. That's
when a really good Christmas card is in order, and Total Wine's collection includes this dog Nativity scene, with a haloed, ghostlike Maltese in the manger. Maybe not a good selection if your recipient is a Bible-thumping Jesus freak, but for the rest of us heathens who don't take offense at a little blasphemy, this is almost as good as Dogs Playing Poker. Besides, people shouldn't expect much better from someone doing their last-minute shopping at a liquor store, right? Ho, ho, ho and a bottle of rum. Merry Christmas.
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