Holiday guide: 5 gifts for cocktail lovers, beer buffs

Holiday guide: 5 gifts for cocktail lovers, beer buffs

The crush of mall-shopping Santa-seekers can be daunting, but here’s another option — one that doesn’t involve crowds or traffic. With the help of a few North Pole elves, we’ve come up with a quintet of spirited gift ideas for your favorite wine, beer or cocktail lover.

Cocktail kitsHoliday guide: 5 gifts for cocktail lovers, beer buffs

The cocktail revolution has seasoned party hosts shaking and stirring with aplomb, but even novice mixologists can get in on the fun with a little help from the Saloon Box cocktail kit. Each kit comes with ingredients and recipes from the pros, including bartenders at The Keystone, Rickhouse, PlumpJack and the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe.

Want to whip up a couple of 325 Mules, perhaps, or a pair of Sparkling Pears? The San Francisco-based company ships all the how-tos, spirits, bitters and other ingredients you need from vendors including St. George Spirits, Anchor Distilling, Distillery No. 209, Bitter Queens, Sonoma Syrup Co. and Charles Chocolates. Yep, this cocktail kit includes booze.

Order a Saloon Box subscription — the November box, for example, includes everything you need to make two vodka-spiked Blushing Bensamims and two whiskey-based Finn Fizzes — or take the build-your-own option and choose specific sips.

Details: Subscriptions — available in one, three, six and 12-month options — are $37.50 per month. The build-your-own box is $40 from

Marvelous mixersHoliday guide: 5 gifts for cocktail lovers, beer buffs

Stolen Fruit’s grapes were never destined for your wineglass. They’re meant for your cocktail shaker. The brainchild of Healdsburg chef Peter Brown (Jimtown Store, Santi, Roy’s) and Dry Creek Valley grape growers Doug and Susan Provisor, these cocktail mixers are non-alcoholic grape-based elixirs inspired by traditional verjus — or green juice — which is made by pressing tart green, under-ripe grapes. Each of the complex, tasty flavors is a blend of varietal grape juice — sauvignon blanc, viognier, muscat, grenache or zinfandel — plus a verjus base infused with herbs, citrus and flowers.

Opt for a holiday three-bottle gift pack, which includes Lemongrass Ginger Sauvignon Blanc, Blood Orange Muscat and Hibiscus Grenache. Each label has recipes for a shandy and a mocktail, so your recipient can start shaking and sipping right away.

Details: Available as single bottles ($18) or a three-bottle set ($54) at

Somm towelsHoliday guide: 5 gifts for cocktail lovers, beer buffs

Think of this towel as a glass-polishing cheat sheet for wine lovers and would-be somms. Sure, the microfiber WineBuff’s ostensible purpose is to buff away any stray water droplets on your wine glasses, but it’s printed with maps of American Viticulture Areas, winery details and sommelier-penned notes. It’s just plain cool.

Designer Andrew Lazorchak lives in Napa, so the Sonoma and Napa Valley maps are up first; there are plans to add more AVAs soon. At $18, the WineBuff makes a great hostess gift, as well as a not-too-spendy present for that hard-to-shop-for wine lover on your list. (Or for yourself.)

Details: Find the WineBuff at dozens of Napa and Sonoma wine tasting rooms, at Palo Alto’s Vino Locale, Oakland’s Rockridge Home boutique and online at

Beer gearHoliday guide: 5 gifts for cocktail lovers, beer buffs

Leave it to craft beer makers to create the perfect bottle opener. The folks at Paso Robles’ BarrelHouse Brewing Co. teamed up with local modern-day blacksmith Max Randolph to create a variety of rustic hand-forged beer bottle openers.

After heating steel in his 2,500-degree forge, Randolph hammers and shapes each piece on his anvil. No two are exactly the same, but they all have great texture and a weighty feel, and are branded with BarrelHouse’s BHBC logo.

Details: The openers are $45-$125 at

Cocktail classesHoliday guide: 5 gifts for cocktail lovers, beer buffs

Sure, you can order your favorite cocktail at a craft bar. But San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch Group has a Beverage Academy with weekly classes where cocktail lovers can learn to shake, stir and mix — and tell the difference between a Hawthorn strainer and a julep strainer. (The Hawthorn is a flat disc with a coiled spring; the julep version looks like the love child of a spoon and a colander.) The November course lineup included a scotch whiskey seminar and two swiftly sold-out Cocktails 101 classes. Classes are held in San Francisco, although there’s talk of adding sessions at Berkeley’s Tupper and Reed, as well.

Details: Classes range from $80 to $100. Purchase a gift card and find out more at

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