Go local for home-bar gifting
Unless it’s a casual ‘stop by’ invitation with your closest friends, never, ever arrive empty handed to a party,” advises Cody Derrick, owner of boutique real estate company and interior design house CityhomeCollective. Derrick and I agree that it’s a good idea to plan ahead for dozens of gift-giving opportunities between Thanksgiving and toasting the New Year in style. Hosts shouldn’t expect every guest to bring a gift (after all, a gift isn’t a gift if it’s required), but it’s a thoughtful custom acknowledging the effort the host has made, and thanks for the invitation. It doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive, nor something intended for the festivities. Flowers, small houseplants or fresh herbs are lovely, as long as they are already in a pot or vase. “Rule No. 1 for the host(ess) gift,” Derrick says, “is never offer anything that creates more work for the hosts when you arrive,” like loose flowers.
Some of our favorite gifts help a host stock their home bar or supplement a party-ready pantry: a bottle of wine or local whiskey, coasters and cocktail napkins, charcuterie, cheese, a pot of homemade jam or Utah-made artisan chocolates. Derrick appreciates it when guests include a personal note with the gift, or maybe a favorite cocktail recipe jotted down to accompany a bottle of spirits. With those suggestions in mind, I canvassed local purveyors and creators to curate a list of booze-friendly gifts. From stocking-stuffers to host gifts or big-ticket gifting, we’ve got you covered.
A decade ago, who would’ve thought a list of Utah-based liquor brands would now include a baker’s dozen and growing? Co-owner and head distiller of newly founded Holystone Distilling, Ethan Miller says choosing a bottle that’s hard to find or outside the box makes for thoughtful gifting. “Be sure to use locally distilled liquors when possible,” he recommends, which shortens our list significantly.
I asked the cocktail connoisseurs at the Whiskey Drinker’s Union: Utah 801 Local to recommend some of their favorites. Jeff Thompson, founder and president of the group says, “If you’re talking cocktails, try Waterpocket Distillery—craft, local, delicious, weird, fun, interesting.” Group member Ranae Zauner echoes that sentiment: “Waterpocket Distillery: How to set your home bar apart and impress your friends.” Pick up a bottle of their Toadstool Notom Amaro No. 1 ($28.99) and you’ll be on the holiday invite A-list forever after.
2084 W. 2200 South
West Valley City
Three nationally distributed bitters companies call Utah home, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to see their products in a cocktail-lovers gift box. Try Downtown Farmers Market favorite Bitters Lab charred cedar-and-black-currant bitters or zippy habanero lime (1-ounce bottle, $12; 4-ounce bottle, $22). Beehive Bitters Co. has become a bartender go-to, especially their Frutta Blu bitters made with blueberry and Greek myrtle berry (1 ounce, $13.50) or bourbon-barrel aged caramelized orange bitters (5 ounces, $27.95). Honest John Bitters Co., a brand started at downtown speakeasy The Rest, offers a changing roster of flavors and a beautiful black-walnut gift box option containing three of their most popular bitters (three bottles, ½ ounce each of orange, aromatic and NOLA bitters in a handcrafted travel box, $42).
One of the world’s top young winemakers specializing in naturally fermented wine hails from Utah: Ruth Lewandowski Wines. Like many of us, Evan Lewandowski has created a professional niche out of doing what he loves, adapted so that he can keep skiing and mountain biking the Wasatch. While he patiently (and not-so patiently) awaits a groundswell of quality grapes to ripen here, he scours sources from the Alexander Valley to Walla Walla to make truly distinctive wines sold at prestigious international stores, and it’s all bottled in South Salt Lake. The subtle outline of the Beehive State on every label also makes for lovely Utah-style gifting.
Want to add a little Caribbean kick to the party? Van Kwartel Flavor Science: to the rescue! Their original kick-ass hot sauces have been a hit at farmers markets, and a couple of shakes of their Smoky Red Pepper sauce ($10) mixed in Clamato makes for a wow-worthy bloody mary. We’re also big fans of their housemade traditional Caribbean tonics available in one-liter bottles; great for accompanying a bottle of white rum, vodka or gin. Similar to the shrubs you’ll see on craft cocktail menus, Van Kwartel’s tonics like sorrel and hibiscus ($20 and up) are refreshing in mocktails with soda or coconut water and in adult beverages. Grab one at the winter market or order online.
Salt Lake Downtown Winter Market
Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Rio Grande Depot
300 S. Rio Grande St., SLC
Utah wine and booze guru Francis Fecteau recommends trying local brand Sugar House Distillery, which sources grains for their bourbon and rye whiskies from farmers within 120 miles of SLC and ferments, distills and bottles all of their products to proof on site. For a friend who loves whiskey and beer in equal measure, pick up a bottle from SHD’s new Boilermaker Series, featuring whiskey finished in barrels formerly containing beer from brewers including Uinta and Epic ($64.99 in limited release, only available for sale at the distillery package store). “It’s been three years in the making,” Fecteau says. “All Utah grain, custom yeast. It’s an ambitious whiskey.”
Sugar House Distillery
2212 S. West Temple, Unit 14, SLC
Have a surplus of bottles you’d like to convert to supremely satisfying gifts? DIY-ers have a home-grown resource right in Sugar House. Glass artist Jodi McRany Rusho of Glass With a Past has all of the supplies, tutorials and inspiration you’ll need to transform your glass-recycling bin into one-of-a-kind drinking glasses, jewelry, coasters and other giftables sure to please.
Coming home after a day on the slopes to a steaming pot of mulled wine or apple cider is one of the world’s most comforting gifts. Spread the joy with festively packaged Austrian Gluhwein spice packets from Aimee’s Home Cookin ($5.99 each). Owner Aimee Toner names many of her products—like spice blends, cocktail rimming salts and sugars, and cocktail mixes—after Utah landmarks and ski runs at her favorite hills, Snowbird and Alta. She’s also put together the pretty nifty Bloody Mary Party Pack, which includes a 6-ounce resealable pouch of dry bloody mary mix, one Baconator Johnson soy bacon-infused rim salt, one savory rim salt and a pair of recipe cards ($26).
Aimee’s Home Cookin’
2157 E. 2100 South, Ste. B, SLC
If you only have time for one stop on your mission to outfit the cocktail-crazy cousin in your life, head to Boozetique. Conveniently located just around the corner from the top-flight downtown SLC wine store on 300 South, Boozetique owner Ivy Earnest has accumulated accouterments for any wine, beer or cocktail occasion. She’s got everything from recycled Utah brewery labels repurposed as tile coasters by SLC-based 2nd Hand Coast ($9 and up) to cocktail mixers from local brands Fizzbloom Botanical Syrups ($12.99) and Garwood’s Ginger Beer ($4 and up). Ruby Belle is represented with a big selection of mugs, glasses and flasks featuring Beehive State icons like the LDS Temple, Angel Moroni and Prohibition-era scenes ($24.99). For a truly original statement piece, Uinta Rock Co. makes stand-alone wine racks and bottle chillers crafted from honeycomb calcite traced with veins of onyx, all mined in Duchesne County ($89 and up). For all purchases over $75, Earnest puts together a custom wood gift box with all the finished wrapping details included; you just need to sign the card.
315 E. 300 South, SLC