THE GIFT OF SPIRITS: A dozen boozy bottles for the days before and after Christmas

When it comes to shopping in mid-to-late December, time is of the essence.

Holiday parties and obligations are stacking up and only a small windows remains to procure the remainder of what you need to finish out the month with the proper amount of holiday cheer.

One of the quickest, most reliable gifts out there that can be quickly procured and is likely to bring a smile to your giftee is a spirited bottle of booze.

Here are a dozen bottles, in honor of the 12 days of Christmas, that are sure to bring some added warmth to the holidays.

These can be found in most local liquor stores alongside all of the usual suspects that are also viable options depending on who you are gifting.

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Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur, $20

Our boozy holiday list begins on the light spectrum. Dating back to 18th century Germany, this honey liqueur was formulated to lure bears out of their dwellings by hunters. Today it will lure you and your guests in for another cocktail. Keep things light or add some punch with an addition of another spirit. This is great by itself in hot tea or with apple cider or mix up to make a classic cocktail with a sweet twist like a honey mule or a honey Manhattan.

Bird Dog Whiskey, $22

This is the perfect bottle to buy for a dog lover who loves the strong stuff. It is a relatively inexpensive bottle with a beautiful Irish Setter on the label. Distilled in Bowling Green, Ky., they offer three bourbon whiskeys and a large number of flavored whiskeys. We recommend sticking with the real stuff sans added flavoring and enjoy this solid sipping or mixing whiskey.

Cleveland Christmas Bourbon, $40

Named “Whiskey Distillery Innovator of the Year” at the Berlin International Spirits Competition, Cleveland Whiskey has won 38 medals at competitions around the world, including 26 gold and double gold awards. They specialize in bottles finished with woods that include black cherry, hickory, apple and honey locust. But their Christmas Bourbon is where it’s at this time of year. These limited edition bottles are infused with caramel, vanilla, nutmeg and all the flavors of the season. It’s the perfect pairing with egg nog, or a holiday mule with some ginger beer. If you are at a bar and lucky enough to spot it, pair it as a shot to sip with a Great Lakes Christmas Ale for the perfect match-up. Those Clevelanders really know what they’re doing, and this bottle shows. In 2014 Forbes named Cleveland Whiskey’s Christmas Bourbon one of the top gift selections of the year and it’s still true today.

Havana Club Puerto Rican Añejo Clásico, $20

The Havana Club brand is one of Cuba’s most famous and the story of how it made it to Ohio shelves as a Puerto Rican brand is an interesting one. writes, “This Puerto Rican distilled rum made by Bacardi is based on a recipe from the Arechabala family who created it in Cuba in 1934. The family produced it up until 1960 when they fled Cuba after Fidel Castro nationalized the distilleries there. This rum is aged in oak from one to three years before filtering and blending. It is then aged a further three months in oak for mellowing. It is bottled at 40 percent ABV and became available in Florida in June 2016 with plans for a roll out to all other states by fall 2016.”

You may not be able to get the Cuban version, but this is the next best thing. It’s a young rum, but it’s priced right and is the perfect price for a host or hostess gift.

High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey, $52

Named 2016 Distiller of the Year by Whisky Advocate, this bottle from Park City, Utah’s High West Distillery is a solid blend of two-, seven- and 13-year ryes. Their flagship whiskey commemorates the first recorded whiskey-fest out West. They write on their website: “From 1825 to 1840, the “rendezvous” was the annual summer gathering of mountain men to exchange pelts for supplies. Alcohol was not one of the ‘supplies’ at the first rendezvous. This oversight was quickly corrected with a generous supply of whiskey at the second rendezvous in Utah’s Cache Valley. Their Campfire Whiskey, a blend of bourbon rye and single malt scotch, is also worth a look and a great bottle to buy for those interested in scotch but not fully committed.

Hotel Tango Golf Gin, $26

This is a bottle that offers a great story. The founder of Hotel Tango in Indianapolis, Travis Barnes, fought for our country in three combat tours to Iraq as an Air Force fighter pilot. Hotel Tango is not just the first craft distillery in Indy, it’s the first service-disabled combat-veteran owned distillery in the country. Each Hotel Tango spirit derives its prefix from the phonetic alphabet. They offer a robust line-up for a young distillery including Victor Vodka, Golf Gin, Mike Moonshine, Romeo Rum and Bravo Bourbon. Their Whiskey is just “Whiskey,” because the abbreviation for W already happens to be Whiskey. Their mission: “To make spirits that everyone can be proud to serve.” This is a bottle that is a great conversation piece and the spicy gin has taken home a silver medal from the LA International Spirits Competition, a bronze from the New York International Spirits Competition and a bronze from the Denver International Spirits Competition.

Hudson Maple Cask Rye, $46

Used Hudson Whiskey barrels are sent to Woods Syrup, a maple syrup producer in Vermont that ages syrup in the barrels, decants them, then sends them back to the Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery. A selection of rye is placed in the used casks and what emerges is rye spirit that dances with hints of the maple that it is married with. This is a pricier bottle that is worth thinking about for the person who has been extra good this year.

Rabbit Hole Bourbon Whiskey, $49

Brand new to the market, this Louisville bourbon makes it’s own juice and doesn’t source any of its bourbon. This is definitely one to watch taking home Best Straight Bourbon for 2017 from the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition. It’s young, but it’s doing interesting things and making a name for itself. This is a good bottle for those early adopters that like to be in the know.

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Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, $31

Made with Sicily’s celebrated Arancia Rossa blood oranges, this bright, fragrant liqueur marries flavorful oranges in a zesty concoction that gives Cointreau and Grand Marnier a run for their money as cocktail elixirs. This vibrant creation comes from Hendrick’s Gin’s Master Distiller, Lesley Gracie, so you know the flavors are on point. Great in margaritas, mixed with prosecco or champagne, as a compliment in a Cosmopolitan or a Sidecar, the uses with this are varied and many. It’s a beautiful bottle and captures some of the flavors of the season. This is a gift they won’t see coming. It is sure to become a favorite wherever it lands, so you might want to buy a bottle for yourself as well.

Vincent Van Gogh Double Espresso, $17

This is the only bottle that made our list last year and it’s back again because it’s so darn good and priced right. The bottle itself is a great conversation piece. This is a caffeinated double-espresso vodka that tastes like a boozy cold coffee and is a great addition in certain savory mixed drinks. It’s a perfect gift for the coffee lover in your life. It’s a great addition to cocktail parties. Drink it on the rocks, mix it with some RumChata liqueur or make some Double Espresso White Russians that your guests will be talking about all night.

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Watershed Distillery Old Fashioned, $33

Ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails used to be something to walk away from quickly … very quickly. They tasted bad and didn’t hold up at all. That has slowly been changing, with several brands coming to market with cocktails ready to serve up that are pretty darn tasty — no fuss, no muss, just add ice. Columbus’s Watershed Distillery is leading the pack with an Old Fashioned that is all bottled up and ready to party. The trusty Old Fashioned, arguably one of the best cocktails ever, was made famous again with the television show “Mad Men,” and is one of the earliest cocktails recorded dating back to the early 1800s. If you are going to give a RTD bottle, this is the one. Watershed’s Four Peel Gin, which we wrote about last year, is also worth looking into as a very tasty bottle for the gin lover in your life.

Root 23, Simple Syrup, $14

Are you buying for the person who has everything, including liquor, covered? Our 12th option on this list is a boozy compliment and something they probably don’t have. Root 23 makes some dynamite simple syrups that will make a really great drink depending on what you are looking for. Choose from flavors like vanilla ginger, grapefruit basil, blueberry mint and cherry almond and make your cocktail, or cocktail gift, a shining star. Learn more and find great recipes at

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