A Complete Guide to Presenting a “Good” Bottle of Liquor

Buying a bottle of liquor for someone when you don’t know much about that particular alcohol ranks just below public speaking on the pressure scale. Liqueur is a mix of history, chemistry and culture, and the result is a stunning selection in any category. It’s so confusing that you can’t even rely on the gimmick of just wasting a ton of money, because even an expensive bottle of the wrong product will fail.

So, given how complex the world of spirits can be, how can you make sure you are choosing a “good” bottle for your gift? Just follow this tutorial and you should be fine.

Start with due diligence

There are three things you should try to find out about the recipient of the gift: his favorite liquor, his favorite bottle (hint: look at their bar area; it won’t be dusty and three-quarters full) and how they get it (cocktails, the stones, neat with a twist, are delivered exclusively with a body shot, while everyone in the bar repeats their name). Some of this can be inferred from their usual ordering of drinks at the bar.

As far as your budget is concerned, you might get sweaty buying a bottle for someone who knows their liquor, assuming you really need to throw the water out, but you don’t. You can get really good liquor for just $ 15, according to Esquire , so if you spend a little more it makes a difference. Worry more about getting close to the tastes of your gift than about impressing it with a bottle you had to go through a credit check to buy.

Armed with whatever information you can gather, here’s how to figure out what to buy based on their preference.


The whiskey has a complex taste. If you’ve ever watched a TV show and a character walks into a bar and orders “whiskey,” this show is trash. One thing to know right away: don’t assume that single malt whiskey has any inherent superiority over blends. Blends are often carefully designed for a specific flavor profile, while singles tend to have a narrower appeal, so it’s actually more about preference than some fundamental rule of quality.

Sipping: If your goal is to enjoy your whiskey unadulterated, look for a soft whiskey that combines some of the flavors. A perfect example is Balvenie Doublewood , a smooth bourbon-aged whiskey. If you’ve got money to spend, the Johnnie Walker Blue Label is so sleek that you can ride it (although it tends to be expensive, in the $ 200 per bottle range). If they like bourbon over scotch, a good bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked will hit a wide variety of targets.

Cocktails: If you are a cocktail drinker, there are many blended whiskeys that are designed specifically for blending. Monkey Shoulder is a mixed scotch made for cocktails, just like Johnnie Walker Red Label . And the Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon is a classic that will work in just about every cocktail you can imagine.

Blind: If you haven’t been able to get any information about your goal, look for a versatile whiskey that doesn’t have an impressive flavor profile, so it’s suitable for both cocktails and sips. A few universal examples are Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon , the aforementioned Monkey Shoulder (which is perfectly drinkable) and Old Overholt Rye , which is arguably the most versatile whiskey of all time.


The world is divided into two types of people: those who think that rum is something that can be mixed with cola, and those who understand that it is one of the hardest and oldest spirits in the world. The good news for gifts is that most rum lovers love to have many different bottles on hand, which increases your chances.

One general comment is to ignore age restrictions on bottles . Rum producers have a wide range of rules for this, and most rums are mixed ages anyway. What might appear impressive on a bottle of whiskey doesn’t really matter to rum.

Stretching. First, find out which rum your gift likes – French, English or Spanish . Most of your sipping rum will be “dark” (ie brown) because it has been aged in charred barrels, so it’s best to stick to this side of the aisle. For English rum, try Doorly’s from Barbados. For the French, Clèment select is a great choice, and for Spanish lovers, Ron Zacapa .

Cocktails: Rum is very popular in cocktails and most recipes require a “white” or clear rum, which is usually aged in stainless steel barrels, but not always. For example, Barcadi Reserva 8 Year is a dark rum that many bartenders use in certain recipes. Two great cocktail rums are Havana Club Anejo Blanco and Wray & Nephew White Overproof, but keep in mind that the latter is a very strong alcohol because it is “super strong”.

Go blind: Rum is already a fairly versatile drink, so it’s hard to go wrong. But if you’re completely unsure what your gift will love, the two most versatile rums on the market are Mount Gay Black Barrel and Ten-to-One (which comes in white and dark). This rum can be enjoyed on its own, but can also be mixed well.


The most democratic of all spirits, vodka can be made from almost anything , from potatoes to beets to dirty socks (I guess). Vodka has a fairly neutral flavor profile and mixes with literally anything, although you should see if you can find out if your giver prefers flavored vodka with added fruit or other flavors to give it a little more personality.

Sipping: If your target loves to sip vodka like a civilized person, instead of tossing glasses at a rack and yelling “One more!” (or drowning it in fruit juice), you’ll want to find vodka that has been repeatedly distilled and filtered to remove impurities. Great selection of Reyka , Icelandic vodka which is quite affordable. And you can’t go wrong with probably the most popular vodka in America: Tito’s , which you’ll find in every bar in the world. In fact, it is a vodka that is easy to drink and will be appreciated by any vodka lover, even if it is a little simple.

Cocktails: You can use almost any vodka in your cocktail. Ketel One or Belvedere are safe choices – they will always be appreciated and will work in cocktails where the focus should be on other flavors, as well as in simpler blends such as martinis, where the vodka itself is facing forward.

We go blind: do not know where exactly in the vodka spectrum your gift is? Nikka Coffey Vodka (which has nothing to do with coffee) is a wonderfully mild offering from a Japanese distillery. It’s versatile and a bit quirky, making it the perfect gift for the blind.


Admit it: Right now, the song Tequila by The Champs is playing in your head (and perhaps you are performing the Pee Wee Herman dance ). Agave-derived tequila has a reputation for being a classic student sibling and girly , but it’s actually a lot more complicated than you might think. There are tequilas blanco or silver that are not aged or only matured for a short time in stainless steel barrels, and there are tequilas reposado and anyjo that are aged, often in whiskey barrels, which gives them a more complex flavor profile. And there is golden tequila (also known as joven , or “young”) that mixes with the caramel color, so just because tequila is brown doesn’t mean it’s aged.

Finally, there is the monster called ” mixed ” tequila, which is only 51% agave, and the rest is made from other spirits. If you stagger over to a bar and ask for tequila without specifying, you will most likely get a mix. Do not give the mixto to anyone – pay attention to the inscription “100% agave” on the label.

Sipping: While no one will throw you out of the house if you bring them a bottle of Patrón , if you want to wow your tequila aficionado try either the silver (and delicious) Tequila Casa Dragones Blanco or something from El Tesoro , especially its extra Anejo ( and expensive) Paradiso offer.

Cocktails: Tequila has a very wide range of flavors. Blanco tequila is great for margaritas and can even replace other white liquors in cocktails, so something like El Tesoro Blanco is a great choice. For other cocktails, Anejo tequila like Patrón Roca is great.

Blind: If you are unsure if your giver likes to sip or mix tequila, choose the Anejo tequila by default, which tends to be the most versatile for you. Casa Noble is a good choice as it can be sipped completely, but its flavor profile is subtle enough to mix with different cocktails.


Gin is perhaps the most misunderstood liquor. Originally developed as a medicine , it continues to treat a wide variety of ailments not related to the book to this day. While this famous ‘pine’ flavor is distilled primarily from grains such as corn or rye, it comes from juniper berries with added herbs and citrus fruits to make each gin unique. There are actually several different varieties of gin – London Dry, Plymouth, Old Tom, Navy Strength (strong drink, usually close to 120), New American and Genever. Each of these gins has a different basic flavor, so they are suitable for different purposes.

Drinking: Yes, people drink gin. If you like a sip, opt for Jenevers like Genevieve Gin in Barrels or Plymouth Gin like, well, Plymouth Gin , which is literally distilled in Plymouth, England.

Cocktails: A little specific information will help you a lot here. If your gin lover loves Tom Collins gin, an Old Tom gin like Barr Hill Reserve is the best choice . Gin and tonic ? A London Dry like Beefeater is just a ticket. Something like N egroni ? A new American gin like Aviation Gin is a great choice (make sure your recipient doesn’t hate Ryan Reynolds first). As an added reward, you can grab a bottle of Navy Strength Gin like Leopold’s American Gin , which can be used to add some alcoholic energy to any gin-based cocktail. Just keep Uber connected if you have one.

Blind: If you don’t know where in the gin world your recipient lands, London Dry is probably the best bet. Bulldog Gin is a versatile London dry with a very mild flavor, which means it pairs well with most cocktails, but can also be drunk with a little lemon.


If you buy brandy as a gift, we know one thing about the person you are buying: he is unusual. Brandy is mostly distilled wine . Although, like wine, it can (and is) made from a variety of fermented fruits, just like wine, most brandy is made from grapes.

There are many varieties of brandy, depending on the region in which they come from and the local grape (or other fruit) from which they are made. Cognac , for example, is a type of brandy produced in the Cognac region of France. There’s also Armagnac, Spanish Brandy, Pisco, American Brandy, and Grappa – if you know your gift likes one of these specific brands, half your job is done.

Brandy is usually meant to be consumed neat, so just about any brandy you buy is great for sipping or mixing with cocktails that require it. Many brandies have an age specified: VS, the minimum age is two years; VSOP, minimum four years; XO, minimum age six. Generally speaking, it is best to buy the XO brandy as it will be well-aged and tasty.

For lovers of cognac Hennessy XO is always an excellent choice. If they prefer Armagnac, Jollite is a great choice. For lovers of Spanish brandy, Cardenal Mendoza is an excellent choice. For people, Pisco Capurro Premium Pisco is a good starting point. Copper & Kings American Craft Brandy is a delightful, quirky American brandy that most brandy lovers will love, and if your gift loves Italian brandy, Nardini Grappa Bianca 40 will suit most tastes.

Blind: I have no idea? Go for the classic Henessy, but ditch the XO and take the VS. This bottle is perfect for mixing, but will still be a wonderful brandy to enjoy on your own.

Giving a bottle of good liquor to someone who truly appreciates it is one of the most powerful things you can do for your fellow citizen. As long as you think about it, you can’t go wrong – at worst, you introduce the recipient to something new.


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