Booze is good. Booze-snob culture is ... less good. Don’t let that put you off buying booze for yourself and people you like and, hell, people you don’t like this holiday season! Here are some of our recommendations, none of which will put you much out of pocket and none of which will shame you if your asshole brother-in-law with muttonchops who ages his own small batches of moonshine shows up thirsty.
I need a Bulleit Rye tap in my house. It’s the perfect liquor. You can make nice cocktails with it (without some prick liquor snob bitching at you about ruining good booze), or you can cut out the middleman and just drink it straight up. It’s impossible to fuck up Bulleit Rye, and the best part is that it’s not terribly expensive unless you live in a place like Manhattan that KNOWS Bulleit Rye is useful and accordingly marks it up 500%.—Drew Magary
Tito’s Vodka is the best vodka. I say this as someone who never drinks vodka except when having a Bloody Mary—is there anything on this good earth that is better than a Bloody Mary? No, there is not!—but everyone I know loves this stuff. If my dearest friends all swear by the quality of Tito’s vodka, surely it must be great, right? I trust these people with my life, after all.
Also! Former VP of NFL officiating and current Fox Sports rules analyst/supreme dork Mike Pereira loves the stuff. He’s legitimately obsessed with Tito’s vodka.
What other recommendation do you need?—Tom Ley
I will be honest with you. I do not know whether Espolon’s tequila—the amber-colored reposado, anyway—qualifies as a particularly great tequila by the ways that great aficionados of tequila judge these things. It beats the ever-loving shit out of your various Mexican-themed gasolines—Cuervo, Cabo Wabo, and so forth—and, in this casual tequila drinker’s estimation, compares well to the popular up-shelf show-off brands like Herradura and Patron that cost twice as much. Plus, the bottle is fun! It’s shaped like an actual bottle, rather than like a space temple, and it has skeletons on it. Who doesn’t get excited for skeletons when choosing an alcohol? Only assholes. If you’re buying a bottle for an asshole, go for something with a flashier reputation and a statelier reputation, I guess, or maybe just don’t buy gifts for assholes, and spend the extra cash on a humble bottle of good skeleton tequila for yourself.—Albert Burneko
A lot of my close friends and I are in that sweet spot between young adulthood and existential dadness. We have just enough money to be broke all the time; we still like getting drunk, but we’re starting to enjoy drinking, too. Whenever we get together for parties and such, it’s customary that everyone brings something to drink, so one time, last summer, maybe, I went to the liquor store to grab a bottle on my way to my man’s spot. This was in Manhattan, so everything was overpriced. I scanned the whiskey shelves, looking for something affordable: $20 is verging on plastic bottle territory, while $45 puts a little undue stress on the wallet. I saw Buffalo Trace Kentucky bourbon for about 35 bucks, stopped at the bodega to grab a two-liter Coke, and went on my way.
I got to the party, opened the bottle, filled a glass with ice, and poured some Buffalo Trace. I was curious, so before I grabbed the Coke I had a taste. The shit was good; it was a complex, sweetly spicy taste that lingered on the tongue before respectfully making way for the next sip. It wasn’t the best whiskey I’ve ever had—I’ve gotten flashy at a couple weddings, housewarmings, and the like— but it tasted like it was worth more than I paid for it. It tasted like I was stealing. I didn’t rubbish the Coke right then, but by the time my friends and I finished the Buffalo Trace, we’d taken to grabbing its neck, taking a healthy swig, and passing the bourbon on. This, admittedly, was partly because we like getting drunk. But it was also because we liked drinking it. The shit was good.—Greg Howard
Hendrick’s Gin isn’t one of your old-timey classic liquors—it’s only been around since 1999—but in that time it’s earned notes of distinction like being named “Best Gin in the World” by the Wall Street Journal. That’s high praise, because if you’ve read the WSJ opinion page you know they’re heavy drinkers over there. It’s also my wife’s gin of choice, and I’d like to think she has a discerning palate.
But if you’re looking for a gin everyone can appreciate without the dry, dry, dryness of Beefeater or the Christmas tree flavor of Tanqueray, you really can’t go wrong with Hendrick’s.—Tim Burke