Ah, the most wonderful time of the year — the time to make a list, check it twice, and then totally panic over having no idea what to get anyone on it. Way to leave that part out of the song, Gillespie and Coots.
Come December, there’s a good chance you’ll be left feeling flat out of ideas for at least a couple people on your gift list. Don’t fret — we’ve got the secret to finding that elusive, mysterious Holy Grail of the holiday season: the perfect present.
In fact, we’ve got a few options, all made right here in Southern California: cacao rum, locally produced pinot noir and aloe liqueur, among other sophisticated liquid treats.
Chareau Aloe Liqueur
It doesn’t get much more California than this aloe liqueur, a harmonized recipe of aloe vera, cucumber, eau de vie, lemon peel, muskmelon and spearmint, which can be sipped straight or mixed. The Camarillo-based brand is named after the founder’s grandparents (which is pretty much the cutest thing ever), and tastes something like an “I love you” in a bottle.
Some might want 24-karat magic, but we wouldn’t argue with a bottle of West Hollywood–based SelvaRey Cacao Rum instead. The brand also produces a standard flavor, but the surprising addition of cacao — achieved by infusing a 5-year-old rum with thoughtfully sourced chocolate — is a welcome twist, especially come holiday season. The bottle also looks really good in a bow.
Rebel Coast Winery’s Lost by Choice
If there was a single MVP of the modern wine movement, it’d have to be Rebel Coast Winery, a punk-rock brand built on a foundation of complex yet accessibly priced wines. With the motto “Not your parents’ winery,” Rebel Coast Winery's appreciation for wine combined with its stated distaste for the stuffiness of the industry appeals particularly to a young crowd, and thus it has emerged as a favorite among millennials. Give a bottle of Lost by Choice to your favorite rebel — they’ll love the California red blend and the labels: The front bears one of six separate designs by artist Tiaan Schreuder, while the back peels off to reveal “no BS” conversation starters.
KIN White Whiskey
KIN White Whiskey is, at its core, the ultimate crowd pleaser. A moonshine-style spirit, the whiskey’s subdued flavor falls somewhere between traditional alcohol categories; KIN mixes like a vodka or gin yet can be sipped on ice like a scotch. The Los Angeles–based brand is available only in California and makes a great gift for anyone passionate about mixology, supporting local artisans or just getting their drink on.
Sea Smoke Pinot Noir
Even in a region as well known for its pinots as Santa Barbara County, Sea Smoke’s bottles stand out among the competition. The grapes are grown on the Sea Smoke Estate Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills, and the wines are a classic homage to this area's unique viticulture. These bottles make an ideal choice for a parent, boss or anyone you want to impress with your ability to #adult.
Angel City Brewery Holiday Pack
For craft beer lovers, it doesn’t get much better — or distinctly Los Angeles — than Angel City Brewery. The DTLA Arts District brewery churns out a range of brews, including everything from IPAs to lagers, pilsners, and porters. The holiday pack (available starting Dec. 12) includes three bottles of limited releases — the Funky Wit, the Jameson Barrel-Aged Imperial Red Ale and the Dark Rye Lager — as well as two branded glasses and a bottle opener. In other words, everything you need to have yourself a homemade beer tasting.
Loft and Bear
Loft and Bear was just the second distillery opened in Los Angeles since Prohibition, and it has racked up a number of awards (and a cultlike following) for its vodka’s smooth taste. Loft and Bear makes a great gift both for its locality, as it’s based in Los Angeles and is available only in California (and almost exclusively in SoCal), and for its charitable foundation: 5 percent of proceeds go to PATH, a local organization focused on ending homelessness and supporting families.
Greenbar Distillery Grand Poppy Organic Aperitive
The Grand Poppy Organic Aperitive made this list not only because it's produced in Southern California but also because it features many of the flavors of our backyards, including citrus, coastal herbs and berries and the California poppy. The liqueur is a worthy companion to a range of spirits and mixers, helping to bring out floral, herbaceous and fruity notes when added into cocktails. Plus, the bottle is a stunning addition to a home bar.
Winc’s Funk Zone
Formerly known as Club W, Winc is much more than just a wine club — it’s a producer that's helping to modernize the industry with a platform offering both membership and single-bottle purchases. Among a wide selection of California blends, the Funk Zone line — which is released each year and comes in both white and red blends — is particularly beloved for its striking art labels, each designed by Venice artist Kelcey Fisher.
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Each of Ventura Spirits’ bottles honors the Golden State in its own distinct way. For the brand’s Wilder Gin, that means distilling with a range of local botanicals. From sagebrush to pixie mandarin peel, these flavors bring an aromatic layer of depth to the spirit, and accordingly to cocktails. As a gift, it offers a taste, and scent, of California’s untamed side.
Cutler’s Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie Liqueur
This liqueur, made from the the brand’s vodka mixed with fresh apple juice, cassia, vanilla and spices, is one of just four bottles from this small, Santa Barbara–based brand. Cutler’s suggests trying this fun and appropriately seasonal drink over a scoop of ice cream, and we suggest adding that advice to the card.