Gifts for tipplers

Ten local craft-drink ideas to keep everyone on your holiday list in good spirits 

With 50 craft breweries, 20 wineries, and over a dozen craft distilleries and cideries, keeping your libation gifts 100-per-cent local this holiday season is a no-brainer. 

Emma Bent started Read Between the Vines, a subscription box combining books, a virtual book club, local gourmet chocolates, and exclusive wines. The idea is to connect new friends over a shared love of books and delicious treats. A box costs $65 and includes shipping. You save five per cent with six monthly subscriptions and get one box free with a yearlong subscription.

The book club runs weekly on Sundays, often spotlighting the author of that month’s featured book. The December Box includes Things Past Telling by Sheila Williams, a white Vermentino and a red full-bodied Mourvèdre, both from France’s Paul Mas Estate, chocolate from Cole Harbour’s Gourmandises Avenue, tea from Halifax’s World of Tea House, and coffee from Dartmouth’s Port City Coffee.  

This season, Compass Distillers releases a limited-edition luxury gift set called the Seasonal GiNS Collection, including four 750-ml bottles of seasonal gin. All Compass gins start with a base of Nova Scotian wheat distilled with a blend of wild local juniper berries. The gin botanicals change with the seasons to capture Nova Scotia in a bottle. The spring edition has notes of grass and spruce with a hint of the sea. Summer captures a distinctly Nova Scotian flavour with peaches, plums, Queen Anne’s Lace, wild rose petals, golden rod, ginger, chanterelle mushrooms, red clover, elderberries, and sweet fern. Autumn has hints of rosehip, teaberry, juniper, cranberry, crab apple, rosemary, and thyme. The winter release has dark earthy flavours of smoked juniper, chaga mushroom, kelp, and toasted birch bark. A stunning collection and unique gift for gin lovers.

Chocolate and booze are a sure-fire combination for the festive season. Halifax chocolatier Julien Rousseau crafts artisan, handmade decadent chocolate truffles filled to the brim with boozy concoctions. Choose from Dark & Stormy (JD Shore dark rum), Baileys Truffle, Port Wine, Spiced Rum (Compass Distillery), and Cherry Kirsch. Rousseau Chocolatier also offers a Lux Holiday set consisting of woven basket with handles, a bottle of sparkling wine from the Annapolis Valley’s Lightfoot & Wolfville or Benjamin Bridge, 12 handmade chocolates, meringues, a salted butter caramel jar, a solid milk chocolate lobster, two artisan chocolate bars, and a chocolate lollipop for $160.

A combination of sun-ripened pears with sweet vanilla, brown sugar, and a touch of bourbon sounds like the perfect cocktail. And it is, but these ingredients combine in a soy wax candle. The result is a beautiful spicy fragrance. Mother-and-daughter team Emily and Karen make the hand-poured candles in small batches on the shores of New Brunswick’s beautiful Tobique River. A $60 gift box consists of a candle, a stoneware match striker/holder, a wick trimmer, a flame extinguisher, and a small bottle of strike-anywhere matches.

Made from scratch in small batches using Ironworks distillery’s Bluenose Rum, Lunenberg Rum Cakes are baked and soaked with rum syrup when they come out of the oven, making them super moist and delicious. Lunenburg baker Sarah Batten developed the recipe. The cakes cost $13.75 each and are packaged with an article on rum-running history, wrapped in a cotton pouch resembling a burlap sack (like rum runners used to conceal the rum on board ships). The cakes are vacuum sealed, giving them a six-month shelf life.

Several Nova Scotian wineries offer membership subscriptions. For example, a Sparkling Wine Club membership from L’Acadie Vineyards features six bottles shipped three times yearly (May, August, and November). Vintner Bruce Ewert selects each certified-organic shipment to showcase a variety of their renowned sparkling wines. The Winemaker’s Selection typically ranges from $225 to $240 per shipment.

At downtown Halifax’s Highlander Spa, guests choose from an array of spa treatments. The Full Highlander package includes a one-hour barber service, one hour in the treatment room, and an hour getting your hands and feet pampered. All this while sipping your favourite libation from the Highlander Bar. Gift cards are available.

The ultimate craft beer lover’s gift from Boxing Rock Brewery, the Brewmance Box is packed with 13 473-ml cans of classic favourites and seasonal brews. The package also includes Boxing Rock swag, suggestions for perfect pairings, and recipes. The brewery offers free local pickup and delivery in the Halifax area. Buy a single box or sign up for an ongoing subscription that includes a box every three months.

Holiday breakfast never tasted better than with a collection of preserves from the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company. Elevate hot buttered toast with chunky lemon and ginger preserve with a splash of Amaretto di Saronno. The rich orange marmalade has a hit of Chivas Regal. The Cabernet Sauvignon wine jelly is sublime on a hot biscuit with a slice of cheese, or go all out with the popular wild blueberry and raspberry champagne jam. Choose 12 for $119, with free shipping.

’Tis the season for cider! The North End’s Chain Yard Cider releases Frostbite in November. The cider is aged with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger and comes in a 750-ml etched bottle. Find it at most local liquor stores, and online for $14.99.

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