Looking to buy wine and spirits-themed gifts for friends this holiday season? Here’s our first annual virtual Advent calendar. Check back daily to see our latest suggestion; every day, we will post a new one at the top of this story.
Day One: Tia Maria Matcha Cream Liquor
This creamy but not too sweet liqueur from Tia Maria is pale green in hue, with pleasant green tea and tropical fruit flavours, and pretty green tea-floral aromas.
It’s beautiful after dinner, served chilled over ice, or try it in a cocktail recipe or two as an aperitif.
Completely different from the Tia Maria made with coffee and rum, it’s worth checking out whether you’re a fan of the original or simply looking for something new to try this holiday season. About $30/bottle.
Day Two: Alberta Distillers Ltd., Alberta Premium Cask-Strength Rye Whisky
The bottle is cool. But, best, the whisky inside rocks.
In October, Alberta Distillers announced the return of its award-winning Alberta Premium Cask Strength, made with 100 per cent rye sourced from the province’s farmers. Last year’s release won Best Canadian Whisky at the International Whisky Competition. Expect this current release to perform similarly, so don’t waste time shopping for it if you’re interested. And don’t waste this beaut in some fancy-schmancy cocktail; just enjoy it neat or maybe with a good ice cube or two.
Worth noting: Alberta Distillers celebrated its 75th anniversary this year, too. In 1946, when the distillery was started, Calgary had a population of 100,000 people (now about 1.4 million). In hockey news, the Montreal Canadiens won their sixth Stanley Cup, and in football news, the Toronto Argonauts won their seventh Grey Cup. Feel free to share that trivia while you sip. About $80/bottle.
Day Three: Field Notes, Don’t Call Me Sweet Pea Amaro
If you live in Alberta, Canada, and you’re looking for something new from a local producer, don’t miss this amaro distilled from Alberta field peas and infused with a blend of prairie botanicals: herbs, flowers, roots.
Keep your Don’t Call me Sweet Pea bottle in the fridge, give it a shake before serving, and try a shot over ice. Or serve with soda water and a squeeze from one of the mandarins you probably have in your kitchen this time of year. About $35 for a 500-mL bottle.
Day Four: Georgian Bay Spirit Co., Georgian Bay Whisky
(Collingwood, Ont. Canada)
For non-Canadians who haven’t of Georgian Bay, well, it’s one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
It’s also home to Georgian Bay Spirit Co. In addition to making some of the best coolers and premade cocktails we have ever tried, Georgian Bay Spirit also makes the fine Georgian Bay Whisky. Made from a blend of rye and corn, it’s an award-winning small-batch whisky that has lush butterscotch and baking spice flavours and aromas. Great for cocktails, or pour a shot over ice. And that price! A wicked good deal, especially considering that hefty great bottle. About $35.
Day Five: A stay in wine country
When it comes to great hotels in wine country, there are literally hundreds to choose from around the world. This year, however, we’re sticking close to home and asking Santa for a visit to the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada.
Our favourite stop? The Naramata Inn for its classy old-world charm, its incredible views, and, of course, a food and wine program that’s bar none. Built in 1908, the hotel was beautifully renovated a couple of years ago, and features renowned chef Ned Bell in the kitchen and sommelier Emily Walker as wine director. I walk in the Naramata Inn’s doors and I instantly feel myself relaxing.
Buy a gift card for a stay at the inn, and add a basket of Naramata culinary goodies, too. The online gift shop features the best peach preserves you’ll ever try, plus granola, stollen, honey and other tasty treats.
Day Six: A fine linen tea towel so they can polish their crystal glassware.
For the wine lover who has everything, search out a fine linen or combed cotton tea towel — such as the colourful selection by Le Jacquard Francais, available at Inspirati in Calgary. These high-quality towels are made in France and allow you to remove water, dust, fingerprints efficiently and beautifully from your finest glassware and crystal. They’re not inexpensive, but if you take care of them, they last for years and look good, too. Linen is harder to find than cotton, but it is highly absorbent and doesn’t leave linty bits on your glasses.
Bonus tip: If you’ve been drinking red wine, rinse your crystal with water at the end of the night, to help prevent staining.
Day Seven: One for the hockey fans
(Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Canada)
A Canuck alternative to other creamy liqueurs on the market, this sweet treat is made from Canadian cream and Gretzky’s Red Cask Whisky.
I’m pretty sure Gretzky didn’t have much of anything to do with the making of it, but that’s OK. It’s delicious. Really sippable, over ice, as a dessert or special treat with your coffee on a day you don’t have to drive anywhere. (It’s especially good with coffee.) Just pour a shot and watch the snow fall. About $35.