Last year, beer, wine, and liquor sales peaked in December, at $6.4 billion for the month, according to data from Statista. It's easy to see why.
Holiday parties consume many of the evenings between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and each invitation can mean you need to find another host or hostess gift. All of this can add up during a season that is already quite costly. Americans are predicted to spend more than $1,000 each on shopping and decorations during November and December, according to the National Retail Federation.
If you're on a tight budget, you can find plenty of bottles for under $30 that make great gifts. But if you have more wiggle room and really want to wow your host, consider one of these eight top picks from bartenders and sommeliers, who were asked to recommend some spirits and wines that are under $50 each.
Cost: $29.99 at America's Wine Shop
"I recently discovered this gem of a wine by playing a little game of follow-the-winemaker. Château Pétrus is one of the most expensive wines in Bordeaux, regularly clocking in at thousands of dollars per bottle. Fortunately the Moueix family, who owns the property, also produces fruit from this tiny estate. This wine is packed with pedigree and potential."
— Brandon Kerne, sommelier at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Houston
Cost: $29.99 at Warehouse Wines and Spirits
"While many experienced bar folks have a bottle of bitter orange liqueur hanging out at the home bar, for most people it's a 'treat yourself' item ... Many people don't have a bottle, and when you give this one to them, they get something infinitely usable and appreciated. And they can make a Boulevardier during the holidays."
— Nick Talarico, director of operations/beverage director at Enjoy AM Restaurant Group in Memphis
Cost: $34.99 at Wine Therapy
"At cask strength, varying from batch to batch, this has been a well-educated bourbon enthusiast's everyday-er for quite some time. For the most part, you can find this bottle for under $50, but long gone is the stigma of Wild Turkey being nothing but shotguns and camo. The secret is out on this one, and the buzz surrounding this bottle is surely going to drive the prices up."
— Westin Galleymore, spirits director at Underbelly Hospitality in Houston
Cost: $36.99 at Marketview Liquor
"Ocho is the first tequila to designate both the year it was produced and the precise field from which the family-grown agaves were sourced. Each batch comes from a different field or rancho, contributing distinctive characteristics of that place. Depending on what year you get, the taste notes change and also make this tequila a collector's item."
— Mohammed Rahman, bar director, Kata Robata in Houston
Cost: $39.99 at Suhag Wines & Liquors
"Japanese whiskey is such a popular category at the moment, but it's hard to get your hands on, let alone find at a reasonable price. This is a great introductory whiskey for someone looking to branch out. Delicate, lightly sweet, and elegant. It's sure to be a hit. I love this in a highball, topped off with soda and a lemon peel, but also enjoy on its own or in an Old-Fashioned."
— Eryn Reece, head bartender at Banzarbar in New York City
"Because the holidays need more brandy in all forms. Bertoux is a California, grape-based, pot still brandy blend aged five to seven years. It's specifically made for cocktails, so it's affordable, priced between $30 to $40 depending on the store. But it looks and drinks like a much more expensive bottle. In spite of its intention as a cocktail ingredient, it drinks incredibly well on its own."
— David Kaplan, co-owner of Death & Company in New York City
Video by Jason Armesto and Sofia Pitt
Cost: $41.99 at PJ Wine
"Busnel Pays d'Auge VSOP Calvados is one of the most consistently undervalued products I know — delicious, perfectly aged, and at the right price point to mix in cocktails or sip on a special occasion. There's a deep void in my life when we run out at the house."
— Alex Day, co-owner at Death & Company in New York City
Cost: $31.99 at Wine Anthology
"In a sea of massively overpriced and overhyped American whiskey, a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 Rye is one of the most versatile and delicious whiskeys out there for about $40 per bottle. While it's a great sipper on its own, it's even better in a number of holiday cocktails. Toddy's? Check. Old-Fashioneds? Check. Punch? Check."
— Tyson Buhler, national beverage director at Death & Company in New York City
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