Spending

7 gift-worthy bottles of alcohol for the hard-to-please friend

Twenty/20

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 of alcohol for under $30 or under $50 that make great host or hostess gifts. And if there's a cocktail aficionado on your gift list who prides themselves on their discerning palate, consider some of these wines and spirits recommended by bartenders and sommeliers, all under $100 a bottle (prices arranged from low to high).

Plantation XO Rum

Cost: $46.99 at Warehouse Wines & Spirits (typical U.S. price: $50)

"This is perfect for sipping, and something most people don't think of when it comes to higher-end liquors. But drinking fine rum is often as nice as an old-age bourbon, with savory flavors and chocolate banana notes."

— Nick Talarico, director of operations/beverage director at Enjoy AM Restaurant Group in Memphis

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Mezcal Amaras Cupreata

Cost: $59.99 at Warehouse Wine & Spirits (typical U.S. price: $57)

"Who doesn't love a bit of smoke? I really love this mezcal. Its beautifully made and features a very special type of agave cupreata. This particular varietal takes up to 13 years to mature. I enjoy the combination of smoke and chocolate that this particular bottle gives off. I would enjoy this neat or on the rocks, but it also works beautifully in a stirred cocktail. I particularly love this in a cocktail called a Nighthawk, a mezcal Manhattan with coffee liqueur."

— Eryn Reece, head bartender at Banzarbar in New York City

Any kind of Special Club Champagne

Cost: $69.59 for a Goutorbe Special Club Millesime at Get Wine Online (typical U.S. price varies based on bottle)

"The Club Trésors de Champagne (Special Club) is the greatest club you've never heard of. Composed of 27 member estates, the club celebrates grower-producers who don't have the financial means or behemoth marketing budget of operations like Moët & Chandon or Veuve-Clicquot.

"All Special Club bottlings are single-vintage Champagnes and the top wine of each estate. Uniquely, they are also put through a peer tasting panel where all members vote to reject any bottling that isn't up to snuff. Any boutique wine retailer should be stocking at least one Special Club bottling, and they are almost always under $100."

— Brandon Kerne, sommelier at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Houston

All Special Club bottlings are single-vintage Champagnes and the top wine of each estate.
Brandon Kerne
sommelier at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Houston

Glenfarclas 105

Cost: $94.99 at Benash Liquors & Wines (typical U.S. price: $93)

"Incredible cask-strength single malt Scotch. They were actually the first distillery in Scotland to release a cask-strength single malt whiskey. Aged around 8-to-10 years in a combination of ex-sherry and ex-bourbon barrels, it's got great notes of honey, toasty malts, hazelnuts, almonds, and a little creaminess. A great scotch for drinking around the fire after an epic holiday dinner and would make for a killer Bobby Burns."

— Alex Jump, bar manager at Death & Company in Denver

Aberlour A'Bunadh

Cost: $96.99 at All Star Wine & Spirits (typical U.S. price: $94)

"A'Bunadh, which translates to 'the original' in Gaelic, is about as beautifully intense as a Scottish Single Malt can be. At cask strength, it will absolutely keep you warm this winter, and could even appease the dedicated Macallan drinker. Loads of intense sherry notes and dark dried fruit boom from this whiskey, which I prefer with a bit of ice. Pair this bottle with a fancy large ice cube mold, and you've got a great gift for any Highland whiskey drinker."

Westin Galleymore, spirits director at Underbelly Hospitality in Houston

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El Tesoro Paradiso Extra Añejo Tequila

Cost: $83.09 at Allendale Wine Shoppe (typical U.S. price: $106)

"An exquisite expression of tequila that has been made using traditional Tahona process to produce a rustic and pure expression of the agave flavor. The Paradisio has been aged for five years in cognac barrels, unlike most añejo and extra añejo that are aged in bourbon barrels. This unique tequila has an earthy taste with a hint of minerality, tropical characteristics, and sweet notes of butterscotch."

Mohammed Rahman, bar director, Kata Robata in Houston

L' Encantada XO Bas-Armagnac

Cost: $99 at De Wine Spot (typical U.S. price: $110)

"If you feel like splurging a little, grab a bottle of L'Encantada XO Armagnac. Armagnac is hands down the best value in spirits. If you want to drink decades-old booze for under $100, this is your bottle."

— Tyson Buhler, national beverage director at Death & Company in New York City

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