This has been a challenging year for travel. But though there may be few holiday meals in far-flung places, you can still send your friends and family authentic tastes from around the world. Here are our picks for this year’s feast.
Your loved ones might not be traveling now, but that doesn’t mean their booze can’t. Jefferson’s Ocean ($85) benefits from a phenomenon the British navy long ago ascertained: Cruising is great for aging whiskey. After eight years in barrel on dry land, this small-batch bourbon ships out on a shark-tagging boat, spending near to a year crossing the equator multiple times, gaining complexity through temperature fluctuations, sea air and the rocking of the vessel that sloshes it around in the cask. The result is a tiptop bourbon, buttery on the nose, creamy in the mouth and full of light salted-caramel panache.
Got kids with culinary aspirations? Gift them a kit from French chocolatier Michel Cluizal so they can learn how to temper and sweeten chocolate with a Bean-to-Bar Kit, whip up trendy chocolate Energy Bars with add-ons like Goji berries and Himalayan salt, and gild the lily with Indulgence Bars topped with everything from peanuts to 24-karat gold flakes ($55 each).
New Zealand’s pristine pastureland yields bold-tasting, firm meat. Give steak lovers something to chew on with a sampler box of humanely raised Angus beef. Whether it’s the Butcher’s Favorites ($179), Big Beef Box ($189) or the luxe Beef Steakhouse Box ($199), just tell them to sear the slabs fast and finish them over indirect heat; these animals ate only grass, as nature intended them to, so the steaks are lean.
When you think “stylish,” what pops to mind isn’t normally syrup. But this packaging is hip and sleek. Even better is what’s inside: luscious Vermont maple syrup, certified organic by the Northeastern Organic Farmers Association and bird-friendly by the National Audubon Society, and produced in a solar-powered sugarhouse. Choose from four different trios of pure, infused, smoked and barrel-aged maple syrups with Runamok’s sweet gift boxes ($64.95), just in time for Christmas-morning pancakes.
A handsome black stoneware pot holds culinary gold from the 273-year-old French mustard producer: a vibrant, fresh-pumped mustard ($43-$119) infused with Provençal black truffles and Burgundian Chablis. What could be better on your gourmand friend’s holiday canapes than this?
You can’t get healthier coffee for the java fan or planet Earth. Holistic Roasters works with fair trade producers to farm its coffee biodynamically, with no chemicals whatsoever and in harmony with the environment. In the roasting facility in Berkeley, California, a closed smoke system saves energy and emissions. The handsome, minimalist packaging is compostable, and every bean is lab-guaranteed to be contaminant-free. Light-roasted, gentle Rubicon, classic French Roast and rich, medium-roast Rise & Shine are $19.95 each for 12 ounces.
Brazil’s sugar cane distilleries have leveled rainforests to supply their cooperages. This certified-organic producer aims to fix the damage. It replants Brazil’s Atlantic Forest with threatened native trees, and its barrel-aged cachaça ($41.99) rests, not in Brazilian wood, but in used American bourbon barrels. The spirit exhibits the best of both worlds: bourbon’s toffee and vanilla notes, and cachaça’s tropical spice. For drinkers who know Brazil’s caipirinha but have never tasted its base spirit after aging, this will surprise and delight.
Pasture-raised and pampered on a family farm, Tamworth–Little Black–Mangalitsa hybrid pigs provide pork that was a hit at Minnesota restaurants before COVID shuttered dining. Now it’s shipped right to consumers. The Small Pork Box ($130) includes 3 pounds each of fresh cuts, sausage and bacon, plus three prepared chef’s items. The Large Pork Box ($250) is double the size. Bratwurst, taco meat, thick-cut chops, pulled pork, belly bacon — you never know what you’ll get, but it’s all phenomenal.
“Twin Peaks” and “Blue Velvet” fans will flip for this duo of boutique Washington state wines ($189) by actor-turned-vintner Kyle MacLachlan. The limited-edition 2017 Twin Bear Cabernet is a big wine full of both dark and red fruit flavors, plenty of structuring tannins, but a balancing acidity. The 2017 Twin Bear is an elegant, mineral beauty, with an herbaceous nose and a palate like chocolate-covered cranberries crushed against stones. Packaged in a red velvet bag, it comes with a very special bonus: a Zoom tasting with MacLachlan himself.
Sustainably farmed, estate-grown trees watered via a solar-powered irrigation system produce the fruit for these charismatic Spanish olive oils. Extracted less than six hours from harvest, the single-varietal oils show their particular personalities beautifully: Fruity and sweet arbequina; artichoke-bitter and bold cornicabra; nutty and spicy manzanilla; and green, vegetal picual make up the wonderful Chef Choice box ($41.79).
Want to blow a whiskey drinker’s mind? Gift them Hatozaki Finest ($39.99). The pale hue might confuse them, but the flavor will enthrall. A blend of malt whiskies aged up to 12 years in American oak, it has a light, grainy sweetness countered by the oceanic freshness of the distillery’s location on Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. Aged in a mix of bourbon, sherry and native mizunara oak casks, the Hatozaki Small Batch ($64.99) has more richness and depth with intriguing hints of incense from the Japanese wood.
Got pals who are missing the barbecue circuit? Make their holiday with a delivery from legendary Charleston, South Carolina, pitmaster John Lewis. Fully cooked and flash-frozen, the whole briskets (starting at $129.99) are supremely moist and tender, deliciously spiced and smoked to perfection. Since Carolina BBQ isn’t complete without the sauce, throw in a three-pack of sweet Original Red, spicy Hatch Green Chile and vinegary Tangy Barbecue Sauce ($25.95).
There are few female cellar masters in Champagne, and chef de cave Caroline Latrive is one of them. For the Ayala label, a 150-year-old house now owned by Bollinger, Latrive uses grapes from exceptional years only to create a 100 percent Chardonnay blanc de blancs ($81.97), redolent of alluring orange notes that distinguish it from other bottles in its category. Its lush, round texture is balanced out by a zesty, mineral finish and lively, tight bubble. This is one delicious celebratory sip.
Master sommelier Evan Goldstein has a fun diversion for homebound oenophiles: blind-tasting kits delivered to their doorstep. Each contains a half-dozen textbook examples of specific grapes, varieties, regions or styles in 6.3 fluid-ounce bottles. An online interactive tasting tool leads them through the pros’ deductive sensory analysis, and if you hook them up with a subscription, a trio of master sommeliers, led by Goldstein, will take them through a monthly tasting of each new kit ($90 for one, $80 monthly, $840 annually).
When we all do get back to frequent air travel, here’s a gift that the wine lovers in your life will particularly appreciate: a way to transport bottles from abroad without having to stuff them in their gym socks. This line of special suitcases ($249-$349) is outfitted with removable, high-density foam inserts that cradle bottles as they move through baggage claim. Your pal can fill the whole thing with vino, or leave a few inserts home and pack clothing in the remainder of the space.
Blast-frozen and vacuum-sealed by a cooperative of family fishermen, this sustainable catch is meticulously cared for and bristling with fresh ocean flavor. Crustacean lovers can crack all the claws they want with the Holiday Crab Box ($129). The Holiday Seafood Box ($129) delivers vibrant coho salmon, halibut and Pacific cod, and the Holiday Seafood Feast ($259) fishes up to 10 pounds of crab, halibut, sockeye and smoked salmon — recipes included.
This is the year for bang-for-the-buck luxuries, and this impressive Spanish sparkling is among them. Ancient, indigenous white grapes are farmed sustainably and vinified via the methode traditionelle on a biodiverse estate with an 800-year history of winemaking. The best of the harvest is aged 30 months on the lees for the Reserva ($26), which has a bready, flowery richness and layered notes of dried fruit and smoke. In a regal, silver-trimmed bottle, it’s eminently giftable.
At her organic Vermont nursery, Julie Rubaud provides seeds and starts to earth-friendly farmers and backyard gardeners. To keep staff employed year-round and to use the clippings and blossoms from her copious herb beds, Rubaud created a range of infused salts and vinegars. The Complete Collection ($64) gathers them all, from bright tarragon-herb salt that’s dynamite on grilled chicken to funky, floral Thai basil blossom vinegar for dressing salads.
This knockout Irish whiskey entered the ring to fanfare in 2019, a passion project of Ireland’s mixed martial arts champ Conor McGregor. Aged at least three years and bottled at 80 proof, it’s a surprisingly gentle sip: flowery on the nose with the vanilla and honey notes that make it terrific for sipping or mixing. Packaged in a handsome gift box ($24.99) sporting a lion in a crown, it might not satisfy heartier palates, but it’s a terrific whiskey for highball fans, and every bottle you buy goes toward supporting first responders globally.
Advanced sommelier Rania Zayyat leads the oenophiles in your life through a pre-recorded virtual tasting of three of the natural wines from the super-talented group of winemakers she represents through Wonder Women of Wine: Martha Stoumen’s blackberry-and-pine Post Flirtation Red 2019, Becky Atkins’ melon-on-rocks Flat Brim Wines Giant Sky Rosé 2019 and Lisa Hinton’s lemon-and-pineapple Old Westminster Blinded by the Light 2019. Along with snacks, decorations and custom wine backpacks for four, it’s a great gift for a get-together with your pod ($200).