The Sacred spirits be with you!  Six botanicals and a bottle of gin.

The Sacred spirits be with you! Six botanicals and a bottle of gin.

It’s a bit sad isn’t it?  You’ve had all year to figure out what to get your friends and family and here you are the Sunday before Christmas trying to determine whether Amazon can deliver on time.  I know a few friends who were hoping the world would end on the 21st thus negating the need for gift shopping.  Now what?

A few thoughts.  I recently discovered Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth.  Vermouth was invented by Antonio Benedetto Carpano in Turin in 1786.  His company has been making the stuff in small batches ever since.  If the only vermouth you’ve tasted to date has been a nondescript mixer in a Manhattan or a Negroni prepare to be amazed.  This has depth, complexity and a hint of bitterness.  Perfect by itself or in your cocktail.

Carpano Antica Formula - my drink discovery of the year.

Carpano Antica Formula – my drink discovery of the year.

The Sacred distillery makes craft gin and vodka in Highgate, up the hill from where I live.  Ian Hart makes his spirit in the back room of his house while the more flammable part of the operation is situated in a Wendy house at the bottom of his garden.  Their gin blending kit of six organic botanicals lets you mix your own gin.  The botanical distillates: juniper, citrus, angelica, coriander, cardamom and liquorice, also make fun additives to your favourite gin as a flavour enhancer.  Gin gin!

For a special bottle of wine, visit Hedonism on Davies Street in Mayfair, the brainchild of exiled Russian mobile phone tycoon Evgeny Chichvarkin.  They have what is thought to be the most complete collection of high end wines, champagnes, gins, rums etc.  Every year of Chateau d’Yquem, Hannibal Lecter’s favourite sauterne, is stocked. The Chateau d’Yquem 1811 they have for sale is thought to be the oldest bottle in the world. You can touch a £5,000 (US $8,000) bottle of Chateau Lafite or purchase a £120,000 bottle of Penfold’s Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon 2004.  If you are worried about how to open a £120,000 (US $194,000) bottle of wine don’t worry – Penfold’s jets over a wine maker from Australia to do it for you.  The wines at Hedonism start at £15 (US $25) although this will never be your local off-license, unless you happen to be a hedge fund manager. Or a Russian exile.

The display is as outrageous as the wine selection at Hedonism

The display is as outrageous as the wine selection at Hedonism

James Bond fans who’ve seen the movie Skyfall will know his penchance for the 50 year old Macallan scotch whisky.  The 1962 is available at Selfridges as is the rather rarer 1950 vintage – for a cool £6,000 (US $9,700).  The Macallan 18 year old is still a very special whisky, matured in sherry oak casks.  At around £100 (US $120) it is a little easier on the pocket book.

Macallan 1950

Macallan 1950 at Selfridges

And what if your friends and family are teetotallers?  God bless you.  You really need a drink!

Merry Christmas!

Where to get them

The wine shop at Selfridges in London has a superb selection, as does the online Whisky Exchange. The Whisky Exchange also sells miniature bottles of alcohol of the kind served on airlines – great for trying out a new drink or for a picnic.  In New York City, Astor Wines is an old favourite and stocks Antica Formula. They also have a superb online shop and an extensive range of kosher and organic wines.