Sip and savor, great gifts from Marin beverage makers

Hanukkah might be over, but Christmas and Kwanzaa are just about to begin (Dec. 25 and 26, respectively). So, if there’s ever a time of the year that’s perfect for giving presents, now might just be it. But, how does someone arrive at the proper gift for someone else? And what if you don’t really see them much (such as a relative by marriage), or if it’s someone assigned randomly by a supposedly “secret” Santa?

Don’t worry, here are some solutions for your holiday gift problems. As an added bonus, all of these items are conveniently packaged in such a way as to fit nicely into a holiday stocking (for your wrapping convenience), or are just as joyfully received with simply an attached bow. These products have also been known to be gratefully accepted via a simple brown paper bag and they sure beat a card filled out on the dash of your car on your way into the house.

Of course, these solutions are only appropriate for your friends, relatives and co-workers who are 21 and older. And always, please, remember that drinking and driving never, ever mix.

Have a safe and happy holidays!

• Elk Fence Distillery, the Briny Deep, American single malt whiskey, $99

What do two West Marin distillers come up with? Locally sourced single malt barley whiskey distilled in Santa Rosa, of course. Elk Fence is named after a fence that ran along a barley field that Gail Coppinger and Scott Woodson used to source barley from in Tomales Bay. They have since moved on to the Admiral and Grizzly malt houses for their needs. The result is this 92 proof, double pot-stilled mouthful of maple, toffee and baking spice. Great on the rocks or swirled neat in a snifter. Originally priced at $140, it’s now a more reasonable $99.

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• Sausalito Liquor Co., Unsinkable port-finished rye whiskey, $54.99

Newcomer and Sausalito resident Scott Jampol produces this 95 proof Kentucky rye whiskey, which is then finished in Napa Valley port barrels. Kentucky rye whiskey? Isn’t Kentucky known for its bourbon? And Napa Valley port wine? Isn’t Napa known for its cabernet? Talk about iconoclastic! But it all works. With rich, almost chocolate-ish cherry overtones, this robust rye certainly reminds one of the classic Manhattan, all on its own! Spicy and just hot enough, its rich mouthfeel and gorgeous Liberty Ship packaging makes for a wonderful gift, wrapped or not.

Sausalito Liquor Co. was started in 2021. (Photo by Jeff Burkhart)
Photo by Jeff Burkhart Sausalito Liquor Co.’s products can be great stocking stuffers.

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• Alamere Spirits, gin with makrut lime and lemongrass, $35

Novato’s Alamere Spirits is named for the West Marin waterfall and pioneered by Sausalito restaurateurs Susannah and Olivier Souvestre (formerly of Le Garage, and current owners of Zalta in Sausalito). The label might read simply “gin,” and the Souvestre’s do produce a separate London dry-style gin, but this “gin” is not simply that. Read the fine print. Flavored with the requisite juniper, Alamere’s “gin” is also graced with makrut (kaffir) lime, lemongrass and grains of paradise. As such, it leans heavily towards the newer, more lightly flavored Japanese styles of gin, although its 88 proof still retains a London dry bite. This combination also makes it slice easily right through the more robustly flavored modern styles of tonic. Great on its own or melded into that citrusy, eggy, milky froth known as the Ramos fizz. Rest assured, either way you’ll get your full share of evergreen holiday pine notes, and a few of those citrus notes thrown in for good measure.

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• Free Spirits, the Spirit of Milano, non-alcoholic “amaro,” $37

Who doesn’t like a good pun? Certainly, Milan Martin does. The founder of Marin’s Free Spirits doubles up on them by evoking his own name and that of Milan, Italy (famous for its Fernet Branca) with this product. Absolutely delicious on its own, its delightfully bittersweet tang stacks up nicely flavor-wise against any alcoholic, lighter-style amaro on the market (think Aperol). In fact, in some cases, it’s better than them, certainly less cloying and more eminently mixable, with either other non-alcoholic spirits or as a way to reduce the overall alcohol content of a drink like the Negroni (Campari’s one-third of that drink is 48 proof). Appropriately, for holiday mixing, it also mixes well with every single other spirit on this list. And that alone, makes it a great gift.

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