A Wassail Throughout All This Town

There's nothing like hooch for the holidays. Empty stockings and empty-handed guests at parties spell nothing but Scrooge. In the anti-clutter spirit, forget the tchotchkes that will only gather dust or get re-gifted and instead give pretty bottles of liquor, a perishable that will make its recipient squiffy with joy.

Over the years my mother has collected enough perfume to camouflage a cow pen but she repeatedly runs out of eau de rum. Since she doesn't surf the Internet I feel safe revealing that this year I'm replenishing her stash with 10 Cane ($35 for 750 ml), a new small-batch luxury rum aged in French oak barrels that makes such delicious daiquiris she'll be happily seeing pixies till New Year's.

My dad's birthday is the day after New Year's and he's sworn off the hard stuff, restricting his drinking to grapes. Cognac, distilled from ugni blanc grapes, fits into that category and feels more special than wine, especially when it's in a sidecar. At my local Astor Wine & Spirits they sell youngish vintages of Hine and Martell for $35, both intensely satisfying to sip on a cold night -- or any night. I'd love to buy the crown jewel of Cognac, Remy Martin Louis XIII in a Baccarat crystal decanter, but at $1,200 my chances of affording it are about the same as becoming a Rockette, plus I can't spend more on my dad or my mother will get mad.

Be a good Santa this year and tote a bottle of fine gin or vodka to your various holiday parties -- watch them get cradled and cooed over like a cute baby. I'm partial to Icelandic exports like Björk so I was glad to discover Reyka vodka, family-owned, distilled and bottled in Iceland. The flavor is clean, soft and elegant and considering how far it's had to travel, $23 isn't bad.

Another great gift to gas up a party are the fun new malt whiskies from Easy Drinking Whisky Company, made up of three young UK guys named Jon, Mark and Robbo. Their demystifying approach led them to label the bottles "The Rich Spicy One," "The Smokey Peaty One" and "The Smooth Sweeter One." All retail for about $30 (750 ml). Visit www.jonmarkandrobbo.com for more information.

Hey fashionistas, have you heard about what Veuve Clicquot is wearing these days? This winter the bubbly yellow lady is sporting a neoprene ice jacket that fits as snugly as a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress, keeping the Champagne cool for two hours ($40). But if you're really aiming to impress, Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1996 is swathed in Emilio Pucci, a crazy, retro print case that could be altered into an evening bag once the Champagne is emptied. It's $220 but what do you expect for designer retail?

On the cheaper end, if you know someone with a sweet tooth, don't hesitate to buy Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante ($12). My brother-in-law Jeff has thanked me perfunctorily for the shirts and pants and books I've given him but he was never so openly grateful as when his stocking was stuffed with fruity Asti Spumante. He even requested it again for his birthday, a relief for me since it's a lot cheaper than pants.

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