Featuring jewel-toned glass and intricately illustrated labels, these marvellous bottles will spruce up anyone’s drinks cabinet this Christmas.
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful,” William Morris once proclaimed, probably as he admired his exquisitely patterned wallpaper. While the textile designer was serving up some sage wisdom on decluttering, he also gave us license to fill our living space with things that spark joy. Case in point: beautiful bottles of booze.
Whether you’re wrapping it up and popping it under the tree or bringing it as a contribution to someone else’s dinner table or cocktail party, a stylish bottle makes for an excellent Christmas gift. Because a beautifully designed bottle of gin, rum, vodka, whisky or liqueur won’t just bring someone pleasure as they pour – it’ll also make them hum with happiness to see it on their kitchen counter.
And if the person you’re shopping for doesn’t drink alcohol? There’s no need for them to miss out on the fun. In 2019, a new wave of craft distilleries are creating inspired alcohol-free drinks that tempt the eye and the taste buds.
From bottles modelled after sea glass to labels inspired by art deco architecture, here are the beautiful bottles of booze and alcohol-free spirits we’ll be raising a toast with this Christmas.
OK, it’s not exactly a magic bottle washed ashore (although can’t you just imagine Poseidon propping it on his underwater drinks cabinet?), but Fishers Gin is a gift from the sea. Made with a mix of wild and rare herbs, its ingredients are sustainably foraged from the craggy shoreline shaped by the crashing waves off the Suffolk coast.
At the heart of this spirit is spignel, a plant which tastes different to everyone and is so rare that Fishers has cultivated its own secret source. We recommend serving this the good old-fashioned way: in a tall glass poured over ice, topped with your favourite tonic and a wedge of lime.
As an aperitif, gin is “meant” to be enjoyed before a meal to awaken the drinker’s palette. But if you don’t mind us, we care not for what we ought to do. Aecorn’s non-alcoholic aperitifs (from the company who brought us Seedlip) are as nice before dinner as they are during, after… heck, even the following morning.
Inspired by 17th century English herbal remedies, they’re a satisfyingly bitter mix of grapes and botanicals. Serve any of the three options – dry, bitter and aromatic – like a spritz (an uncontentious one): with soda over ice, rounded out with a wedge of fresh zesty orange.
Rogue Wave Vodka
Banish all unpleasant memories of cheap vodka shots on uni nights out. Brewdog’s Rogue Wave Vodka is clean, grown-up and delicious - the perfect base to any cocktail, whether you prefer a white russian or a classic martini. And the bottle is seriously cool.
Aluna Coconut Rum
Ah, the tempting highs and devastating lows of taking a sip of reduced sugar alcohol and quickly becoming too aware of its virtuousness – thanks to a tang that’s overly green, bitter or lacking punch.
Not Aluna Coconut Rum, though. A blend of Guatemalan and Caribbean rums, it finds the sweet spot between ‘too sugary” and “naturally honeyed” by using first press sugar cane, fermented with yeast from the pineapple plant. We suggest drinking it in a dark and stormy (with ginger beer and a wedge of lime) while reclining on the sofa.
Manly Spirits Marine Botanical Vodka
Oh, we do like a drink that’s capable of transporting us in the first sip. And everything about this spirit is thoughtfully inspired by the coast near Sydney’s Manly Beach. The lovely blue-tinged bottle is inspired by sea glass, and features the eastern blue devil fish (an elusive creature native to a narrow stretch of sea between Sydney and the harbour town of Ulladalla) swimming in a band of raised bubbles.
The vodka itself is made from sustainably foraged marine botanicals like sea parsley and beach-cast kelp, which lend it an umami flavour. Paired with a fresh sea scent nose, it’s the ultimate base for a smooth, lip-lickingly salty dirty martini.
Is this the most beautiful bottle of gin you’ve ever seen? It’s certainly up there for us. The art-deco inspired design is inspired by Ealing’s 1920s architecture – as the name suggests, the gin is distilled in the west London borough – while the pastel and gold colourway varies slightly from bottle to bottle (each is hand-finished and fired in small batches).
As for the gin itself? It’s a delight – smooth and creamy with subtle festive flavours of orange and warm spice. Buy it for a gin lover in your life and watch their eyes light up.
Three Spirit Social Elixir
Developed with mixologists, herbalists and plant scientists, Three Spirit’s Social Elixir is supposed to mimic the convivial feeling associated with alcohol.
It won’t necessarily make you feel any more sociable, but the taste certainly hits an interesting spot. It has a slightly savoury, slightly syrupy tang, which can be served with soda and ice (or the recommended ginger beer) for an unusual but moreish cocktail-y flavour.
Fair Café Liqueur
Fair’s coffee – sorry, café – liqueur tastes like an espresso martini condensed into its richest, densest form. You can use it as a base for an at-home version of the classic cocktail (adding vodka, espresso and syrup), but that’s not all it’s good for. Over ice in a glass tumbler, it goes down dangerously easily; add milk, and you’ve got an instant White Russian.
The world’s first 100% Fairtrade spirits brand, Fair produces its drinks in France using ingredients sustainably sourced from around the world. This particular liqueur – made from slow-roasted coffee beans from Huatusco, Mexico – comes in a bottle that’s satisfyingly heavy, glossy and expensive-feeling, with a design that feels both minimalist and friendly. Be warned: the first sip is likely to prompt a Ross Geller-style “oh wow!”
Isle of Harris Gin
Distilled in Tarbert, west Scotland, Isle of Harris Gin is made with nine local botanicals – but the key is sugar kelp, a sustainable ingredient harvested by a local diver “from the deep underwater forests of the Outer Hebrides”.
The bottle – rippled, sea-green, slightly imperfect – reminds us of the waves, and the copper leaf-flecked label looks like sand. If we weren’t in love enough already, the (recyclable) packaging is printed with tasting notes, an actual map of the Isle of Harris and a brief history lesson about the region. Sigh.
Atopia Spiced Citrus Ultra Low Alcohol Spirit
What do you do if you love gin, but don’t want to get gin-drunk? It’s a question that’s particularly prescient at Christmas, when some people are trying to stay off the booze entirely and others are endeavouring to limit their intake so as to not get sucked into a Fleabag-style family row.
Enter Atopia Spiced Citrus, a 0.5% ABV spirit from independent Scottish distillery William Grant & Sons. It hits the same zesty-bitter-sweet spot as a good G&T when swirled with tonic, ice and a slice – and the bottle, featuring an undulating, vintage-inspired illustration of lemons, oranges, leaves and blossoms, is a delight.
Starward Nova Whisky
We know there are plenty of modern whiskies out there, and yet there’s still a bit of us that can’t help but picture stuffy old bottles paired with cigars and smoking jackets on a rainy winter’s eve. But this twinkling bottle of Starward Nova has our taste buds suitably tickled.
The single malt is a local affair, with all the ingredients found just a day’s drive away from the Melbourne distillery. And the most tantalising bit is that the spirit is aged in red wine barrels sourced from local Australian winemakers to give it a taste bursting with red fruitiness (think shiraz, cabernet and pinot noir). Add to the already refreshing flavour with tonic and a wedge of grapefruit, and it’s a surprise new go-to.
Isle of Raasay Gin
Oh how we love it when a gin comes with some geography. Isle of Raasay is distilled on the Hebridean island from which it takes its name – and it also take botanicals grown there for its taste, including Raasay juniper. It has a dry finish with a citrusy nose – just add tonic, orange zest and ice.
El Rayo Plata Tequila
Born in Peckham and developed in Mexico, El Rayo is a new brand that’s nothing like the tequila you know from boozy university nights out. The Plata tequila is a smooth serve, you can drink it straight, but we like the idea of switching it in for gin and pairing it with tonic. Bonus points for a truly beautiful bottle.
Like your booze as sustainable as it is delicious? Hyke is made from sustainably sourced table grapes that would otherwise go unused by the supermarket supply chain. And the lovely geometric pattern has a story, too – it’s inspired by traditional African fabrics, a nod to many of the grapes used hailing from Egypt and South Africa.
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Images: Courtesy of brands/retailers
Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.
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