• The Cabinet

The Cabinet Designer Barman: What spirits should I buy for Christmas?

Some of you might have been proactive and purchased all your presents already, or some of you might be waiting for the real discounts now that Black Friday is over.

Maybe it’s because I work behind the bar and December is always busy, but I am of the more proactive mindset. Here are a few ideas I have had about this year’s presents for your spirit loving friends.

How Much to spend?

This is quite a misleading question. How much you’re looking to spend will depend how much you have. However, I think when buying spirits, there are two types. Spirits to drink and spirits to collect.

Realistically the second option has no upper limit of how much it could cost you. There are specialist spirit shops where you can spend thousands of pounds on a single bottle. So when working out what to spend on a spirit I ask myself, do I want it to be opened?

What’s the next trend?

Traditionally spirit trends swing from white spirits to dark spirits. Whiskey then gin then brandy then vodka for example. However, the UK has bucked this trend for the last decade with the massive growth of the gin market.

The growth in the gin market doesn’t look like stopping any time soon, but the market has become saturate by lots of “gimmicks” that can barely be classed as gin.

Instead of buying gin, maybe consider a unique vermouth. There has been an increase in vermouth sales since lockdown as people are starting to enjoy making cocktails at home. A lovely vermouth can really elevate a home-made Negroni for all those gin loving friends.

If you are looking for a dark spirit, then it’s probably time to consider rum. The rum industry has been making some huge strides to improve its quality (and reputation) from the years of “overly sweet, caramel coloured with a pirate on the bottle”.

Personally, I love rum from Barbados and would recommend picking up anything from the Foursquare distillery.

Where should I go for the best advice?

As much as I have used the internet to shop this year, no website will offer the advice that a good spirit shop can.

I truly adore Milroy’s of Soho – www.shop.milroys.co.uk/about-us/whisky-bar/, this is honestly the best place to sit and have a taste of the whiskeys you are looking to buy.

If you are not buying a whiskey, it’s still worth a visit as it is around the corner from my favourite spirit shop. The world famous “Gerry’s wines and spirits” - www.gerrys.uk.com. Gerry’s has been a soho institution for decades and as a spirit specialist, Alan & Vince know more about the spirit market than anyone.

If you still can’t find what you need luckily Fortnum & Masons, Selfridges and The Whisky Exchange are all within walking distance from Soho.

What do I buy my bartenders friend, so I don’t look silly?

Don’t worry about looking silly, a gift is a gift and your friends should appreciate the effort you have made. There are loads of answers that will be specific to your friend but for most Bartenders you can keep them happy with either a bottle of “Wray & Nephew” or “Fernet Branca”. I’m not going to go into why it’s those two options, your bartender friend can explain.