It goes without saying that the holidays are a top time to gather, drink and be merry. This year, we’re suggesting that you leave the wine for that polite happy hour with coworkers you haven’t seen outside of your computer screens; and you can save the beer for game night.

Instead, we want you to show up to the party with spirited style.  Whether you’re showing up to holiday parties or having an intimate gathering in your home, our local distilleries make great options to give to friends and family to help make this holiday season that much more bright.

Here are the East Bay-based spirits that are special enough to give as a gift this holiday season, prized objects for any cocktail fan and good enough to be appreciated by even a casual drinker.

Hangar One Distillery: Buddha’s Hand vodka

The brand founded by St. George founder Jorg Rupf in 2001 doesn’t have long left in its Alameda distillery: Purchased by New Jersey’s Proximo Spirits, Inc. some years ago, its shutting its decades-old airplane hangar facility down on Dec. 18, and will move production elsewhere. The distillery caught some attention a bit ago when it announced its Fog Point series vodka, a spirit that uses Bay Area fog condensation as an ingredient, and it’s a gimmick that might appeal to some. But the highlight of this distillery is the quieter citron Buddha’s Hand vodka. A rare citrus citron with tasting notes of jasmine, basil and apricot, though it boasts a 40% ABV is lacks the sting of most vodkas. This one has lingering sunniness that is great for mixing with a citric or all by itself. 

Hangar One Distillery’s Buddha’s Hand Vodka: $42.99, order online

Wright and Brown Distilling Co: Bottled in Bond American Single Malt whiskey

Wright and Brown Distilling Co‘s Bottled in Bond American Single Malt whiskey. Credit: Wright and Brown

This West Oakland based distillery has survived start-up years crafting in smaller 10 gallon casks, and made it through the beginning of the pandemic by crafting sanitizer. Using regular 56 gallon casks and slow distilling, it serves up an award winning whiskey, among its other spirits.

With caramel and chocolate notes, W&B’s Bottled in Bond American Single Malt whiskey is a 50% ABV California whiskey with a smoky finish, which is milled, mashed, fermented, distilled, barrel-aged and bottled on site.  This one makes a great gift for someone you cherish, especially if that someone is yourself.

Wright and Brown Distilling Co: Bottled in Bond American Single Malt whiskey: $108, order online, at an area bottle shop (call to make sure it’s in stock) or for curbside pickup at 2715 Magnolia St., Oakland

St. George Spirits: Baller Single Malt whiskey

St. George Spirits’s Baller Single Malt Whiskey. Credit: St. George

The middle-aged Alameda based distillery celebrated its 40th anniversary this year with a special limited edition whiskey, selling only 1982 bottles for the year the distillery began in Emeryville. If you can’t get your hands on a limited edition bottle, opt for the Baller Single Malt Whiskey, a Japanese style whiskey originally made for Oakland’s Ramen Shop. With a 47% ABV and tasting notes of maple charcoal, plum, mango and lychee you may not want to give this one away for the holidays.

St. George Spirits: Baller Single Malt Whiskey, sold at a wide range of local bottle shops

Common Ground Spirits: Basil & Elderflower gin

Common Ground’s savory gins. Credit: Common Ground/Facebook

Founded in Berkeley. in 2020, this Black owned spirits company uses California-grown botanicals and distills in Livermore. Common Ground expects its first whiskey blend to age by 2024, and in the meantime has created two savory, 90 proof gins.

Their Black Currant and Thyme carries notes of Meyer lemon, with a peppery finish. Their Basil and Elderflower gin was inspired by iconic Irish cocktail the Flo & Basy, and has a fruity and floral finish.

Common Ground Spirits: Basil & Elderflower gin, messsage via Facebook or Instagram to purchase

Featured image: Wright & Brown worker Allison Miller with one of the distillery’s award-winning whiskies. Credit: Melati Citrawireja

Brandy Collins is a writer and public services advocate, born and raised in the Bay Area. She is a 2019-2020 cohort graduate from the Maynard Institute for Journalism, a correspondent for Oakland Voices, a blogger, and the funny one in numerous group chats. She is concerned with civic engagement and leadership development toward making public works more efficient for the people. Brandy is full of Scorpio magic and a self-proclaimed Professional Aunty. Follow her on Twitter @MsBrandyCollins or Instagram @story_soul_collecter.