If your friend isn’t into whiskey, try a bottle of the multi-faceted Plantation Pineapple Rum ($30), which is flavored with pineapples and has a touch of smoke, a touch of spice and a touch of tropical flavor, for an overall relaxed, beachy vibe. Or, if your buddy likes a bottle with a more nonchalant ABV, go for a bottle of trusty, low-proof Aperol ($20). The aperitif is bracingly bittersweet and mixes well—particularly in the cocktail world’s most easygoing sipper, the Aperol Spritz. Ultimate chill: achieved.
For Your Flaky Friend, Try…
Flaky friends can be frustrating. Sometimes, no matter how much planning goes into hanging out, they always seem to cancel at the last minute. Whether it’s a crippling fear of commitment or just poor time management skills, we may never know, but if you manage to actually get them to show up to their own birthday party, one of these versatile bottles will make a great gift.
The first spirit to consider: St. George All Purpose Vodka ($30). As it’s name suggests, the mixing possibilities are endless, so there’s no need to worry about committing to any one style of drink. When vodka is a no-go, try something with more pizazz, like Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey ($23). Not only does it mix well in cocktails, but it is also a great shooter and sipper, so your friend won’t even have to worry about keeping the fridge stocked with mixers. And when all else fails, buy your flaky friend a bottle of Suerte Tequila ($40). Its name translates to “luck” and no matter which age statement you buy, your friend will be able to make a wide array of refreshing summer cocktails. Plus, if they don’t show up to the party, you can just enjoy a round of shots. Lucky, indeed.
For Your Type-A Friend, Try…
Your type-A friend may have taken over the planning for his or her own birthday party (because everything has to be just right), but you can still surprise them with the perfect bottle. Try looking for a spirit that’s used in plenty of established classic cocktails but also allows some room to live a little.
Gin is consistent in that it almost always has hints of juniper and other delightful botanicals, but the spirit is also capable of breaking out of its shell and incorporating more out-of-the-box flavorings, like Rare Dry Gin from Australia’s Four Pillars ($35). It’s a bit neurotic, relying more heavily on ingredients like ginger and Tasmanian pepperberry instead of the traditional juniper, but it mixes beautifully. If your friend is stuck on ordering the same reliable Old Fashioneds and Manhattans time after time, however, consider a bottle of trusty George Dickel Rye Whiskey ($27). It may not be super exciting, but it’s a hard worker and will get the job done right.
For Your Wild Child Friend, Try…
You might be nailed down to a soul-crushing 9-to-5 job with awesome health benefits and little room for spontaneity, but you take comfort in knowing that you can live vicariously through your wildest and most extroverted friend—the self-described “free spirit.”
No doubt this friend has at least a couple of stories about crazy nights spent drinking tequila, so up the ante and gift a bottle of mezcal, tequila’s grown-up cousin. Gem & Bolt Mezcal ($58)—the product of a pair of expat American artists based in Tulum—is infused with a touch of the feel-good herb Damiana. It’s so easy drinking, perhaps it will inspire a trip to Mexico and a slew of new tantalizing tales.
If agave doesn’t satisfy the tastes of the wild child in your life, however, venture a little further outside of North America and gift a bottle of Brazilian Avúa Prata Cachaça ($30). It’s more well rounded than other cachaça brands found in the U.S. and mixes a mean Caipirinha. Or, look to similarly mixable and flavor-packed absinthe with as much spirit as your friend. Leopold Bros Absinthe Vert ($68) may be from the respectable city of Denver, Colorado, but man, has it seen things.
For Your Sensitive Friend, Try…
Whether you’re going through a breakup or need help with a difficult situation at work, you always turn to your most sensitive friend for help.
For all the times they’ve soothed and comforted you in your times of need, gift a bottle of scotch that’s equally complex and thoughtful, like Laphroaig Cairdeas ($75). It’s a bit spendy, but Cairdeas (which translates to “friends”) is perfectly aged and sweetly spiced, a perfect sip anytime your friend needs a liquid hug of their own.
A more forward approach to telling your friend how much you appreciate their counseling sessions is by giving a bottle of Vya Sweet Vermouth ($14)—get it?—which can be mixed into a number of cocktails or sipped freely. But if neither of those spirits will properly communicate your gratitude, go all out with a bottle of their favorite, tried and true spirit.