'Tis the season to start thinking about giving, eating and being merry. With that in mind, try skipping the big-box stores this year with foodie-focused gifts made right here in Colorado. Each one will tantalize the taste buds and guarantee you'll have a friend for life. Or, at least one that will share the lovely bottle of gin, make you a cocktail with artisan bitters or share the box of whiskey caramels you brought over. Here are a dozen homegrown food and beverage gifts that
1) Helliemae's Whiskey Love Bomb Caramels
Send your love bombs in a sweet, sweet way with Helliemae's whiskey-laced caramels. Since each batch gets made with local booze, Louisiana cane syrup, and Kentucky bourbon barrel-smoked salt, every bite gives you a little bit of the south mixed with the good old Rocky Mountains. At least, that's what owner Ellen Daehnick says, and she should know — since each tasty morsel is made by hand. Starting at $10.
2) Golden Moon Gin from Golden Moon Distillery If that someone special in your life loves gin, seal the deal by getting them a bottle of this floral-tinged spirit ($46). It's made right in Golden with local herbs, juniper and mint, and proves the perfect addition to any bar. Drink it straight, mix into a craft cocktail or pair a bottle with the next item on this list.
3) DRAM Apothecary Cocktail Bitters Gift Set
Hand-crafted bitters have been the rage for some time, but how often do you find really good samples made with foraged greens, herbs and berries? At DRAM Apothecary in Silver Plume, owner Shae Whitney harvests ingredients in the wild and adds them to gourmet bitters flavored with sage, citrus, honey and chamomile. You can buy them by the bottle, or get a sample set of five ($25), featuring some of this tiny company's best options.
4) The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-It-All
Local author Richard Betts has created yet another whimsical book all about booze ($22). This one focuses on whiskey, and yes, you really do get to scratch and sniff. Each panel offers notes like smoke, corn, rye and other brown liquor characteristics that help drinkers determine what they like in a tipple. In this tome, Betts, who is a master sommelier and also wrote a scratch and sniff book on wine, offers tips for buying whiskey, a regional guide and all sorts of fun and useful facts about the business. Available through most online book sellers.
5) Bubbles and Bacon gift pack from the Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery
Who wouldn't love to receive a bottle of this urban winery's limited-edition sparkling Bubble Universe paired with a pound of delicious, thick-cut, dry-cured maple bacon ($55) from Denver pork masters Tender Belly? Nicknamed "The Hoff," this duo comes in honor of professional triathlete Ben Hoffman, who is sponsored by the winery and the bacon company.
6) Pablo's Coffee Danger Monkey Coffee Beans
1300 Pennsylvania Street
630 East Sixth Avenue
Speaking of monkeys, the 20-year-old Pablo's Coffee is roasting up its signature Danger Monkey coffee beans. Each 12-ounce bag ($12) contains a fragrant dark roast blend of Sumatra and Burundi beans, all roasted in a nearby warehouse in small batches. Available in whole bean or pre-ground packs, either way, your caffeinated friends will appreciate the perk.
7) Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
This Christmas, stuff your face and your family's stockings with Justin's peanut butter cups ($1.50 for a two-pack). For more than ten years, these goodies — along with an array of equally tasty nut butters — have sweetened the natural food scene out of Boulder. Made with organic and fair-trade chocolate and creamy, delicious peanut butter, these decadent treats are a major step up from the usual Reese's.
8) Uncle Andy's Blue Cheese and Mushroom Beef Jerky
Another great choice on the stocking stuffer list is a pack of Uncle Andy's Beef Jerky ($7.95) in the latest gourmet flavor: blue cheese and mushroom. Before you write this off, keep in mind funky blue cheese and earthy mushrooms both have a deep, umami-heavy profile that play well together. Sure, it's a little strange in that way your uncle from your mother's side is, but it's also a playful, fun and totally unique jerky treat from a Fort Collins company.
9) Pizza for a loved one — and yourself! — from Pizzeria Locale
550 Broadway Boulevard
3484 West 32nd Avenue
If you're looking for a gift that will instantly give back, head to one of Denver's two Pizzeria Locale locations and buy a $25 (or more) gift card. Once purchased you will receive a bonus free pizza card. Use it to snag yourself a piping hot Neapolitan-style pie, like the simple margherita or the smoked mozzarella, pepperoni and chili-topped diavola. Or, you could be a real sweetie and pocket the free coupon to give away to another friend. After all, who doesn't like pizza? Keep in mind this holiday deal is good through December 31, in case you're a late shopper.
10) Spice to Plate Cookbook by the Savory Spice Shop
Mike and Janet Johnston first opened the Savory Spice Shop in Denver in 2004. Now the couple have expanded to 16 states and have a cookbook to pair with all their wonderful freshly ground spices. The tome features 30 recipes using ten of their unique blends. You can purchase the book by itself ($24.95) or get it with ten of the company's own special mixes in packets ($44.95). Or, choose the full collection of spice-filled jars, an option that provides all the spices you need to make any recipe from the book ($64.95). This includes Chimayo Chorizo Sausage Spice, Paris Cheese Sprinkle and Baker's Brew Coffee Spice, among others.
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11) Tea from Platform T
682 South Colorado Boulevard
For a present that will really warm the heart and body, head to this new tea shop in Glendale and peruse the premium blends of loose-leaf teas. Some good holiday options include the chocolate-caramel black tea, cardamom-sage herbal tea and the smoky lapsang souchong. Each tea comes in a pretty tin that only needs a simple bow in the way of wrapping. If you're doing your shopping online this year, you can also order tea and accessories on the Platform T website.
12) Christmas Ale from Upslope Brewing Company
1501 Lee Hill Road, Boulder
1898 South Flatiron Court, Boulder
What could give more cheer than a pint of ale enhanced with dark fruits and happy holiday spices? The recipe for this brew is adapted from one founder Matt Cutter used to make as a home brewer, so the dark and warming beer has a special place not just under your tree, but in the brewer's heart. Keep in mind the beer is a limited edition release, so grab it the second you see it at metro-area liquor stores or head to one of the Boulder brewery's two locations and stock up ($10 for a four-pack).