Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa.

There’s quite a few things I would wake up at 3:30 a.m. to do: Go hunting, go to work, comfort my kids, stop a burglar, watch the sunrise…

But there’s one thing I would not get up at 3:30 a.m. to do– wait in line at shopping malls to get the best deal. I just don’t get it.

Is it really worth the aggravation, the frustration, the bruises and lacerations from getting hip checked to save a couple of bucks? In my opinion, not a chance.

For many Americans, though, Black Friday is a holiday in and of itself — my wife included (she was the cute, short one throwing her elbows out to get the latest fashion for her niece). Not me. On Friday I was at work.

If you’re like me, you’ll be happy to know there is an alternative to fighting the mobs in the malls this holiday season. You will still come home with fantastic and unique gifts that are often overlooked but never underappreciated: high-end liquor.

Instead of waiting in line for an hour, you can take a mere 15 minutes and have some spectacular gems that guests will simply love. Here are some of my top picks for gift-giving this holiday season:

Gran Patron Platinum or Gran Patron Burdeos — for the Tequila drinker in your life. There’s probably nothing else that I’ve tasted that comes close in terms of smoothness or flavor. Both come beautifully packaged (though the Burdeos is another level). The Platinum has a nice maple box and black velvet bag. The Burdeos comes in a handmade black walnut box, with a suede blanket, crystal bee stopper, and a corkscrew. The price tags are pretty incredible ($206 and $599 respectively), but this is a great gift for the folks who have everything and appreciate quality.

Jack Daniels Single Barrel Ducks Unlimited — You knew I would write about Jack, right? Not only is this a quality product, but it comes in a beautiful tin with two glasses and some very nice artwork. A great gift for the avid hunter (especially bird hunters), the Jack itself is smooth and delicious. Cost is about $76.50, which is very reasonable.

Amarula Cream Liqueur — A cream-based liqueur with hints of caramel and chocolate, a perfect drink for before bed or with coffee. Also, it’s said to be an aphrodisiac– Amarula trees are found in Africa, and supposedly the male elephant knocks down the fruit, devours it, and then goes off to find the ladies. Also, it is a tradition in Africa that getting married under the tree blesses the marriage with fertility. Pretty reasonable at just over $20.

St. Germaine — My newest favorite. This is an eau de vie that is extremely delicate and fragrant. It goes excellently with rose champagne and soda water and can be used in almost any wine. It’s great for the holidays and parties, and due to its fairly low alcohol level, it’s perfect for controlling the pace of consumption for your guests. Suggested retail price: $32.99.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon — This is the nation’s oldest and smallest bourbon distillery as well as the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby. It comes in nips as a great stocking stuffer, or for just over $30 you can get it in a gift pack.

Thatchers Apple Spice Ginger — New to Vermont (it will probably be out in a couple of weeks) is this new liquor that’s low proof and high flavor. Mixes great with vodkas or bourbons or even hot apple cider.

So, make this year’s holiday shopping easy, and check out your local Vermont Liquor Agency for these great liquors (if you can’t find it locally, stop by Winooski Beverage Warehouse; my friends George, Jennifer and Jeff can get just about anything you need). I’ll continue writing about some of the top liquors that you can buy throughout the holidays (they only give me so much space to write) so continue to read for more gift ideas.

Don’t forget to stuff the stockings with the little nips (Patron just released a 50 ml that is damn cute and makes a good bud vase when you’ve drank the Tequila).

Happy shopping!

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