Great Marin holiday gifts for foodies and drink connoisseurs – Marin Independent Journal

Well, it’s that time of year, the holiday season. No matter which holiday you celebrate — Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Orthodox Christmas or even Festivus — one thing is constant: presents. But before you go out and brave the mild weather of a Northern California December, you might want to sit back, mix some holiday spirits and let the World Wide Web do all the work for you. Well, it, and all the people along the way. Thank goodness for essential workers. Remember them? They’re still out there, and making it increasingly possible to still shop locally without even going outside. Although, be warned, combining holiday cheer and online shopping can sometimes lead to a surprisingly challenging new year.

I’ve taken the guesswork out of what to get, whether a stocking stuffer, gift set or some holiday cheer. You’re welcome. After all, isn’t the gift of giving the best gift there is?

Have a happy and safe holidays.

And please remember, never drink and drive. We want you and everyone else around for next year’s holidays.

• Mezzetta Bleu Cheese-Stuffed Olives, $7.39, 9.5 ounces

Nothing beats a stocking stuffer quite like a stuffed olive. For some reason, some olive companies think “hand-stuffed” is a selling point, but not Larkspur-based Mezzetta, which has a production facility in American Canyon. Hand-selected, yes, but let’s leave the stuffing to an easily sanitizable machine, shall we?

Mezzetta’s delicious blue cheese-stuffed olives are easy and available nearly everywhere. So, make Mezzetta your go-to for holiday martinis. Larger sizes are available, as well as other olives, and there are even delicious, pickled cocktail onions for that oddball aunt or uncle who just simply must have a Gibson.


• King Floyd’s Bar Kit, $79.95

Finally, a comprehensive bar kit that not only looks good but is also fully functional. Having a former bartender on the team must help. (Josh Burks, King Floyd’s head of sales was the former bar manager at Peri’s Silver Dollar in Fairfax.) The kit comes in a beautifully branded box and includes a classic Boston shaker set (an engraved mixing glass and a metal shaking tin, two materials that prevent that annoying shaker stick), an interesting bar spoon/muddler combo, a Japanese-style, two-sided jigger and a 100-milliter bottle of its barrel-aged aromatic bitters.

Courtesy of Mezzetta

Make holiday martinis with Mezzetta’s blue cheese-stuffed olives.

Other bitter sampling kits are also available in similar gift boxes. Show the world you’re a bartending class act with Novato’s own King Floyd’s.


• Just Enough Wines, Essentials six-pack sampler set, $46.50

Maybe you are still on the fence about the whole ready-to-drink trend. The holidays might be the best time to let Just Enough Wines’ wine tasting in a box solidify a side. Founded by San Anselmo’s Kaitlyn Lo and partner Jessica Hershfield, this set offers six varietals in 250-mililiter cans. In this set, you’ll get its Santa Rita Hills chardonnay and Edna Valley red blend, as well as a pinot noir, still rosé, sparkling brut and sparkling rosé, all from the Central Coast. Other sets are available. If you can’t find something to like here, then you probably aren’t really trying.


• “Sammy Hagar’s Cocktail Hits” bartending book, $99.99 for an autographed copy

Often celebrity indulgences are little more than that, indulgences. That’s not the case with Marin’s Sammy Hagar. To say he was ahead of the celebrity curve on tequila would be a major understatement. In fact, it can be argued that he has been almost as successful in the liquor business as he was in the business of rock ‘n’ roll. Published this year by Skyhorse Publishing, this book gives us a glimpse of why. With help by James Beard award-winning author James Fraioli, the book is a glossy well-written and well-organized book on cocktails.

“The only bartending book you’ll ever need” might be a bit of an overstatement, but this book comes close. Informative? Check. Rockstar insights? Check. Foreword by Sonoma celebrity chef (and Hagar partner) Guy Fieri? Check. Name check by former Marin resident and local celebrity restaurant owner and chef Michael Mina? Check. Recipes? Eighty-five of them, check. My favorite is the Tamarind Margarita. Wow, just wow. And if you catch Hagar out and about town, I bet he just might sign it.


Jeff Burkhart is the author of “Twenty Years Behind Bars: The Spirited Adventures of a Real Bartender, Vol. I and II,” the host of the Barfly Podcast on iTunes and an award-winning bartender at a local restaurant. Follow him at and contact him at [email protected]  

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