December 10, 2018 1:00 am

‘Tis the season for host gifts: Alternatives to a bottle of wine

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We didn’t always give host gifts. Traditionally, when someone invited us to a party or dinner, we would reciprocate the favour within a few weeks, says Julie Blais Comeau, an Ottawa-based etiquette expert.

These days, our lives are so busy that we rarely have the time to do so. Instead, “we offer a host a gift to say, ‘Now we’re even,’ ”she says. “We offer a gift, so therefore we don’t need to host them back.”

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The amount you spend on a hostess gift doesn’t have to be exorbitant, however. The rule of thumb is to spend about $20 to $25, but if you’re a houseguest staying for the night or attending a traditional holiday dinner then you should spend more.

“It’s usually something that’s seasonal, something that can be used when hosting and something… that’s not permanent, hence the popularity of the traditional bottle of wine,” she says.

But if you’re bored of bringing wine, here is a selection of interesting host gifts for the holiday season, presented in partnership with Magnum Cream Liqueur.

Rosemary Christmas tree
One of the most common hostess gifts is a bouquet of fresh flowers. It’s an appreciated gift, but often forgotten about once the petals have wilted and the colour fades.

Instead, gift a pot containing a fresh herb plant. A great option during the holidays are rosemary plants which can be shaped into tiny Christmas tree topiaries.

If your host likes to cook, they’ll be glad to snip off fresh herbs from your gift to make their dishes extra tasty.

Cream liqueur
If you want to give a bottle of something that is more seasonal than wine, try a cream liqueur.

An interesting option is Magnum Cream Liqueur which is a fusion of single malt Scotch whisky and cream that is crafted and bottled in Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s now available in Ontario at LCBO and is packaged in a unique recyclable and reusable stainless-steel flask.

A green holiday

Blais Comeau says that some Canadians are taking advantage of a new host gift option that would have been illegal a year ago.

“Now that marijuana has been legalized, we’re not just having BYOB parties, but now bring your own pot. People could be offering that as a hostess gift so we could see that evolve,” she says.

“If you choose to do that then, just like a bottle of wine, make sure you package it pretty and you add a personal note.”

Fancy cheese

If everyone else is bringing a bottle of wine as their host gift, bring something to pair it with like the gift of a fine cheese.

Forget boring cheddar, there is an explosion of choice when it comes to cheese. Whether it be artisanal ones crafted on Canadian farms or extravagant classics from Europe, the cheese purveyor at your local market can guide you toward the finest options available.

If you’re looking to build your own cheese board, experts say that choosing a variety of textures and flavours is important.

Select at least one cheese from each of these groups: aged, soft, firm and blue.

Fine tea
If you’re still drinking orange pekoe, then you’re behind the times because there is a seemingly infinite variety of teas and tea blends that are now available from all over the world.

When the guests have left and your host has finished cleaning the remnants of the party, they’ll surely appreciate a cup of soothing tea from an exotic blend chosen specifically for them.

A gift from the heart

“My most memorable hostess gift was a trampoline… though I promptly flew off it and broke my arm,” fashion designer Cynthia Rowley says in O, The Oprah Magazine.  “That was unforgettable!”

A trampoline may not be the most practical gift option, but the lesson here is to think outside the box. Think about a person’s aspirations and hobbies and give them a gift that suits their interests.

Make sure Magnum Cream Liqueur is the centrepiece of your holiday celebration. This award-winning scotch malt whisky cream liqueur is the perfect host gift and a premium bar cart staple. Sipping it at a holiday party will surely become a tradition that will last for decades to come.

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