Aidy’s drinks cabinet: Six boozy advent calendars (and one dry alternative) for a merry December

·5-min read
Christmas cheer: the Drinks by the Dram calendar is one for Japanese whiskey lovers  (Drinks by the Dram)
Christmas cheer: the Drinks by the Dram calendar is one for Japanese whiskey lovers (Drinks by the Dram)

Long gone are the days of advent calendars just for kids. In recent years, there’s been a dramatic rise of festive-filled drinks calendars and particularly so over the past 12 months, with all sorts of new offerings making it to market — so there’s never been a better time to explore.

It was a hard old slog, but here I’ve whittled down the very best for the money, from wine to beer to spirits — and I’ve chucked in a non-alcoholic option too, for those taking it easy this Christmas. Have fun — just maybe don’t crack open those windows with breakfast.

Drinks by the Dram presents: Japanese whisky

Pictured above, this one’s for the whisky lovers wanting to explore one of the most reputed regions in the world for a dram. Japan produces some extraordinary spirits, happily able to rival the best of Ireland and Scotland — the only hurdle is just how expensive they can be. This box offers a sample of 24 bottles and thus a chance to see what all the fuss is about. The 30ml drams include all sorts, from single malts to single grains and stunning blends from some of the most highly acclaimed distilleries in Japan. If the Japanese stuff isn’t your bag, have a read of the ES Best team’s guide to the other best whisky calendars out there.

£200, Drinks by the Dram

A Virgin Wines mixed case

 (Virgin Wines)
(Virgin Wines)

It was reputedly Virgin Wines who started off the whole notion of wine-themed advent calendars, so I’d say based on it being the “true original”, this boozy box deserves a look in. Containing some cracking wines — sorry, no spoilers! — you can expect an eclectic mix of 187ml bottles spanning everything from Savvy B and Shiraz to port and bubbles. There’s even a standard 750ml size bottle of sparkling behind door 25 to keep the magic alive on Christmas morning. If you’re a parent, you’ll likely need this when assembling the toys. In short, if you like a glass of wine in the evening and want to explore new styles, this is the way to go. Choose from a mixed case, red or white option and get merry.

I also recently discovered a boutique chocolatier who creates some of the best wine pairings for sweet treats. Head chocolatier Kae Shibata has put together 25 day calendar with a collection of handcrafted pralines, ganaches and chocolate discs showcasing cocoa from all across the planet. This is some of the best chocolate I happen to have tasted and they’d work well with the kind of wines in this Virgin pack. £155 from Cartografie.

£90, Virgin Wines

Beer52’s best brews

 (Beer52)
(Beer52)

Beer fans, fear not; you’re not being left behind. The Beer52 advent calendar has 24 beers sourced from 14 countries, covering a whopping 16 different styles. Given the beers purchased separately would come to well over £100, at £60, this seems like something of a bargain. There are countless top brews included here, including beers from Browar Stu Mostów, North Brewing Co, Lervig, Fierce Beer, To Øl, Peninsula, and many more.

£60, Beer52

Not Another Bill’s favourite tipples

 (Not Another Bill)
(Not Another Bill)

When this wonder caught my eye, I got pretty excited. Typically, when a spirits advent has 24 doors, there’s some hit and miss stuff in there — but this is a burgeoning mixologists dream containing some really top shelf products. You can expect premium vodka, rum, gin, tequila and much more from brands you’ll likely know and trust. Whether you want to sip solo or mix up a treat each evening based on what else you’ve got sitting in your drinks cabinet, it’s up to you.

£140, Not-Another-Bill

A world tour from 24 Days of Rum

 (24 Days of Rum)
(24 Days of Rum)

Just as the name says, this offers 24 days of rum from all across the world. Each one picked specifically for sipping (although no one’s watching, so you can do what you like). Funnily enough, this was the first rum calendar to come out back in 2018 and they’ve returned bigger and better every year since. Each miniature bottle contains a little label with the producer’s information and an A5 tasting note card to help you navigate your journey. Ultimately, if you enjoy rum, this is a bloody good shout.

£97, Harvey Nichols

Laithwaite’s Champagne and truffle calendar

 (Laithwaites)
(Laithwaites)

If a little festive fizz is your thing, this is by far the best on the market for my money, though it’s one for those who don’t fancy full-on boozing the entire month, lasting for 12 days only. This assortment of six miniature champagne bottles (200ml) is paired with six boxes of flavoured truffles from Holdsworth Chocolate in the Peak District. I’m fond of this one particularly as my Grandmother always would buy from Laithwaite’s; if you’re buying a calendar and you want another of my Grandma’s favourites, you may as well throw in a bottle or two of Black Stump Durif Shiraz.

£120, Laithwaites

For the dry drinker, by The Dry Drinker

 (The Dry Drinker)
(The Dry Drinker)

Not everyone drinks these days and thankfully, there’s so many exciting non-alcoholic options on the market too. Gone are the days of “I’ll have water” and in is a plethora of exciting and innovative no-and-low alcohol alternatives. Take this zero alcohol beer advent, for example. Will you get a warming stout, lager or a robust craft beer behind your 24 doors? Yule have to wait and see! Oh dear; we almost made it without a Christmas pun — that’s got to be worth drinking to.

£65, The Dry Drinker

Aidy Smith is an award-winning drinks expert, writer, and presenter of The Three Drinkers TV Series on Amazon Prime. Follow him @Sypped

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