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It's better to give: promotional packaging solves gift challenge by Perkal

Specially wrapped packages are prominent during the holiday season, yet they have a special meaning for beverage companies. Promotional packaging often combines a featured product with appropriate recipes, specially crafted glassware or serving suggestions and is a way to showcase product with its appropriate accessories. This year, a wealth of special-edition packages for both the naughty and the nice on everyone's list were released.

Spirits companies have long offered box sets as solutions to the gift-giving conundrums that seem so prevalent at the end of the year. The sets many times include the essential elements to create a cocktail or ingredients to make a party, such as Absolut's Disco package, released in September. The disco-themed package is a 1-liter vodka bottle embossed with 1,000 reflecting prisms to replicate the signature element of a disco dance party--the mirror ball. Sweden's V&S says it makes for a portable party option, and when the package is empty, the bottle can hang from the included loop for decoration.

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Fitting in with the growing cocktail culture, Stirrings introduced gift sets for connoisseurs and party hosts. The mixer manufacturer has four sets available this holiday season, including its Cosmopolitan Deluxe Gift Set, which comes with a stainless steel shaker, two stemless martini glasses and Stirrings' Cosmopolitan mixer. Seasonal mixers Chocolate Peppermintini and Spiced Apple are among the favorite flavors packaged in the Classic Gift Sets. The package teams cocktail mixer and sugar rimmer in a glossy ready-to-give box.

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For the green consumer, McCormick Distilling created an eco-friendly holiday gift set for 360 Vodka. In addition to a 750 ml. bottle of vodka, which is packaged in a bottle made from 85 percent recycled glass, the set includes a 60 watt Philips CFL bulb and a pocket guide containing simple steps for a greener lifestyle.

Another specific niche was the target for Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon's gift set. The whiskey set is tailored to appeal to lovers of whiskey and cigars. Made by Kentucky's Heaven Hill Distilleries, it consists of a silver tube for cigars and an additional 2-ounce tube for bourbon. Both are etched and ready to travel.

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Toast-ready glasses

Similar to the challenge of remembering which flatware goes with which course, spirits have specially designed glasses for specific drinking occasions. Whether it is a champagne flute, rocks glass or martini glass, consumers can be confused and unprepared for cocktail hour. Luckily, gift sets often include stemware tailored for intended usage occasions.

Heaven Hill Distilleries also put together gift sets for its liqueur brands. To emphasize its versatility, the blue-hued Hpnotiq spirit is packaged with two martini glasses. On the other hand, the Pama Pomegranate Bellini is the focus of its holiday gift set, which features a champagne flute. The company's O'Mara's Irish Cream is presented in a 750 ml. or 1.5-liter gift set with two cut-glass rocks glasses embossed with the O'Mara's crest.

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Ireland also is the home of another holiday giving option from Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, C&C International Ltd., Dublin. Accentuating its "Give Every Man His Dew" program, the gift pack contains one 750-ml. bottle of whiskey and two rocks glasses etched with the brand's logo. Tullamore Dew's Irish heritage is linked with its countryside image captured by photojournalist Tony Gavin.

Boru Vodka also takes its inspiration from the Emerald Isle as it is named after high king Brian Boru. The vodka from Castle Brands, New York City, was released in a set that transcends holiday giving occasions to a year-round option, the company says. Inspired by the vodka's clear packaging, the package includes a clear acrylic martini pitcher and stir rod.

Castle Brands also offers two Irish Whiskey brands, Knappogue Castle and Clontarf, in gift packs this season. Enclosed in a black box, a bottle of Knappogue Castle Whiskey is accompanied with a ceramic water pitcher, which is made for the tradition of adding a splash of water to enhance the whiskey's flavor. Fellow whiskey brand, Clontarf, is presented in a package with two rocks glasses frosted with the brand's name.

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Also making its way from Europe is Castle Brands' Pallini Limoncello holiday gift box. The Italian liqueur's set includes two hand-blown "classico" glasses for drinking the lemon-flavored spirit.

Two signature cocktail recipes for Castle Brands' Gosling Black Seal Rum are the focus of more gift sets. A little hot water is all you need add to the ingredients packed in Gosling's Black Seal Rum's Perfect Hot Toddy gift set, which include a 750-ml. bottle of rum and 12-ounce jar of Gosling Gourmet Hot Buttered Rum Toddy mix. Additionally, the rum offers the Dark 'n Stormy mason jar mug set for a conventional take on the traditional cocktail of Bermuda.

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Cognac connoisseurs were the target for Camus Cognac's XO Elegance Gift Set. The brand, imported by AV Imports, Baltimore, Md., was packaged in a set with two crystal glasses specially chosen to highlight the subtle flavors of Camus XO Elegance, the company says. The set retails for $99.

Also prepared for party occasions, Chopin Vodka and Navan Natural Vanilla Liqueur unveiled their promotional packaging options. The Chopin set includes a platinum-stemmed martini glass, cocktail recipe book and a 750-ml. bottle of vodka. A carrying case encloses a 750-ml. bottle of Navan liqueur and also includes two stemless martini glasses.

Tea for you

The largest variety of beverage gift sets may come from spirits companies, but the tea trend has opened new consumers to the beverage. Whether for the tea aficionado or curious consumer, companies have released packages that combine favorite varieties in presentable packages. The tea chest, which presents several tea flavors in a box, is a popular choice with incarnations available from Starbuck's Tazo and Twinings of London.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Davidson's Teas, Reno, Nev., is offering samplers of its organic teas in Mini Tea Chests. Packaged in a sustainable and reusable pine chest containing 40 tea bags, the chests are available in Holiday, Classic, Chai, Dessert and Green Tea assortments. The company also stocks multiple gift set options, including a Flowering Tea gift set. It includes three tins of Organic Flowering Teas and a clear tea pot to watch the tea unfold as it brews.

In addition to year-round gift baskets, boxes and cases, R.C. Bigelow Inc., Fairfield, Conn., also offers seasonal gifts, such as Frosty's Basket. The winter-themed basket contains cookies and eight-bag samplers of seasonal teas, including Pumpkin Spice, Eggnogg'n, Ginger Snappish and Apple Cider. The four teas also are available as a box set in 20-count packages.

For the health-conscious recipient, Ito En announced several sets suited for gift-giving. The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company emphasizes its green tea collection this season with the New Way of Tea gift set, which includes one bottle of Ito En's Teas' Tea, two single-serve cans of Sencha Shot, Sencha and Jasmine loose leaf teas, and six tea bags each of Gyokuro, Sencha and Jasmine green teas.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Medicine and tea combine in Ito En's Dr. Andrew Weil for Tea line, which has been packaged in a holiday gift set. The set includes a canister of Sencha with Matcha loose leaf tea, Genmaimatcha tea bags, turmeric powder, and Jasmine White and Gyokuro ready-to-drink steel cans.

This article was published on Tuesday 24 June, 2008.

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