Thursday, November 27, 2003

The ABCs of Christmas

26 days of gift ideas

A is for an alphabetical Christmas. Beginning today, the Star-Bulletin's merry shopping elves are presenting 26 days of holiday gift selections, pegged to the letters of the alphabet, in hope of easing the burden of searching for the perfect items to match up with the personalities on your shopping list.

Yes, we know the Thanksgiving Day turkey remnants have yet to be put away. So, sorry to intrude on your one day of rest before the crazy season begins. But you'll definitely want to draw up your plan of action, because tomorrow, forget it -- the nightmare of traffic, endless lines and sales stampedes threaten to turn you into a quivering mass of jelly, and no good could come of that. Courage, man! Keep it together!

There are as many ways to say "Merry Christmas" as there are individuals on this planet, so our diverse group of male and female, young and younger (in their minds, at least), married and single feature writers have done their best to consider every lifestyle and bank account.

Our countdown ends just before Christmas Eve because, as our gift to you, we didn't want any stragglers stuck at the malls on that dreaded day. If you see anyone out there on Dec. 24, have compassion, they must be reading something else. Ho, ho, ho!

A is for alcohol as
we embark upon
our alphabetical
gift-giving journey

Hpnotiq, a blend of vodka, cognac and fruit juice, is the trendiest way to get a buzz this season.

THE START of this year's Christmas season means it's time to get ready for holiday dinners, office parties and that sometimes-uncomfortable feeling of receiving a gift without having anything to give in return.

What do you do when someone walks up to your desk and drops off "a little something" that you weren't expecting? Are you forced to participate in the annual "Secret Santa" exchange and have to come up with a gift in the $10-to-$15 range without knowing who the recipient is? Running out of ideas, and a gift card from one of the stores in the mall just isn't going to cut it this year?

Got alcohol?

TO BE clear, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin does not endorse or promote the consumption of alcoholic beverages, especially if you're under the legal drinking age. And if you do decide to drink this holiday season, please remember to get a designated driver for the evening or set aside a few bucks to catch a cab.

That said, alcohol makes a great stocking stuffer for those of us on limited budgets, or folks who can't afford to show up at Christmas dinner this year empty-handed. Here are a few suggestions sure to put a smile on a person's face -- at least until the hangover sets in.

Gift Guide A-Z

A | B | C | D | E | F | G
H | I | J | K | L | M | N
O | P | Q | R | S | T | U
V | W | X | Y | Z

Currently enjoying a surge in popularity is Hpnotiq, a blend of cognac and triple-distilled vodka with fruit juices, that's imported from France. Want to sound sophisticated giving this stuff as a gift? Tell the recipient that it includes three types of cognac (Petite Champagne, Fins Bois and Borderies) all in one bottle, or that its almost-fluorescent blue color is achieved by adding blueberry skins to the mix during production.

At a price of $16 to $24 per bottle, Hpnotiq is a good choice for someone who already has a bar at home, because it can be made into a drink with just about anything else. Martini, cosmopolitan, mimosa and margarita recipes are all listed online at, and the hip-hop crowd has picked up on "The Incredible Hulk," a mix of Hennessy and Hpnotiq that -- after knocking back two or three -- would probably make you feel like tearing your clothes off and running around screaming like Lou Ferrigno himself.

In addition to nightspots such as Blue Tropix, Volcanoes and Zanzabar, Hpnotiq is also available at most Longs Drugs stores on Oahu and at Costco Wholesale.

John Abreu of Blue Tropix Night Club makes a martini with Hpnotiq, a blend of vodka and cognac.

MAYBE YOU'VE got a bit more time to shop around, or need the advice of someone who really knows alcohol. If this is the case, one of Honolulu's specialty liquor stores is your destination of choice.

The past few years have been good to alcohol connoisseurs in town. With the opening of Fujioka's Wine Merchants in the Market City Shopping Center and Tamura's Fine Wine and Liquors on Waialae Avenue, consumers have more choices when it comes to picking up a bottle of wine or some 10-year-old single-malt scotch.

Open since September, The Wine Stop is the new kid on the block, but is definitely worth checking out. Located at 1809 S. King St. (across from the old King's Bakery), the store owned and operated by Kim Karalovich and Liane Fu offers nearly 250 wine selections in addition to hard liquor and a variety of microbrews.

Most wines are in the $7-to-$13 range here, and Karalovich takes pride in showing customers how they can save money and still go home with something that will taste good with dinner.

She says the store is "focusing on uniqueness ... things that aren't common" and might be overlooked by some of her competitors.

Gift baskets, starting at $35 and made to order, are also available, and The Wine Stop offers free delivery through the holiday season.

Kim Karalovich and Liane Fu have opened The Wine Stop on King Street, offering 250 wine selections in addition to hard liquor and a variety of microbrews.

ONE FINAL idea is a gift that keeps on giving -- for another 11 months, that is.

Illinois-based Clubs of America offers membership to "The Great American Beer Club" at a cost of $29.95 per month, with no minimum time requirement. Every 30 days, members receive a 12-pack with four types of microbrewed beer in 12-ounce bottles. This is a great gift idea for the beer drinker with a sense of adventure, since you never know what kind of beer will show up on your doorstep from month to month.

Unfortunately, if you join "The Great American Beer Club," you never know if the Honolulu Liquor Commission will end up at your door, either. According to HLC chief investigator John Carroll, "only licensed wholesalers can import liquor into the state."

But the law "doesn't make reference to beer-of-the-month clubs," he acknowledged. Without the commission being tipped off to the activity or receiving an actual written complaint, Carroll said enforcement would be kind of difficult.

If you're willing to chance it, sign up for "The Great American Beer Club" at, or call (800) 258-2872.

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