You’ve been invited for a long weekend or holiday. Maybe your host is an old friend who requires nothing more than your presence, a six pack, and an extra pair of hands to do the dishes. But maybe not. Maybe she’s the exceedingly elegant, very finicky, brilliantly witty aunt of your fiancé, or maybe he’s a classically trained cook who plans to wine and dine you for a week or an entrepreneur who seems to already own everything imaginable but never has a moment for herself.
Enter the all-important hostess gift. Whether your host is a shochu drinker or chocolate lover, a tea connoisseur or an amateur chef with a tiny kitchen, I’ve discovered that the best gifts are the ones that provide both instant gratification and lasting pleasure (read: reminder to invite you back.) This could be a hand-crafted tequila bottle that becomes a favorite vase, a set of linen napkins, chic tea tins, or a bag of best-in-show self-pampering products. If you’re about to land on someone’s doorstep, I’ve got you covered. Choose a bundle of items or just one that fits the bill. These are tried and true and, well, hint-hint, they’re on my wish list, too.
The Best Gifts for Gardeners According to a Chef-Turned-Green-Thumb
Give your favorite gardener these harvest baskets, pruners, and hot pink garden twine, and reap the rewards come summer.Celeste, an avid gardener, had spent the last decade nourishing this Brooklyn space into a lush, dappled paradise—planting frilly ferns and pothos lillies against the shaded back fence, winterizing the fig tree in thick blankets before the first snow, and, building and tending to the three large raised beds where she grew vegetables and herbs, which she’d harvest and leave on my doorstep, edible bouquets stuffed into a mason jar. Now, the garden was mine.
For the tea connoisseur with a flair for color
Paris for Her combines rose, raspberry, lychee and green tea. Thé de Moines, a black and green blend, marries the floral citrus burst of bergamot with sensual jasmine and creamy vanilla, and Goût Russe 7 Agrumes pairs bergamot with six other citrus fruits and black tea for a zesty morning brew. Better yet, the chic, colorful tins from Paris add color to a shelf and can be reused.
For the francophile oenophile
Château Lassègue is enviably nestled on the Côte de Saint Émilion in Bordeaux. Seventh generation vigneron Pierre Seillan and his son Nicolas Seillan, using fifty year old vines planted in clay and limestone-rich soil, have released a deliciously silky, beautifully rounded 2017 Grand Cru with notes of cassis and violet that is both highly drinkable now and a great candidate for aging. Ahead of the curve in prioritizing sustainability, the vineyard is notable for melding age-old traditions with responsible environmental practices. And to open the bottle, the Laguiole En Aubrac Waiters Corkscrew in olive wood is made to be handed down through generations. It’s a timeless classic.
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For the salad artist
These ingenious Global Gardens fruit-infused California balsamic vinegars and extra-virgin olive oils come from one of the world’s only certified olive oil sommeliers. Mix at a 1:3 ratio and your vinaigrette is done. The Pomegranate Power Golden Balsamic Vinegar and Back Yard EVOO instantly add character to a salad of grains or couscous, or drizzle the Blood Orange Dark Balsamic over burrata or a winter caprese made of sliced citrus fruits, buffalo mozzarella and a handful of pine nuts. If possible, bring fresh greens from the farmer’s market in a beautiful black acacia salad bowl.
For the calm seeker:
This hostess gift acknowledges that entertaining, however fun, takes work—and this bundle (aside from your excellent company) is the reward. From Rishi Tea, four favorites: Jade Cloud and Orange Blossom for green tea drinkers, White Peony for an understated floral aroma, Hibiscus Berry for a fruity dose of antioxidants. Instruct your host to brew a pot of tea, light their new Maison Louis Marie candle, and lavish a bath with oil from Susanne Kaufmann. If you want an absolute guarantee that you’ll be invited back, throw in a jar of Augustinus Bader’s cult-favorite body cream. Created by one of the world’s top stem-cell scientists, it was formulated to harness the body’s power to self heal and regenerate its own stem-cells—making it both an investment and an indulgence.
For the avant-garde chocolate lover
The handmade Avant Garde square bars with caramel interiors from Chocolat Moderne may riff on Mondrian’s squares, but their impossible-to-resist flavors are decidedly contemporary. Don’t try to choose between the dark chocolate with blood orange bergamot; the milk chocolate with smoky mezcal; the dark chocolate smoked Welsh sea salt; the berries and lavender; or the passion fruit and cardamom. More is more, so spring for two or three of each so as not to eat your entire gift en route and arrive empty-handed.
For the clean spirited
Shochu is the most popular spirit in Japan, but it’s still not widely known in the States. When made from rice and water, it has a crisp freshness to it similar to that of silver tequila and vodka, and it happens to be carb-free, sugar-free, and gluten-free. Mujen produces three varieties: AI, which is clear and can be drunk neat or mixed; The Original, also clear, and ideal for cocktails; and X, which is aged and has a similar mouthful to single malt. Made in a woman-run 4th generation distillery in Japan, Mujen is that ancient recipe that suddenly feels very contemporary.
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Simone I. Smith adds a little bit of color to her husband’s song.“I wanted to tap into the beauty business because it brings me joy,” she tells ESSENCE exclusively about her pivot into lacquer. “I definitely want to bring joy to the women the same way that I did with my jewelry.
For a close friend
Because you can never have too many pillows and linens. With bold geometric shapes and soft colors, these blue and cream pillows can be tossed on a sofa, a bed, an armchair. A bundle of linen napkins tied with a tassel will be a reminder of your visit. Mix three colors for a set of twelve.
For the BFF who never springs on luxury for herself
These best-of beauty items are extravagant, so save them for that bestie whose guest bedroom might as well have your name on the door and whose kitchen is already better stocked than yours. Eyes to Kill mascara from Armani is not the name of the new James Bond movie, but Daniel Craig’s successor should be so lucky to have this weapon in his arsenal. Chantecaille’s newly reformulated BioLifting Mask does exactly what it promises. Tom Ford’s Gloss Luxe for lips in Bare Assed is sparkle for grown-ups. Hermès Poudre d’Orfèvre face and eye illuminating powder gives skin a candlelit glow. And Sisley’s Velvet Nourishing Cream with Saffron Flowers smells divine. Put it all in a Champagne bucket, and tie with a silk ribbon.
For the space-challenged gourmet cook
Anyone with a small kitchen understands the need for stackability, but, until now, the beloved Staub pots (on the list of BA’s favorite Dutch ovens) and skillets were only for those with the space to put them side by side. Not so any longer. A stackable set includes a 5-quart Dutch oven, a braiser, a grill pan, and a universal lid and only takes up 13 inches in diameter. This is for that seriously altruistic friend who hosted your kids for two weeks—and tutored them in long division—while you took your frayed nerves to a yoga retreat to regain some semblance of mental balance after a year of Zoom-only school.
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For the tequila connoisseur
Clase Azul makes some of the finest tequilas and mezcals on the market. Most come in a decanter, handmade and hand-painted by Indigenous Mazahua artisans in Santa María Canchesda. Long after the tequila is gone, these can be repurposed as vases, water bottles, even candleholders. Try the mezcal Guerrero for its lemony, woody, full-bodied freshness and the tequila reposado for its incredible richness and creamy notes of vanilla, candied orange peel, and clove.
For the stylish teetotaler:
Three Spirit, a line of non-alcoholic spirits made with functional plants, has been known to save the day—and maybe the morning after, too. The Livener energizes with schisandra berry and guayusa, the Social Elixir pairs cacao, molasses, tea and yerba mate in a dark brew that warms even when served cold. And Nightcap, with valerian root (a key ingredient in many of BA’s favorite sleepytime teas), ashwagandha and ginger, promises a good night’s sleep—which is perhaps the ultimate gift of all.