A Gentleman Never Arrives Empty-Handed

by A Manly Guest Contributor on August 4, 2011 · 60 comments

in A Man's Life, On Etiquette

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Raymond.

It’s a sultry summer night, and you’re on your way to an elegant dinner party given by your boss and his charming wife. You arrive at the appropriate time, impeccably dressed in casual evening wear and greet your hostess with a smile—and nothing more.

Imagine your mortification and horror when you pass a table in the hall loaded with bottles of wine, flower arrangements, gourmet coffee, and other small gifts. You search your brain…is it the host’s anniversary? A birthday? Did someone retire?

Although the party might be a celebration of one of those occasions, it’s far more likely that guests with better manners than you brought thoughtful tokens of appreciation for their hosts.

Like thank you notes, the giving of gifts to your hosts is becoming a lost art. When we do remember to bring a nice little something, it’s invariably a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of wine from the corner liquor store. Really, can’t we do better than that?

Gone may be the days of bringing your hostess lavish crystal or a pair of mourning doves when you arrive at the manor for a weekend stay, but we haven’t become complete savages. Your hosts have expended a great deal of time, effort, and expense to provide you with an evening (or weekend) of food, drink, and entertainment. The least you can do is thank them with an appropriate gift.

Summer is here and with it a bevy of seasonal social obligations: barbeques, picnics, dinner parties, and weekends away. Never arrive at someone’s home without something more to contribute than your personality, as stunning as it might be. Take this opportunity to man up and accept this simple rule: no matter what the occasion, a gentleman never arrives empty-handed.

The Rules of Appropriate Gifting

A hostess gift doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be thoughtful. Consider the types of activities your hosts enjoy, and gift accordingly. As a general rule, your budget should be around $15 to $30, depending upon the formality of the occasion.

An important rule to remember is that you should never bring anything that makes more work for your hosts. The best example is that of flowers: If you bring a cello-wrapped bouquet, your hostess must stop what she is doing, find a vase, trim the ends from the flowers and greenery, arrange the bouquet, and find a place for it. If you’re giving flowers, be sure to bring a bouquet that is already arranged in a vase.

Likewise, never bring food to add to the menu unless your hostess has specifically requested you do so. If you’d like to bring food or drink as your gift, make sure your hosts understand that the gift is for their enjoyment, and you don’t expect them to share it with their guests.

Give Thoughtfully

Although wine and flowers are traditional hostess gifts and will always be appreciated, why not challenge yourself and come up with something a little more creative? Try one of these suggestions:

  • Gourmet coffee. Always opt for whole bean coffee (if they’re the kind of people who will enjoy coffee as a gift, they’re likely to have their own grinder). Skip the fancy flavors and select a medium brew from a recognized brand, not the mystery bag you find on the shelf at Ross.
  • Fine chocolate. For a gift of chocolate to be a hit, it must be unusual and special. Visit an upscale department store or chocolatier for a small box of exquisite truffles.
  • Posh spices. If you know your hosts enjoy cooking, visit an upscale market or boutique for a selection of interesting peppercorns, cinnamon, or other often-used spices. A set of sea salts will likely be a big hit. You might also consider a small assortment of spices for ethnic food, such as turmeric, saffron, or coriander.
  • Scented candles. Yes, these are overdone, but there’s a reason for that—most everyone enjoys them. Opt for something well-crafted, not a Glade candle from the supermarket. For a host, try a candle with a uniquely masculine scent–like one that smells like a barbershop.
  • Kitchen gadgets. Hosts that frequently entertain will always enjoy adding another tool to their party arsenal, like retro metal cocktail skewers, linen kitchen cloths, or a set of unique coasters.
  • Fresh produce. If you happen to garden, bring a small box of your garden’s bounty, packaged so that it can go straight into the refrigerator. Even if your hosts are carnivores, they’ll delight in your interesting gift. Skip this option if you don’t garden or settle for something simple, like a large basket of succulent road-stand strawberries.

Avoid overly personal gifts, such as perfume, bath products, or articles of clothing. Although etiquette guides disagree, skip the houseplant unless your hostess has a renowned green thumb; otherwise, you put her at risk of worrying if she’ll kill it.

Although it may seem terribly clever, resist the urge to develop a “signature” gift, such as a particular bottle of wine you bring each time you visit. You might think your hosts delight in receiving your special brand of manliness, but in reality, they’re probably chuckling about the fact that you’ve brought the same bottle of poor quality chardonnay to their last three dinner parties.

Let the Gift Match the Occasion

Your hostess gift should reflect the occasion. An elaborate flower arrangement isn’t appropriate for a pool party, just as a six-pack just won’t do for a formal dinner. Consider the tone and nature of the party, and gift accordingly.

Occasions that demand hostess gifts include dinner parties, pool parties, weekend visits, extended stays…basically anytime you’re foisting your presence on someone in their home.

Although Peggy Post, descendent of etiquette doyenne Emily Post, says that it isn’t necessary to bring a gift to a cocktail party or open house, what could it hurt? Who doesn’t want another bottle of premium vodka for their bar? Who would be offended by a simple flower arrangement? It’s far better to err on the side of graciousness and bring a little something, regardless of the occasion.

Wine, Beer & Spirits

All this talk of flowers and scented candles aside, most men prefer to bring liquor to events they attend. Yes, as we’ve mentioned it’s not very unique, but it’s well-received, it’s easier, and it’s something many men feel more comfortable buying and giving. Appropriate to nearly every occasion—except if you’re visiting a “dry” house—alcohol can be a thoughtful hostess gift if you think a little before you purchase it.

Take wine, for example. If your hosts are oenologists, don’t insult them with a bottle of two-buck Chuck. Visit a real liquor store and purchase something in the $20 range, like a nice chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon. Or you could exercise a little creativity and select an interesting sauvignon blanc, viognier, zinfandel (red only, please), muscat or shiraz from a more unusual wine region, like Alexander Valley or Chile. If you are helpless around wine, ask the proprietor for help.

Fine liquor makes for another excellent hostess gift. Unless you know your host has specific tastes in spirits, stick to the basics, like brandy, fine gin, flavored vodka, or top-shelf tequila. Jagermeister, Goldschlager, and flavored schnapps are never acceptable.

You might think that beer isn’t an appropriate hostess gift, but you would be wrong—provided you give it at the right occasion. As previously mentioned, a formal dinner is not the right event for beer, unless, of course, your host is a microbrewery aficionado. In that case, opt for something unique and interesting, like something you’d order from a beer club. For more casual occasions, pick up a six-pack of good beer, like a stout or an IPA.

Giving the Gift with Style

Although it isn’t necessary to stick a bow on your sixer or your wine in a fancy bag, you should take care to present your gift with style. Non-alcohol-related gifts should be wrapped or otherwise artfully presented, with the price tags removed and the store bag left in the car.

When you arrive, don’t thrust the package at your host the moment she opens the door. Say hello, walk inside, and only then present your host with your thoughtful gift. Make certain she knows that she is under no obligation to share; the gift is purely for her amusement and enjoyment.

_________________________________________________________

Raymond is a beer enthusiast and casual blogger. Currently he writes about beer for BeerClubGuide.com, a site that reviews and rates Beer Clubs.

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Natasha August 4, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Yes, yes and YES. Thank you for this article. I very much enjoyed it. My boyfriend has his friends over to the house at least a few times a week, and it is a RARE occasion when any of them bring something. It ticks me off to no end, because they always help themselves to the beer in our fridge! Granted, it’s cheap stuff, but I think it’s polite to return the favor once in a while by bringing your host and hostess something. I was raised to never go to somebody’s house empty-handed, and I never have. As you suggest, I always take the person I’m visiting and the occasion into account and plan what I’m bringing around that.

2 Brandon August 4, 2011 at 7:05 pm

This is great advice as I’ve often wondered if there was anything outside of the standard wine/flowers combinations that I could bring. And when it comes to a “dry” household, I’ve been at a loss as what to do. Thanks for the advice!

3 Sandy August 4, 2011 at 7:58 pm

LTR;FTP. Please don’t actually get your host(ess) kitchen stuff. If they like to cook, they’re probably pretty picky and you just never know what suits them, or they might have stuffed their kitchen to the brim with kitchen gadgets/tools already. All the other suggestions were magnificent. A nice and unique craft soda/mixer, a storage-safe dessert (like a unique sorbet), beautiful coasters, or an excellent cheese is also always welcome in a household that loves to entertain.

4 Mackenzie August 4, 2011 at 8:34 pm

And if you run a dry household, now you know what to do with all that stupid wine people keep bringing over: pass it around like fruitcake at Christmas!

5 Native Son August 4, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Dry household? Bring tea. Hosts don’t use caffiene? Green Tea.
Better yet, ask a few discreet questions beforehand. They you won’t be the guy bringing a decent bottle of Pinot Grigio to an Amway Party.

6 austin August 4, 2011 at 9:44 pm

What do you guys think about a nice sort of book that could go on a coffee table or a bookshelf?

7 evred August 4, 2011 at 9:57 pm

“Jagermeister, Goldschlager, and flavored schnapps are never acceptable.”

Why?

8 Edmond August 4, 2011 at 11:02 pm

A very relevant article for the young twenty-somethings today.

9 Nick` August 4, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Thanks, I only recently started doing this based on noticing when the hosts would be friendly with me and when they were a bit put off.

10 Robert Decker III August 4, 2011 at 11:44 pm

An idea I like is bringing a nice bottle of olive oil. A couple of gourmet olive oil shops have opened up in my town which makes it that much easier.

11 Steele August 5, 2011 at 3:18 am

Well…I’m a young “twenty something” and definitely thought this article to be very relevant. I haven’t always been sure on the proper etiquette in these situations and am happy to take on board the suggestions.

12 Gifts Idea August 5, 2011 at 5:36 am

Very Pertinent editorial for the young twenty-something today.

13 Graeme August 5, 2011 at 7:34 am

Overall, I think this is a great article. The contribution is appreciated and I have to agree on most points…except I respectfully disagree on the following:
“Jagermeister, Goldschlager, and flavored schnapps are never acceptable.”

I would say that this is more a matter of personal taste, circumstances and the company you keep…plus its not like these are the cheapest of the cheap.

I know plenty of people and plenty of instances in which presenting something like one of the three types of drinks would be genuinely, graciously received and appreciated :)

14 Bonnie August 5, 2011 at 8:00 am

This post reminded me of several Seinfeld episodes that probably contributed to the confusion about bringing a hostess gift.

In lots of movies I’ve watched, the hostess hands the flowers over to the maid. :) They’re never wrapped in plastic, though.

15 Dave August 5, 2011 at 8:10 am

I tend to go overboard in the other direction, bringing expensive gifts that make the hosts feel uncomfortable (or so I have been told by credible sources). I will continue to bring gifts, but they need to be less lavish. On the other hand, when people come to visit us and they bring cheap and tacky gifts, it makes me feel under-appreciated. If they brought no gifts at all, I would think that they were just forgetful, but cheap gifts give a bad impression.

16 Jon August 5, 2011 at 8:56 am

Good article; giving gifts makes the host feel appreciated by the guest. As a beer man, make sure you know what kind of beer your host likes if you are going to give that. It is ironic that the article mentioned two styles of beer I generally don’t go for, yet would love almost anything else that was high quality.
Bottom line, know your host and give a gift they would like. If you are not sure, just go the safe route.

17 Steven August 5, 2011 at 9:35 am

Tropical Fruit. If you are in the city or close to one bring something beyond pineapples that people wouldn’t usually eat, like jack fruit or rambutan or sour sop.

18 Dave B. August 5, 2011 at 9:38 am

Excellent suggestions! I appreciate the mention of kitchen gadgetry; if you know your host or hostess well enough and what they might appreciate, this is a very personalized gift that will stand out in their minds.

I can also recommend casual or conversational books (the like that find their way to coffee tables), cheeses (find a small retailer for these; I purchase directly from a small dairy that makes their own), and cigars (use your best judgment on gifting these).

If your host or hostess has particular interests you can exploit in selecting your gift, do so! A gift that pertains to their interests will show that you think about them and will be particularly memorable next to all of the booze they were handed.

19 jim August 5, 2011 at 10:32 am

If you are going to uhmm let’s say a more relaxed barbeque or just visiting people you are friendly is buying a small gift like one of those plates that go over the grill(found this one for 20 $, http://amzn.to/oY0Z1y the “mangrate” is more expensive at around 30 but is made from cast iron so might be better ) more appropriate than a bootle of wine for the same ammount of cash?

20 Claude August 5, 2011 at 10:56 am

Great suggestions.

I’ve also found that bringing an ice cream treat is usually a hit. The parties we attend are usually pretty informal and most of our friends have young kids, so we bring enough for the adults and kids to enjoy after dinner. Its also a good way to bribe the kids to stay in the other room.

21 lady brett August 5, 2011 at 11:10 am

although you don’t address it directly, i appreciate the emphasis on consumables. it is ideal to me to get something, be able to enjoy it, and then be done with it. as compared to non-consumable stuff, which i have to find a place for, figure out what to do with, or possibly just pass it along. that even applies to stuff i *like* – there’s just a limited amount of space for stuff in any house. mind, flowers and candles are rather consumable as well (by wilt or flame, rather than by mouth).

as for a dry household, i think the crate of glass-bottled cokes pictured above would be lovely! or perhaps craft sodas, for a more interesting touch. and we’ve started canning. we haven’t managed to make much excess yet, but i’m hoping to can enough in the future to gift that.

22 Diego August 5, 2011 at 11:13 am

Great post and website! It is great to give and to receive, but it is not necessarily the case that bringing something for the host is a mark of the highest form of etiquette. I prefer the ‘thank you’ note and/or gift after the event. In fact, in parts of Europe, it is actually considered impolite to bring something to a dinner party because there is an (perhaps unfair) insinuation that the host will not have all that is needed for the dinner, i.e., bringing a bottle of wine, etc. (Read “French or Foe?: Getting the Most Out of Visiting, Living and Working in France) Gift giving is great, but in terms of timing, after is better. Perhaps I speak for myself, but if a guy puts in the effort to host a great party, the last thing he should want is for guests to be worrying about what they should bring, and what others will think if they do or don’t, etc. When you’re a guest, I think it’s okay to simply be a guest. Dressing sharp and showing good spirits to everyone present will demonstrate profound gratitude for the honor of the invitation. Let the host be the host and allow him the pleasure of taking care of his guests. After the dinner, a gent. should definitely express his gratitude with a card and/or gift. That is classy.

23 criolle johnny August 5, 2011 at 11:43 am

I make my own candles, yeah I know kinda weird hobby. Anyway, I always bring a few candles whenever I attend any sort of gathering.
It’s fun seeing who swipes the last one when the party breaks up!

24 Stephanie Br. August 5, 2011 at 12:03 pm

What a great post! I have not thought of gift giving at dinner parties before. We usually just do casual parties with friends and always bring our own beer and usually offer to bring a food item beforehand to plan. But it would be a nice token and fun new trend to start among friends!

25 Tim August 5, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Regarding wine, “something in the $20 range” is horrible advice! If you don’t know what you are looking for, ask! Just going to a price range is not a good choice. Do not feel embarrassed that you don’t know everything about every wine on the market. That is why good shops hire knowledgeable staff and train them constantly. There are many terrific wines in the $9 – $15 range. Your host will always prefer a great $10 wine as opposed to a so-so $22 wine or a lack-luster $65 bottle. I love when someone brings to me a wine that was $8 and taste great. My wine tastings have included bottles from $6 to over $200. Guess what, most “aficionados” can’t tell the difference between the two when a great tasting wine is chosen for the lower priced option.

26 Brett Dent August 5, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Excellent article, with one disagreement (and agreement with evred #7 and graeme #13). Never say “never.” A small bottle of Jaegermeister is a fun and thoughtful gift for friends that have expressed interest, have very little idea what it is, and would likely never think to buy it themselves. Same with any novelty schnapps that the host/hostess is likely to not get anywhere else. The key here is “Fun!” While perhaps not for a formal occassion, the author advocates bringing a gift to almost ALL occassions. So, is he saying there is “never” an appropriate occassion for Jaeger? May as well be one of those “dry” houses referenced, and the invitation will have be declined:) .

27 G. Schuster August 5, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Some advice my mom gave me once – if you’re going to gift a bottle of wine that is meant to be served cold, make sure it’s *not* chilled when you give it to the host(ess). That way you subtly indicate that the wine is for them to enjoy later. At the same time it shows your confidence in their hosting abilities.

28 Wally-G August 5, 2011 at 4:45 pm

I don’t want to hang with grubby people like this. If you invite someone to dine with you, you shouldn’t be expecting a gift like a spoiled child.

29 Eve August 5, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I have to disagree; gifts are nice, but never obligatory. What is obligatory is a thank-you note, and an invitation. As in, someone invites you to dinner, you have them over for dinner at a later date. You are never required to give someone a gift, whether they’re having you to dinner or at their wedding.

30 cwnidog August 5, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Real saffron threads from Spain about $120/oz, so don’t go crazy. And *don’t* buy the powdered stuff, about the only think you can be sure about with saffron powder is that there’s no saffron in it.

But anybody who brings me a case of Cokes like the one in the picture would be on my guest list for life!

31 Ilana August 6, 2011 at 1:00 am

One of my favorite articles so far, and quite correct.

Handmade truffles are my favorite gift to receive or give, but a nice wine or cheese or a pretty flower arrangement are also always appreciated. Homemade jams or lemon curd are also a wonderful, affordable option.

32 P.M.Lawrence August 6, 2011 at 9:59 am

Likewise, never bring food to add to the menu unless your hostess has specifically requested you do so. If you’d like to bring food or drink as your gift, make sure your hosts understand that the gift is for their enjoyment, and you don’t expect them to share it with their guests.

Oh?

Once, my boss invited me and others – mostly not his subordinates, and including people in higher grades than him – to a barbecue evening, along with our significant others. I brought some pre-cooked chicken, because I knew how (un)organised he was. It was just as well, because otherwise nobody would have had anything but bread to eat until nearly an hour after the advertised time. I bailed him out.

33 Allen Uribes August 6, 2011 at 10:57 am

Fantastic! I’m only 21 so etiquette like this was heretofore completely unknown to me especially in today’s not-so-polite society. This is one more “skill” I can learn and perfect in becoming a gentleman.

Thank you for sharing Raymond.

34 Jon August 6, 2011 at 12:53 pm

What about cigars? Like a sampler pack of Romeo y Julieta…?

35 Tom August 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Adopt graduate students from interesting parts of the world, and your own world will be that much bigger. These are the sharpest young people from their nations, here to earn an American degree and make American friends. Sadly, fewer than 10% will see the inside of an American home.

Turks have a courtly and hospitable culture, and will also serve something to eat and drink when you visit. Bring a small (non-alcoholic!) gift when you come — I like books of mutual interest.

36 Over the River August 6, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Oh the horror. I invited my in-laws to Christmas dinner and said I have the menu all arranged, please just bring your appetite. After spending all day in the kitchen, my father-in-law walks in with a roasted 30 pound turkey (not on my menu of five-day smoked brisket air-shipped the day before).

Everyone else had the turkey, I made a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich and spent the evening browsing the Internet.

37 Jacob August 7, 2011 at 4:07 am

Regarding beers: I like stouts, but they aren’t for everyone. Same with an IPA. Definitely stay away from Budweiser and Miller, though, for anything other than getting together to watch the game. I’m drinking a Blue Moon right now, and Fat Tire is also a nice step up from the mainstream. If you can find it, you might try Moose Drool Brown Ale, but its name doesn’t lend itself to all occasions.

Consider going to a beer and wine specialty store and have a look at even less pedestrian options if these are still too everyday for the occasion. They have a wider selection of regional microbrews, and often also import beers from outside the US – ideal for the appropriate occasion.

38 LG August 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm

A much better gift for coffee aficionado than any brand-name would be something locally roasted. Even small cities often have independent roasteries, and while the beans they sell are sometimes more expensive, they’re almost always far superior in quality and more expertly roasted than anything you can find in a specialty store or chain — and they’ll certainly be much fresher.

Wally-G, look back at the article again. It is about being a gracious guest, not a demanding host.

39 Alessandro August 8, 2011 at 5:40 am

Here in Italy it’s very common to bring something when invited for dinner, definitely not a “lost art”!

40 Simon August 8, 2011 at 8:12 am

The best gift I’ve ever seen was a hip flask and 4 small cups for a drink of pre-round golf.

41 BJS August 8, 2011 at 9:37 am

This article is right on target! Just like everyman should be able to drive a stick, he should no how to arrive at a party.

42 Mark August 8, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Excellent article. I just came across your blog for the first time and have to say it is just awesome! There are so many topics of interest and they are so well written…I’ve already forwarded a link to three of my buddies. As for this specific post – great suggestions! I always just swing by a liquor store and pick up a nice bottle of wine but how boring…. nothing memorable at all. However, I love the idea of chocolates or coffee. Thanks for the post and the awesome blog!!

43 Jamie August 9, 2011 at 1:03 am

Apologies if this has already been mentioned, but don’t forget about the children! Bringing interesting gifts for the children of the house will gain you appreciation from all. Just make sure the gifts are something the children can play with on their own without adult assistance, and immediately. Bonus points if the gifts keep the children occupied and happy for 30 minutes or more!

44 kurt August 9, 2011 at 2:48 am

The perfect thing around Christmas time is almond bark covered pretzels.

45 Jason August 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I want to point out, because it’s been made mention of twice in the comments, that the writer did say, “Unless you know your host has specific tastes in spirits” before he said that “Jagermeister, Goldschlager, and flavored schnapps are never acceptable.” If you know your host has a taste for these items or others that are similar, I think you should feel free to bring them. If not, it is generally good advice to stay away from them until you know your audience well enough to know if they will be well received.

The best advice is to try to bring something that you have a good idea will be well received. If you don’t know your host(ess) that well yet, bring something simple that nearly everyone enjoys, but if you know them fairly well, try to bring a gift suited to match their personality, as well as the occasion.

46 Therese Z August 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Bring a fun consumable. Even if they don’t like it, it will go into their party supply. Half my liqueurs were hostess gifts and I love having the variety to serve with coffee, and I detest probably a third of them – no matter.

And make it the best of whatever. Better to bring a small bag of the best rosemary-and-olive-oil cashews than a big can of Beer Nuts.

47 Darren August 10, 2011 at 7:59 am

Interesting observation about foreign grad students…I have never invited a foreign family over without having them bring something, even a small little gift. Same with Hawaiians…it’s not about expecting anything as a host, it’s about a small thank you.

Right on, Therese. You know the difference between Beer Nuts and Deer Nuts?

Beer Nuts are $3.95 a can.

Deer Nuts are under a buck.

:-)

48 Monsar August 11, 2011 at 5:25 am

Great post. Where im from tradition and culture states the dame, never come emptyhanded, when visited. A little box of chocolate or coffee will do just fine. Its the thought that matters.

49 Jim Z August 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Please don’t bring me kitchen gadgets. It’s a constant battle to rid my kitchen of mono-tasking doodads.

A safe gift is a small container of homemade guacamole or hummus. They’re dead-easy to make, most people like it, does not have to be served at the function – but if it is it shouldn’t eclipse the host’s fare.

50 Uncle Jefe August 13, 2011 at 1:39 pm

While I appreciate you giving advice on gents bringing wine, and especially giving a shout-out to the Alexander Valley, I must protest the term ‘unusual’ in reference to one of the most respected (in terms of history and quality) California appellations.
Alexander Valley is home to Souverain, Jordan, Silver Oak, Simi, Clos du Bois, Sausal, Murphy Goode…and on and on.
It is also the place where hospitality (especially tours and tastings) in the wine industry was born.
The winery at Asti (the historic Italian Swiss Colony) was founded in 1881 (130 yrs ago this year) and put California winemaking on the map.
The original ‘Bottle Shock’ happened in 1911 (100 years ago this year) when the Golden State Champagne of Asti Winery beat the French at the Torino Wine Exposition (the largest and most prestigious in that era), winning the Grand Prix award for best wine of the entire show, and shocking the wine world and drawing attention to the quality and potential of California wine.
Awesome stuff.
Prior to the Exposition, the Petit Journal du Paris said that “up to this point, California has produced wines fit only for German troopers.” (This was during the run-up to WW1.) After the Grand Prix win by Asti, they published an amazing crow-eating article on the incredible Asti wines.
Those same vineyards (although now long-since replanted to other varieties) continue to produce wines that rival any on the globe.
Alexander Valley is not unusual; however, it is a bit of an “in the know” secret amongst wine folks, and is quietly seeing a resurgence of recognition and tourism, especially since Francis Ford Coppola has moved into Alexander Valley and opened up his winery, complete with pools, bars and restaurant, and movie memorabilia.

51 Rob August 15, 2011 at 10:27 pm

What’s all the hoo-ha about “Jagermeister, Goldschlager, and flavored schnapps” ? Doesn’t everyone know that those liquids are for sorority drunks and the booze-hungry sophomores trying to bed them? Seriously, even a pint of something higher end would almost certainly go over much better. Cuz even if your guests honestly love it, SOMEone will crack a Jeagerbomb joke at your expense.

52 Noah August 20, 2011 at 4:45 am

Is Goldschlager Private Stock acceptable? What about Ice 101 Black Label?

53 Xenos April 10, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I think the reason that Jägermeister and other Liqueurs are a somewhat unacceptable gift lies less in the cost/quality of the hooch, and more in the reputation those drinks have in certain circles.

Jägermeister, for instance, is known as a massive “Party Favorite,” because when mixed with certain energy drinks, it becomes quite intoxicating, in addition to the fact the term “Jägerdrunk” refers SPECIFICALLY to the dramatic difference between being “Regular Drunk,” and drunk off of, as James Hetfield put it, “The Sweet Nectar of Life.”

Now, if you know for a fact your host is a fan of any of those Liqueurs, I personally would see nothing wrong with making a gift of a decent sized bottle.

Here’s a for-instance: My buddy is a major fan of Bärenjäger. I think it’s currently running $25 for a pint (don’t quote me-prices are in flux in my state all of the time because of the damn vice tax). I know that, or a quart of ol’ Granddad’s Finest’d set JUST RIGHT with him, regardless of the formality of the occasion.

My parents, on the other hand? They’re a dry house, but are quite fond of hot teas.

In fact, if the person drinks coffee, you should probably see how they feel about hot teas, and get some of those fancy loose-leaf teas that are out there. Killer gift, and fairly well unique.

Anyway, that was quite the bunny trail-Too Long, Didn’t Read? It’s the reputation of the drink, not the quality of it. Drinks that are considered a “Party Drink” would probably be fine for a pool party, but if it’s a formal dinner party… You may want to bring coffee/tea.

54 John April 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I’m glad to see this conversation continuing. Last night I had supper at the home of an accomplished writer, her husband and three other friends of theirs. Although my writer friend and I for years have thought fondly of each other, this was my first invitation into their personal sphere. And after thinking about what I am going to wear, yes, my next thought was what I will bring as a hostess gift.

Saturday night supper: casual. That’s easy. Wine is out even if she and Joe were to enjoy it later because Mary knows that I can’t drink alcohol, and I don’t want my gift to put the focus on me. Fortunately, I remembered I can bake amazingly delicious chocolate chip cookies, and they will match the informal tone of the evening. After I tie a bow on the Ziploc container, I’m set. “This is for you and Joe,” implying this is for later.

By the way, I had a wonderful evening — making new friends, lively conversation, and savoring a marvelous dinner that Mary and Joe prepared together.

55 Isaac May 9, 2013 at 6:39 am

I know I’m jumping on this one a little late, but there’s one point I disagree with in your article. There is generally some expectation that if you bring food gifts they will be shared if appropriate. If I bring a nice bottle of wine to dinner I don’t necessarily expect my hosts to open it there but if it were a fruit platter I’d be surprised not to see it at dessert.

56 Ben May 31, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Excellent article, thank you very much for posting this. It has challenged me to be a better guest and friend.

57 JayMan December 1, 2013 at 10:31 am

What a great site. I’m the maître d’ at a private club in downtown Milwaukee. I have found many answers here over the years. Thank you.

58 judie December 4, 2013 at 11:58 am

Help. Have been promoted and I am invited to a dinner at the country club given by my boss, do I bring a gift and if so what?

59 Katrina December 18, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Enjoyed all the comments on this site. A tradition with our family at Christmas, is to bring a special tree decoration. Each year our family, while trimming the tree will recall where each ornament came from, and we appreciate the memories. Oh, and Darren…Beer Nuts/Deer Nuts (Ha,Ha,Ha! Merry Christmas to jAll.

60 Edlyn February 5, 2014 at 7:57 pm

I know taking a gift to an art show is not necessary but I would really like to give a gift to my friend who is one of the hostess for the upcoming gallery event. What is a proper gift that I can give him?

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