As the holiday season approaches and parties and celebrations fill the calendar, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when choosing which alcoholic beverages to bring or serve. Steve Rubin of Huntington Wine & Spirits aims to make the choice a simple one. The family-owned liquor store has been in business for over 83 years, providing customer service and a wide variety of products to the Symphony and Northeastern University area.
The Sun sat down with Rubin to create a buying guide for holiday beverages. “There are many choices out there to meet everyone’s palate and budget,” Rubin said.
According to Rubin, most people drink red wines in the winter, and there are many affordable California Cabernet wines in the $15 range.
“Other hot categories that offer value are red blends, which usually run under $15 a bottle,” Rubin said. Countries that offer great quality and price on wines are Argentina, Portugal, and Spain, he added.
What if red wine is not your thing? “White wines go so well with food,” Rubin said, and “nothing matches better than a Sauvignon blanc for any food dish.” If you’re in the mood for something sweeter, moscatos are still a popular choice for the winter, and sparking wines always increase in popularity this time of year as well.
“Roses were still popular all summer and even though we’re in the winter they still sell because they’re so refreshing and offer great value,” he said. With an uptick in consuming healthier beverages, Huntington Wine & Spirits also carries a low-calorie wine called FitVine, which Rubin said has proven to be quite popular.
Boxed wines are popular as well — both in the larger versions and the smaller Tetra Paks, which can be recycled. Rubin said that Bota Box is a “great quality” boxed wine that’s a “huge seller.”
A tip from Rubin: purchase a sparkling wine from France, but one that is produced just outside the Champagne region. It can’t be called “champagne,” but it will have comparable quality for less money, usually in the $10-$15 range.
“Customers should always read the back of the wine bottle,” Rubin said. “It usually tells a story.”
Rubin is also running a winter wine sale, where customers can get 20 percent off of any six bottles of wine storewide.
Rubin said that “boutique beers” and handcrafted beers are “still selling strong.” He said that popular all-time favorite products at his store include all products from Sam Adams, along with Night Shift Brewery from Everett, Lagunitas, Jacks Abby, and Founders Brewing Company.
He said that the domestic beer market is down due to the rise in the craft beer segment, along with the continued immense popularity of hard seltzers. Rubin said that there has been a “good following” for locally brewed beers, including Turtle Swamp Brewing in Jamaica Plain and Winter Hill Brewing in Somerville.
The holiday beers are now out for sale at Huntington Wine & Spirits. “People tend to love them because of the nutmeg and cinnamon flavors they use,” Rubin said. With so many choices, it can be hard to narrow down what to purchase, but Rubin explained that Breckenridge Bower’s Christmas Ale is a classic favorite, as well as Harpoon’s Winter Warmer. Bavarian German beers are also seeing a surge in popularity, he said.
He added that larger beer bottles, known as “bombers” are no longer popular. Instead, four packs of 16-ounce cans sell the best right now as people are looking for “easy to carry and quality products.”
“The seltzer craze continues,” Rubin said, calling it a “very popular refreshing beverage that’s taking the country by storm.” He said that White Claw is the most popular brand, followed by Truly. “The trend will see more premium seltzers coming to the market in the next few months,” he said, adding that they have cut into the domestic beer sales.
Ciders continue to be popular throughout the year, and winter is no exception. Rubin said that Downeast brewed in East Boston remains the most popular, as well as Citizen Cider from Vermont. Angry Orchard remains popular as well.
“Customers want premiumization of brands,” Rubin said. “They want to buy a better quality product, whereas the dollar value makes it worthwhile to pick out a great craft or artisanal beverage.”
For spirits, Tito’s leads the category for vodka, but Rubin said that other great values include Svedka from Sweden and Reyka from Iceland.
“Rum seems to have a little resurgence,” he said, adding that bourbons are increasingly popular in the winter.
“A lot of spirits are using flavors to appeal to the American palate,” Rubin said, with flavors like peach, apple, and vanilla being used in everything from vodka to bourbon
Additionally, Rubin said that the trends heading into 2020 show that Canadian whiskeys “will be a winner due to their price point and quality.”
Rubin said an important thing to note is the tariffs that have been placed on single malt scotch, which consumers will begin to see the effects of very soon. “Now’s the chance to stock up,” he said, as there will be an increase of anywhere between $3 and $8 on the liquor.
Another category that has seen a lot of growth is Korean soju, which is a clear liquor that comes in several different flavors, Rubin said.
Rubin stressed the importance of supporting local package stores this holiday season, as “they are the ones that give back to the community and can offer more service than some of the big box retailers and supermarkets.”
Huntington Wine & Spirits has been active in community organizations such as the Fenway CDC, the Fenway Civic Association, and the United Symphony Neighbors. Additionally, Rubin said, “We try to keep our neighborhood clean since we are a neighborhood destination for over 83 years.”