If you ask us, the best part of the holidays is spending time with family and friends. Though we don’t quite party the way we used to pre-kids (sigh), it’s nice to drop in on those we love, and part of the fun is bearing gifts — because we think that anyone who opens their home to us deserves a token of appreciation in return.
That, and it’s fun to spoil the people we love with gorgeous, creative, out-of-the-ordinary hostess gifts that look even more fabulous than you’d think, given their $50 or less price tag.
Let’s get shopping!
There has been no compensation for inclusion in our guide, just the stuff we love!
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A high-end candle in a holiday scent
Skip the fruity stuff from the big box stores and indulge your favorite hostess with a candle that’s really special.
We are so in love with the candles from Harlem Candle Co, a very cool woman-run business designing spectacular candles inspired by the rich history and cultural icons of the Harlem Renaissance. Scents like Josephine, Ellington, and Langston honor its namesake with wonderful scents; though the Winter spruce, pine and eucalyptus Holiday (as in, Billie) candle, inspired by the legend’s own favorite perfume, is particularly perfect for the season. ($45/12 oz candles; $20/glass votives; $15/travel tins, Harlem Candle Co)
Looking for something more on-the-nose as far as a foodie hostess gift? Think food scents. Mulled cider is one of the great holiday drinks, and not just because it tastes great. You also cannot beat the smell of cider spiked with spices and citrus rind warming on the stove. This Apple Cider Candle at Brooklyn Candle Studio gives the gift of that heavenly smell whenever your hostess desires. Holiday perfection. ($24, Brooklyn Candle Studio)
A funky set of swizzle sticks
These sparkly fab funky sets of drink stirrers (item no longer available) are the perfect gift for the hostess with the mostess or anyone who just loves a good cocktail presentation. You don’t have to choose the glittery option, but then again, why wouldn’t you? If you’d prefer to buy several sets to have on hand to bring to different parties — because why not at this great price — check out the store’s many offerings. ($16-18/set,, California Lustre on Etsy – this store is taking a break right now, but you can get emailed when they return)
Tapas dishesAny host or hostess who loves to entertain will love this fab set of 8 Royal Doulton Tapas Dishes. Because you can honestly never have enough small bowls that look great filled with olives and other easy party snacks. ($52.00, Royal Doulton)
Varietal honey flight
Quality honey is delicious all on its own, but honey and cheese together? You can’t get better. This Varietal Honey Flight is just a bitter $50, but it’s so fabulous. It’s designed to compliment different cheeses, making it the ultimate indulgence for any honey — or cheese — connoisseur. And other options are available on the site. ($54, Bee Raw)
So I know that splurging on toothpicks is not for everyone. Okay…it’s not for most. But I am obsessed with these and think that they’re a great gift for anyone who loves to throw elegant dinner parties. These flavored toothpicks from Daneson come in flavors like mint, ginger honey, lemon, and single malt scotch, and they’re all made from bone white, American milled northern white birch — plus the company plants 100 trees for each one that they cut. ($32/4-pack with lots of flavors available)
A fun tea towel set
A tea towel that shares super useful kitchen info? This Wine Pairing Towel Set by London-based artist Stuart Gardiner couldn’t be more practical, and it’s great looking too. Bonus: Offer to help do the dishes while you’re visiting. That’s often the best gift. ($28, Uncommon Goods)
Can one of Oprah’s Favorite Things be wrong? Of course not. But before we even knew about that, we fell in love with these Skeem match cloches as the perfect holiday hostess gift the second we saw them. Designed in Japan, the corked, hand-blown glass containers hold 120 match sticks that conveniently store upside down as an object of beauty when not in use. They’re even more beautiful in person than they look, and the come in long, fireplace-length matches, as well as shorter matches for candles, or to keep by the stove for pilot light mishaps. So elegant. And the glass can be reused when the matches are all done. ($30-48, Skeem)
A fun cookbook or cocktail recipe book
The new NoMad Cocktail Book by Leo Robitschek is a delight. This illustrated must-have for any cocktail connoisseur is filled with nearly 300 cocktail recipes from the award-winning bar. ($19.93, Amazon)
Gourmet chocolate gelt
If you’re visiting someone who celebrates Hanukkah, this Gourmet Chocolate Gelt from Veruca, one of Chicago’s premiere chocolatiers, is a stellar choice. Save the chalky stuff for the kids and stock up on these golden dark chocolate bits of heaven for all the adults this season. It’s even modeled after a real 4th century coin. ($15+)
A gorgeous sugar pot worth keeping out
Every kitchen can use a touch of glam and we think that this Marble and Metal Sugar Pot with Spoon does the job perfectly. You can choose between copper or brass (pictured) — either way, this will fit in any kitchen, especially around the holidays when sparkle is in order. ($45, Food52)
Nearly all of the products at Foodie Dice are under $50, from the original set to the Asian Bowls, Mixology, and Seasonal Dinners Tumbler set shown here. While these were originally designed as a practical way to experiment with food and drink, they’re also just plain fun. Hey, maybe even pair the mixology set of dice with some mini bottles of booze so that your gift doubles as a drinking game at the party — ha! ($12 and up, Foodie Dice)
A special cocktail muddler
We’ve been huge fans of American Heirloom since falling in love with their gorgeous cake stands. Lately, we’re loving these beautifully designed engraved cocktail muddlers made out of walnut or maple. Of course, any mixology-loving hostess will love these, but savvy home cooks know that you can also use a muddler to grind spices, make spice pastes, and more. Nobody can resist a multi-tasking tool! ($29, American Heirloom)
A fabulous tea or coffee pot
A pretty teapot or a cool new coffee pot is a wonderful thing. Not only will it be put to good use, but it can also sit out, making your kitchen look pretty too. We love this Cocca Moka Espresso Pot at the MoMA Design Store which we think will look fabulous in almost any style of kitchen at all. ($32, MoMA, with 10% off for members)
A spice set they don’t already own
If you’re ever in Portland, Oregon, you cannot miss one of our favorite places to eat anywhere, Bollywood Theater. There, Chef Troy MacLarty is redefining stateside Indian food with some of the most delicious Indian street eats you’ll taste this side of the Taj Mahal. Chef MacLarty worked with the folks at The Reluctant Trading Experiment and their partner in India to put together this Bollywood Theater Indian Masala Spice Set, spice blends so delicious that they are now used in his restaurants. If you really want to get fancy — but still stay within budget — you can also pick up Bollywood Chai Tea ($10), which is the same tea served at Bollywood Theater. ($19.50, The Reluctant Trading Experiment)