With Hanukkah here and Christmas looming, we present to you: our illustrious annual gift guide, full of products from small, local businesses, with focus on those that are BIPOC- and women-owned. We sourced ideas from a variety of people, including our staff and local experts like culinary history consultant Tonya Hopkins, a.k.a “The Food Griot.” See something missing from our list? Email us suggestions!
For the community lovers
Not to start with the obvious (or the self-promoting), but have you considered gifting someone — a neighbor perhaps — an Epicenter membership? In addition to supporting our work, members get free and discounted tickets to events (custom tours, film fests and more — we’ve even taken members on a food foraging experience in Central Park) and discounts at the Epicenter shop. Speaking of, these tote bags and limited-edition artist prints from our featured artists also make great gifts (and keep an eye out for some major discounts this week).
For the bookworms
Amazon who? Epicenter has worked with two fabulous local bookstores recently. There’s Yu & Me Books, the brainchild of chemical engineer Lucy Yu and the city’s first Asian American female-run bookstore. Stop by the store (at The Market Line, 115 Delancey St.) this Saturday, Dec. 16, from 12 to 5 p.m. for free gift wrapping with an in-store purchase. Some of Yu’s holiday recs are “Horse Barbie” by Geena Rosero, “Temple Folk” by Aaliyah Bilal and “Small Worlds” by Caleb Azumah Nelson. We’re also big fans of World’s Borough Bookstore, launched earlier this year by Adrian Cepeda, aka BookPapi on TikTok, with the goal of amplifying BIPOC voices.
For the cocktail connoisseurs
We’ve written about Rupee Beer before. Its recently released mango wheat ale is delicious. Others apparently agree because it’s getting harder to get a delivery. Our advice is to keep refreshing sites like Half Time and others that might allow you to pick up. Rupee Beer is also sold in select Costco, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
Below find some favorite spirits and mixers from culinary history consultant Tonya Hopkins, who earlier this year led a happy hour for the Epicenter team — we can attest that she knows what she’s talking about:
Zakuska Vodka: This Brooklyn-born “shooting” vodka is distilled from red winter wheat and corn and left unfiltered, infusing it with notes of vanilla, caramel, fig and honey.
Du Nord Social Spirits: One of this Black-owned brand’s taglines is “real good booze that does real good,” and it’s at the forefront of the movement to diversify the industry. It’s best known for its Prominence Gin, which it describes as “a remix of classic London dry and old world gin for the bold of tongue.”
Eléctrico Mezcal: This small-batch double-distilled mezcal is made from single variety wild organic agave using fresh mineral-rich well water. It is a true craft artisanal mezcal — certified according to the strict traditional and ancient methods. The lemongrass-infused espadin was a team happy-hour fave.
Uncle Waithley’s ginger beer: What sets this ginger beer apart from others is the addition of the Scotch Bonnet pepper. It’s based on a family recipe developed by Harlem-based mixologist Karl Franz Williams, inspired by his uncle who was from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Good + Ready yaupon cold-brewed teas: These tea concentrates, made from yaupon, the only naturally caffeinated plant species that grows in the U.S., come in three flavors: ginger & juniper, half-and-half lemonade and unsweetened.
For the foodies
BKLYN Larder offers a curated selection of the world’s best cheeses, charcuterie and accouterments, which certainly beat, say, mandarin oranges in your stocking. Another great gift idea? Membership to its cheese-of-the-month club, offered in three, six or 12-month increments.
Cemilan Box is the Queens-based go-to for Indonesian snacks and desserts (Epicenter’s Suyin So raves about the “really addictive” cheese crackers known as kaastengels). Christmas orders are being accepted until Dec. 17.
Ashbell’s smoked meats is a Black-owned business known for its applewood smoked duck breast, which is hand-seasoned with a family proprietary spice blend and hot-smoked for hours.
True Scoops DIY ice cream kits are the brainchild of two women (one of them owns Island Pops in Brooklyn) who met while taking Penn State’s legendary ice cream short course. Their goal? Bringing the ice cream shop experience to every home in the U.S. With True Scoop’s “wildly customizable” mixes, all you need is five minutes, half-and-half and an eclectic mixer.
For the fashionistas
Sustainability, stellar style and supporting women and immigrants? Cindy Castro New York is that triple threat in fashion. You might’ve spotted them on the NY Fashion Week runway, or at Colombiamoda, one of the biggest fashion events in Latin America. Their latest arrivals are about living and dressing with intention, and the founder’s path to finding and building community is one that embodies the same values.
For the travelers
A go-to gift for teens, college kids and people on the go is the Lo & Sons weekender bag. This Asian female-owned company designs for people who need to fit a lot into a carry on, and the shoe compartment is a whole revolution. It’s one of those gifts that people will thank you for all year long! The company’s founding is equally inspiring.