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More than a gag gift: 9 Secret Santa presents they’ll actually like

November 15, 2021, 7:00 PM UTC

Dreading another round of Secret Santa this year? We feel you. Heading to the novelty shop to find a gag gift seems tedious, especially when you’re the type to send a thoughtful, great quality piece of seasonal cheer.

The trick to being the best Secret Santa is to surprise and delight, and that certainly means reading the recipient for their likes and dislikes. Hopefully, your present offers a chuckle or a celebratory gasp, followed by elation that what’s inside is not yet another coffee company gift card. To provide some inspiration, we challenged ourselves to put together a list of Secret Santa–worthy gifts that feel a little more inspired than your standard gag.

The price cap? $50.

For anyone

Courtesy of Nipyata

Who doesn’t want to have a nip handy? This sweet card says Season’s Greetings with an even sweeter gift when you open the flap: a 50-milliliter bottle of a favorite spirit, be it Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky, Casamigos tequila, or Aviation gin. (Bailey’s Irish Cream may fit the winter mood too.) We’re betting it’s the best way to spread cheer this holiday season. Suggested retail price: $19

For the jet-setter

Any global traveler knows book publisher Assouline somehow always captures the essence of a place in its travel-themed coffee table books. Nod to that romantic, jet-set culture with the company’s set of four mini travel notebooks. These 32-page notebooks feature the colorful covers of top-selling travel titles, including Mykonos Muse and Amalfi Coast. Each comes in a compact, four-inch by six-inch format, which conveniently fits into a carry-on. SRP: $30

For the fashionista

Courtesy of Ten Wilde

The way to the heart of the resident fashion girl is a pair of gold earrings seen on the likes of Hollywood celebs. Ten Wilde’s Amalfi hoops are beloved by starlets like Vanessa Hudgens and Delilah Belle for good reason: The 18-karat gold-dipped twisted hoops complete looks from day to night, weekday office to weekend restaurants. SRP: $30

For the outdoorsy bonfire fan

Courtesy of Puffin

Turn your favorite drink into your best buddy. That’s the goal of Puffin, a drinkware brand that ups the koozie standards while also upping the humor in the room. These cheeky drink jackets work 20% better than a standard koozie—and come in a variety of trendy colorways. Plus, you know it must be fit for the outdoor lifestyle when REI backs the product; you’ll find it in the company’s stores. Bonus tip from us: Include a six-pack of beer too. SRP: $13

For the amateur baker

Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Want to really impress the baker in the group? Give this fruit-focused dessert cookbook, signed by the domestic queen herself, Martha Stewart. In it, they will find more than 100 of Martha’s recipes for various fruit-based sweet treats, from a stone fruit galette to a mango key lime pie. The first 100 purchasers of the book get an autographed copy—reason enough to get a head start on holiday gifting today. SRP: $28

For the pet Instagrammer

Courtesy of Minted

When your Secret Santa is a pet lover, send a pet-focused art piece. Among Minted’s collection of independent artists is Maja Cunningham, who designed these delightful animal portraits, like a Frenchie blowing a giant pink bubblegum bubble. Opt for an 11-inch by 14-inch print of her favorite pup or utilize the commissioning service to have her create one featuring your recipient’s actual pet. SRP: $44

For the self-proclaimed foodie

Courtesy of Rao’s

Anyone who claims to know a lick about foodie culture will know Rao’s, the infamous Italian spot in New York City. It was once nearly impossible to score a reservation, but now you can get a taste of those beloved sauces with the Rao’s Small Sampler—the perfect package for a foodie anywhere. The package includes three full-size jars of sauce—marinara, arrabbiata, and tomato basil—alongside the brand’s spaghetti and penne. Bon appétit! SRP: $50

For the city dweller who shops small businesses

Courtesy of Perry Boyce

When visual artist Tracey Boyce launched her candle company, Perry Boyce, the idea was to make luxury home goods more affordable. She nailed it with her hand-poured, large-size candles, which burn up to 60 hours and smell divine.  All her fragrances are infused with natural essential oils, including orange peel and petitgrain leaf. Put a smile on a city dweller’s face with her Concrete Jungle, a heady mix of florals like lily and rose petals along with sheer musk and sandalwood. SRP: $24

For anyone who likes coloring pencils

There is a good reason why Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is beloved by men and women alike: He’s just America’s buff sweetheart. Spend many a day coloring in scenes from his life with this charming adult coloring book. It will go as far with those who like him (ahem, us) as it will with someone who loves his action-packed films (again, us). SRP: $12

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