DIY holiday gifts: How to infuse bourbon, make a terrarium, create a body scrub and more
From delicious edible treats to pampering beauty products to tabletop gardens...
Crafting your own presents to give away can add an extra personal touch to holiday gift-giving. Whether you have a plant-loving friend, a bourbon-drinking relative, a mom who needs pampering, or a neighbor with a healthy appetite, we’ve got a range of DIY project ideas, all created by local experts. Have no fear, each is simple to execute — arguably far easier than navigating Christmas Village on a Saturday afternoon.
Add extra spirit to a boozy gift by giving it a customized flair. Bluebird Distilling owner and master distiller Jared Adkins shares how to infuse bourbon, using seasonal spices aligned with those in mulled cider or wine.
“It’s like Christmas in a glass,” says Adkins. “You can also play around with the ingredients if you know the preferences of who you’re gifting. Something like a cinnamon, vanilla, and orange peel combination would also be great.”
Sip on spiced bourbon over ice, or go with Adkins’ recommendation and stir it into an old fashioned. Write the cocktail recipe on a card to pair with your gift.
Winter Spiced Bourbon
Yields one 750-ml bottle
1 750-ml bottle of bourbon, such as Bluebird Distilling Four Grain Bourbon
Zest of 1 orange
5 allspice berries, crushed
½ Madagascar vanilla bean
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
Add all ingredients to the bourbon bottle, and allow to sit for 24 hours. Strain through a natural coffee filter into a jar, and then pour the bourbon back into the bottle.
Old Man Winter Old Fashioned
2 oz. Winter Spiced Bourbon
½ oz Demerara simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Orange peel, to garnish
Fill a large rocks glass halfway with ice. Add bourbon, simple syrup, and bitters, and stir for 15 seconds. Garnish with an orange peel.
—Bluebird Distilling owner and master distiller Jared Adkins
Rather than just picking out an individual plant, consider gifting an entire tabletop garden — suitable for both those with and without experience with plants.
“Terrariums are usually filled with succulents, which can go seven to 10 days without water, so they’re a safe bet compared to gifting a high-maintenance plant,” says Amy Scipioni, buyer for Floral & Hardy of Skippack. “You can also customize them from person to person. If someone likes bling, decorate it with gems, or for beach-lovers, add seashells, or go for a rustic feel with tree branch cuttings and evergreen leaves.”
Scipioni shares her tips on how to get started, below. For a smaller terrarium, opt for a six- or eight-inch bowl, and adjust the amounts of soil and gravel accordingly.
For a delicious gift that’ll stay fresh far longer than a batch of Christmas cookies, give this homemade granola a try.
“It can keep for up to six months if kept in a tightly sealed jar at room temperature,” says James Barrett, Metropolitan Bakery owner and head baker, of his recipe below. “I find it difficult to stop eating right from the container, but I also love to sprinkle it on salads and yogurt, or crush it slightly to serve with seared scallops or roasted chicken.”
For an extra crunch and also a punch of nutrients, Barrett adds quinoa to his oat-and-nut base. The almonds can be swapped for the nut(s) of your choice.
Yields approximately 6 cups
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
¾ cup slivered almonds
½ cup uncooked quinoa
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
Salt, to season
3/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup orange blossom honey or other honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ tbsp. smooth almond butter
1 egg white
½ cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 275F. In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, quinoa, and cinnamon.
Whisk together remaining ingredients, excluding the cranberries, in a medium bowl until well combined. Stir into oat mixture until oats are evenly coated.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Spread mixture in an even layer. Sprinkle with salt. Bake 1 hour, or until crisp, stirring halfway through. Cool completely. Fold in cranberries. Store in a 64-ounce glass Mason jar or divide among smaller jars. Granola will keep for up to six months when tightly sealed and stored at room temperature.
— Metropolitan Bakery owner and head baker James Barrett
Give someone on your list a mini spa-like experience without draining your wallet. With less than a handful of ingredients, you can make your own sugar scrub that’ll leave your loved one’s skin feeling luxuriously smooth.
“Sugar is naturally skin-conditioning,” says Duross and Langel owner Steve Duross. “It works as a polish on the skin and doesn’t tear the skin the way salt or even a loofa does. And, it washes right down the drain.”
Not a huge fan of vanilla? Feel free to swap it out in the recipe below with a few drops of cold-pressed citrus extract, like grapefruit, or an essential oil, like lavender.
Vanilla Sugar Scrub
Yields approximately 1 cup
1 cup cane sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. honey
Olive oil, to drizzle
Place sugar in a medium-large mixing bowl. Add a splash of olive oil, and mix with your hands until well combined. Continue to drizzle in olive oil, mixing as you go, until the sugar is wet and a slight pool of oil rises to the top. Stir in honey and vanilla.
Store in an old jelly jar or canning jar. Sugar scrub will keep for a few months.
—Duross & Langel owner Steve Duross