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gift guide
Photograph: Time Out

15 amazing holiday gifts made in Chicago

There's never been a better time to shop local and support small businesses

Written by
Zach Long
,
Morgan Olsen
&
Emma Krupp
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We all deserve a present for making it through 2020, but first, we must buy them for the people we love. (Hey! We don't make the rules.) This year, we're exclusively shopping local and throwing our dollars behind the small businesses that are the lifeblood of Chicago. No matter who you're shopping for this year—your favorite USPS worker, your virtual yoga instructor or the friends you haven't seen in months—you don't need to look far for personalized gifts. We did the legwork for you, shopping Chicago makers and small businesses for art, jewelry, books, booze, plants and dog toys. So pour yourself a glass of eggnog, have your credit card handy and settle in for an online shopping spree that fuels the local community.

To learn more about how you can support Chicago businesses this holiday season, follow Time Out's Love Local campaign.

Chicago gifts to shop this year

Violet Hour Cocktail Subscription Series ($100 per box)
Photograph: Courtesy Violet Hour

Violet Hour Cocktail Subscription Series ($100 per box)

Bring home a taste of one of Chicago's best cocktail bars with Violet Hour's subscription boxes, packed with bottled drinks that are assembled by the bar's expert mixologists. The "There and Back Again" series explores a different era of boozy drinking each month—December's box is centered around Dickensian punches from the 1840s, with three 12oz bottles (enough for two drinks in each bottle) and a couple of two-ounce sippers. It's the perfect gift for someone who wants to have some fancy drinks on the couch on New Year's Eve.

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Zach Long
Editor, Time Out Chicago
Pastor T. L. Barrett “I Shall Wear a Crown” box set ($35–$100)
Photograph: Courtesy Numero Group

Pastor T. L. Barrett “I Shall Wear a Crown” box set ($35–$100)

A preacher on Chicago's South Side, Pastor T. L. Barrett began recording gospel albums with his Youth for Christ Choir in the ’70s. Thanks to sampling by artists like Kanye West and DJ Khaled, Barrett's musical output has reached new ears over the past decade, spurring local reissue label Numero Group to collect four of Barrett's soulful gospel albums (and a disc of his sermons) in a special box set. Treat the record nerd in your life to the vinyl edition, or save some dough by opting for CDs or a digital download.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105800431/image.jpg
Zach Long
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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Hand-painted sign from Southwest Signs ($60)
Photograph: Courtesy DCASE/Southwest Signs

Hand-painted sign from Southwest Signs ($60)

You've seen the hand-painted creations of Southwest Signs in the windows of grocery stores and hot dog stands throughout Chicago, bearing bright blue and red letterings. Local art shop Buddy (inside the Chicago Cultural Center) has commissioned a variety of posters from the company, celebrating delicacies like Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef as well as produce like apples and tomatoes. If you're trying to bring a bit of local flavor into your home, skip the tired "neighborhood map" posters and get one of these.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105800431/image.jpg
Zach Long
Editor, Time Out Chicago
Bright Endeavors Holiday Favorites candles ($8–$85)
Photograph: Zach Long

Bright Endeavors Holiday Favorites candles ($8–$85)

If you're looking for a simple (and useful) stocking stuffer, a candle fits the bill. There holiday-themed soy wax candles from Bright Endeavours come in scents like juniper berry and fir or whitebark pine—and they support new mothers in under-served communities throughout Chicago. Young moms help make candles through a 16-week paid job-training program, setting them up for career success and creating quality candles that support a great cause.

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Zach Long
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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Forget the sliced white stuff languishing in grocery store produce aisles: Amateur mycologists will relish the opportunity to harvest their very own fungi using at-home grow kits from Four Star Mushrooms, a Logan Square-based supplier that stocks local restaurants with exotic shroom varieties. The kit, which consists of a sawdust- and soybean hull- block teeming with mushroom mycelium, just needs to be sprayed a few times a day to yield a crop of blue oyster or lion’s mane mushrooms (the latter, oftentimes used as a seafood substitute, is an especially delicious choice).  

Chicago Cultural Center Honey ($5)
Photograph: Courtesy DCASE

Chicago Cultural Center Honey ($5)

Gift a taste of the honey harvested from the bee hives atop the Chicago Cultural Center, where bees gather nectar from flowers in nearby Millennium Park (and throughout the city). The extremely local delicacy is tended and prepared by the folks at the Chicago Honey Co-Op—you can snag a jar from the Buddy art shop inside the Chicago Cultural Center.

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Zach Long
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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EvanArt prints ($60–$175)
Courtesy Evan Miller

EvanArt prints ($60–$175)

Local artist Evan Miller (a.k.a. EvanArt) has a distinctive vision of Chicago's distant future, imagining a time when some of the city's music venues, movie theaters and other famous landmarks are mostly intact and overgrown with otherworldly vegetation. You can hang one of his surreal images on your (or a loved one's) wall by snagging a framed or unframed print from Lincoln Square shop Sacred Art.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105800431/image.jpg
Zach Long
Editor, Time Out Chicago

If the coffee aficionado in your life has already worked their way through all of Chicago’s specialty roasters, order them a bag of single-origin robusta beans from local Vietnamese coffee company Fat Miilk. This caffeine-charged blend offers a nutty, chocolatey flavor profile showcasing robusta beans—a variety that’s long been ignored by coffee snobs in favor of the more commonly consumed arabica—so there’s a fair chance your coffee-loving recipient won’t have tried anything quite like it before. Throw in a phin ($10), the perforated metal filter used in traditional Vietnamese coffee brewing, for good measure. 

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California Clipper T-shirt ($25)
Photograph: Courtesy California Clipper

California Clipper T-shirt ($25)

Can't wait for the California Clipper to finally reopen? We still don't have a firm date for the revival of the classic bar, but you can wear your anticipation on your sleeve... er, chest. This official shirt designed by Kevin Leary (Great Lake Tattoo) depicts the bar's iconic neon sign promoting the building's air conditioning and should help tide you over until it's illuminated once more.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105800431/image.jpg
Zach Long
Editor, Time Out Chicago
The Way of the Cocktail ($32)
Photograph: Courtesy Penguin Random House

The Way of the Cocktail ($32)

Bartender Julia Momosé—whose elegant, Japanese-inspired cocktails have helped make Kumiko one of the best bars in the world—delves into the seasonality and craftsmanship of Japanese cocktails in this tip-laden book, complete with recipes based around 24 micro-seasons that punctuate life in Japan. Learn how to make everything from whisky highballs and Manhattans to more unusual mixes like Autumn’s Jacket, a woodsy cocktail that channels the smoke from Japan’s rice field burns in the fall.

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Chicago Handshake Drinking Card Game ($22)
Photograph: Courtesy Transit Tees

Chicago Handshake Drinking Card Game ($22)

You don't need an excuse to drink Malört during the holidays, but this new card game from the folks at Transit Tees should provide you with plenty of oppotunities to knock back the infamous local liqueur. Two to twelve players can grab a drink and put their Chicago knowledge to the test, answering trivia questions and completing Windy City-themed challenges. The loser of the game has to drink a Chicago Handshake—the classic combo of a can of Old Style and a shot of Malört. For some, it's a punishment, for others, a delicious reward!

https://media.timeout.com/images/105800431/image.jpg
Zach Long
Editor, Time Out Chicago

Pay homage to the Prairie State with a naturally-dyed tea towel from Current Location Letterpress & Curiosities, a roving letterpress business that draws inspiration from the native flora of Illinois state parks (among other naturalistic settings). This little cotton towel, available in an assortment of pastel colors and featuring a cross section of native prairie plants, would look nice adorning any Midwestern kitchen.

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Self-taught jewelry designer Stephany Colunga created a series of anti-patriarchy pieces called “Mans Ego,” each featuring a mask-like visage, so you can adorn yourself with images of crying men. You’ll find simple post earrings and rings among the collection but perhaps most beautiful are these gold-plated drop earrings, which come affixed with sky blue, teardrop-shaped quartz stones for a delicate feminist statement.

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