Gifting alcohol to clients and employees: What you need to know

Gifting alcohol to clients and employees: What you need to know

When you think of corporate gifts, what comes to mind first? Gift baskets? Hoodies and backpacks? Chocolates? Branded water bottles?

According to our Marketplace data -- boozy gifts beat them all. Of’s top 50 best-selling holiday gifts in 2020, 66% were of the alcoholic variety.

Whether it’s Veuve Clicquot to clients or tequila to top talent, alcohol is a safe bet for corporate gifting. But not everyone wants to receive alcohol, and in the US, there are many complex laws around shipping wine, beer and spirits. What’s more -- everyone’s got their own unique tastes and preferences.

When gifting grog, how can you ensure your drinks deliver, and don’t disappoint?

Offer a choice

Gift giving is about creating a great experience and fostering relationships. Getting a gift wrong can be worse than no gift at all. You don’t always know if a recipient is pregnant, has medical concerns, religious beliefs or dietary preferences that exclude alcohol, is in recovery or lives with a loved one in recovery -- or simply prefers the teetotalling lifestyle.

What’s more, what types of alcohol does your recipient like? Many drinkers don’t like wine, beer or spirits -- or have their own preferences within these categories.

The best corporate gifts are considerate and inclusive. E-Gifts are the perfect way to show someone your sentiment, while leaving the choice of gift up to them.*

For example, SAP replicated their traditional VIP Lounge toast virtually during their annual SAPPHIRE NOW event, offering attendees their choice of Moet champagne or sparkling cider alongside a snack tower of treats.

SAP blog post featured image

*While the Marketplace enables anyone to send E-Gifts for non-customized, non-alcoholic gifts, both alcoholic and multiple-choice gifts are only available with a CG Elite subscription. Learn more.

Know the laws

Since the end of prohibition in the US, it’s been up to individual states to determine their liquor import laws, from what types of alcohol can cross state lines (if any) to which states they can be sent from.

While many states have relaxed laws without restrictions, some states dole out hefty fines (Kentucky) -- even felony charges (Utah) for delivering alcohol to the state or a dry county within the state where alcohol sale is still prohibited.

Other states permit delivery only when the shipper has operations within state lines. Some states have reciprocal agreements where they can ship and accept deliveries between each other.

Additionally, some states restrict deliveries only to buyers (no gifting), even requiring the sale to happen on premises (no online, phone or wine clubs). Rhode Island goes even further to stipulate only local, craft alcohol businesses can make such a delivery for an on-prem purchase.

Alabama is a restricted state, however it’s legal to ship an alcoholic gift to an ABC store (Alcoholic Beverage Control) for local pickup.

What’s more, some states will permit wine or beer, but restrict liquor or alcohol greater than a certain ABV %.

If you’re gifting alcohol to clients or employees scattered across the contiguous US (and internationally), it can be daunting to navigate these complex laws!

The first rule is don’t attempt to ship alcohol yourself from the office. Use a licensed retailer or legitimate ecommerce site that understands the laws and can arrange the right distributors or suppliers and shipping carriers, with packaging and shipping info that complies with all regulations.

When gifting to a large group, it’s wise to have a contingency plan for recipients in restricted states. For example, CG Elite users can send alcohol as an E-Gift, requiring recipients to enter their shipping addresses to redeem. If their state or zipcode is restricted, they’re offered the choice to exchange or upgrade their gift with something from the Marketplace. The E-Gift works like a gift card, if their exchange exceeds the value of the E-Gift you chose, they can pay the difference with their own credit card.

Give a heads up

An adult signature (over 21 with photo ID in the US) is always required for alcohol delivery. It’s best to give your recipient a heads up that such a package is on the way, and ideal to provide tracking to each recipient to ensure someone’s home at or around the time of expected delivery.

When gifting for the holiday, remember that your recipient may not be at their home address at arrival. A heads up via E-Gift invitation ensures they enter the best delivery address for the expected delivery date, wherever they plan to celebrate.

Want to learn more about how CG Elite can help you manage your corporate gifting across your organization, and take the pain out of gifting wine, beer and spirits? Request a demo today.