7 Next-Level Hostess Gifts for Overachieving Guests

No one's ever been mad at a bottle of wine, but we know you can do better. Give a hostess who's gone the extra mile a gift with homemade flair.

Start with an exceptional red vermouth -- this one is a favorite of food editor Christine Albano -- and then round out the gift with foods that complement its flavors: citrusy butter cookies, candied blood-orange peels, hazelnut honey, and a special variety of California pear. Complete it with a paring knife and wooden tray (handy for your host long after the last pear has been sliced).



The Paella Kit

As a houseguest, one of the greatest gifts you can offer -- aside from pitching in to clean dishes -- is to give your host a night off from menu planning. This paella pan holds almost everything you need to concoct that savory rice dish, including a book of 108 recipes, specialty Bomba rice, Spanish paprika and olive oil, and dried chiles. Come dinnertime, just add protein.

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Flower-Arranging Gift Kit

Create a handy flower-arranging kit that packs all of the essentials inside a jar that's pretty enough to double as a vase.

Materials
Jar
Floral frog
Floral clay
Shears
Floral preservative
Stem stripper

1. Pack all the essentials inside a jar that's attractive enough to double as a vase.

2. Include a floral frog to keep stems in place, floral clay to anchor the frog, shears, a floral preservative, and a stem stripper for removing leaves from woody stems.

Sake-Box Planters

Give a botanical hostess gift a creative twist by placing the flowers or herbs in a wooden sake box topped with plastic wrap.

Materials
Wooden sake boxes
Drill
Vermiculite
Chopstick
Heavy-duty plastic wrap
Rubber Band
18-gauge copper wire

1. Drill four drainage holes in the bottom of each box.

2. For scented geraniums, like the ones pictured here, cut actively growing shoots with at least three leaves from healthy plants.

3. Fill the sake boxes with vermiculite; water until moistened.

4. Use a chopstick to make a hole in the vermiculite, and insert a cutting.

5. Settle the vermiculite around the cutting, covering at least one leaf node, and rewater.

6. Heavy-duty plastic wrap, supported by 18-gauge copper wire, retains humidity. Insert one end of a 9-inch-long piece of copper wire into the vermiculite in one corner of the box; bend the wire diagonally across the top of the box, and insert the other end in the opposite corner.

7. Do the same with a second piece of wire, crossing the first.

8. Hold the plastic wrap in place with a rubber band.

9. Create a name card for the cutting with care instructions inside, and tuck it into the rubber band.

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Champagne-Bottle Wrap

Elevate the classic bottle of champagne by dressing up the wrapping. With its airy pom-pom, this sprightly package hints at the effervescence hidden inside.

Materials
Champagne bottle
5 sheets tissue paper
Tape
Scissors
Ribbon

1. Place a champagne bottle on 5 sheets of tissue with the cork 5 inches from one edge. Tape tissue to the center of the bottle, roll up, and tape down the free edge of the tissue. Trim tissue to 2 inches from the bottle's bottom. Cut notches in tissue, fold it flat, and tape it down.

2. Tie a cord around the bottle's neck, and cut paper into strips above it. Add ribbon, and attach a card.

The Best Basics Kit

Even less-experienced cooks can appreciate the power of a really great salt (or olive oil or vinegar). Our food editors swear by these finishing touches for all kinds of dishes: a complex red-wine vinegar from California, a delicate hand-harvested sea salt, and a fruity extra-virgin French olive oil. A wooden salt bowl and pepper mill make thoughtful extras, as does a dish towel, which can double as gift wrap -- just bundle everything up and tie at the top.



Caramel Bourbon Vanilla Sauce

Like well-written thank-you notes, homemade treats are thoughtful gestures. Caramel bourbon vanilla sauce tastes good over fruit -- or even straight from the jar; cover the top, and secure it with string tied to a small spoon.

2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon bourbon

1. Combine sugar and 1/2 cup water in a 2-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Without stirring, cook mixture until dark amber in color, swirling the pan carefully while cooking, about 20 minutes.

2. Reduce the heat to low. Slowly add cream, stirring with a wooden spoon. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan, and add the pod. Add lemon juice, butter, and bourbon. Stir to combine.

3. Cover, and store, refrigerated, up to 1 week. Bring sauce to room temperature, or warm over low heat, before using.

More from Martha Stewart Living:
15 Kitchen Shortcuts That Will Change the Way You Cook
19 Tips for Perfect Laundry Every Time
20 Super-Efficient, Super-Effective Ways to Clean All the Things
47 Ways to Maximize Space in Your Kitchen

Even the most gracious hostess will need a drink when the party's over. Learn to infuse your own vodka -- it's easier than you think.