This 2018, I went a little crazy on the product testing. Ever since I started writing gift guides, I get emails from all kinds of cool brands offering samples for me to consider. It’s hard to turn down—plus, I’m sick of reading gift guides where the writers clearly haven’t tested the products themselves. I’ve made it my goal not to recommend anything I haven’t tried and enjoyed enough to buy.
After I test products, I mostly end up giving them away as gifts, or donating them to local charities—but some products were so good I had to keep them for myself. The extensive list that follows are those products: out of over 200 products I tested in 2018, these are the ones I still use, would or have bought myself again, and recommend most highly.
Most Versatile Product: Olitalia’s DRINK VINEGAR
I was suspicious — drinking vinegar hardly sounds appetizing, and I’d already gotten used to taking a shot of apple cider vinegar every now and then to boost my immune system. Turns out this Olitalia’s DRINK VINEGAR is delicious both as a health drink, a light blackberry-tasting salad dressing, or even splashed into a cocktail. I highly recommend it.
Best New Vegan Yogurt: Lavva yogurt
This Lavva yogurt is so good! It’s one of my favorite new snacks of the whole year. Made with cassava, pili nuts, coconut, plantains, and only real fruit, it’s truly different than any other yogurt on the market. My runner-up for best new vegan yogurt of 2018? GT's new line of probiotic coconut yogurts, a truly tangy and addictive yogurt that is flavorful but not too sweet.
Best Hot Sauce: Ghost Scream Hot Sauce
If you like it really spicy, Ghost Scream Hot Sauce was some of the best hot sauce I tried this year. Made without a bunch of additives, it’s also great for mixing into some hummus for extra kick.
Best Snack: Tosi Cashew SuperBites
I’m starting to see Tosi Cashew SuperBites at more and more cafes, and I’m glad it’s spreading. This vegan snack is kind of like an addictive peanut brittle, without a bunch of added sugar, fillers, or salt. So tasty. Special runner-up for a new take on a to-go energy snack? Nud Raw Banana Crisps, which are mixed with cacao, coconut, sesame seeds, and other delicious, healthy ingredients.
Best Vodka: Purity Swedish Vodka
Perhaps it’s the power of suggestion that makes Purity Swedish Vodka seem less likely to give me a hangover, but this stuff is really, really smooth for the affordable price point. As a gift, it also comes in a beautiful bottle that makes it look more expensive than it is. It's distilled 34 times, which may be why it's so tasty.
Best Healthy Meal Service: Veestro
The Veestro Meal Service has come in handy for me more than once when I’m trying to make sure my family members have healthy food to eat in tough times. I ordered it for my mom after surgery, and my uncle during chemo. With more than 50 healthy a la carte meals ready to heat and eat, all made with 100 percent plant-based, organic ingredients.
Best Alcoholic Innovation: Boochcraft
If you haven’t had Boochcraft yet, it is alcoholic kombucha, and I love it. It isn't too sweet but goes down just as smooth as normal kombucha — only with a 7-percent alcohol content. Maybe it’s the marketing, but I swear it also seems less likely to give me a hangover.
Best Vegan Salad Dressing: Follow Your Heart Vegan Caesar Dressing
Follow Your Heart makes some of the best vegan dressings and cheeses, but my favorite is their Caesar dressing, which tastes just like the dairy kind, minus the animal cruelty. I use it all the time on salad, or even on some rice and beans as an easy go-to sauce.
Scouted is internet shopping with a pulse. Follow us on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter for even more recommendations and exclusive content. Please note that if you buy something featured in one of our posts, The Daily Beast may collect a share of sales.