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Shopping for the ultimate host or hostess in your life? This can be a daunting task as most likely, his or her home is stocked with everything needed to throw excellent home festivities. So what do you get the host with the most? Cocktail enthusiasts will appreciate the essentials (think bar tools and guide books) as much as gorgeous drinkware, decanters, and craft bitters.
Ahead are all the best gifts for home bartenders.
Best Decanter: Le Chateau Wine Decanter
While a decanter may feel like merely a showpiece, there are two reasons wine lovers enjoy breaking out a decanter: the curved design is specifically crafted to aerate and oxygenate a wine, releasing aromas that were closed off in the bottle. Secondly, pouring a wine into a decanter will filter out the sediments present in older, cellared wines.
The design of this lead-free, hand-blown decanter does both of these things, plus it adds visual flair to a happy hour and holds an entire 750-milliliter bottle of wine. A special slanted lip also ensures that you won’t spill a drop when you’re pouring the wine from the bottle to the decanter or from the decanter to your glass, and the flat bottom with a large surface area showcases the nuanced colors of each wine.
Best Wine Glass Set: Riedel Ouverture Red Wine Glasses
Every drink enthusiast—even those who prefer cocktails—needs a solid set of wine glasses. But forget the notion that you need different-shaped glasses for reds, whites, and Champagne—Riedel’s Ouverture glasses are sommelier-approved options for any and every grape varietal.
Many of the glasses from the 300-year-old glassware brand are pricey, but this budget-friendly set is designed for the everyday drinker. They are whisper-thin, gorgeous, and low-effort: Pop them in the dishwasher when you’re done drinking—no tedious hand-washing required.
Not a wine drinker? These versatile, smaller-stemmed wine glasses can just as easily hold beer and cocktails. There’s a reason you will spot these glasses on the bartops of high-end restaurants!
Best Cocktail Kit: Liquor.com Cocktail Kit
If creating delicious concoctions from home is a goal, the Liquor.com cocktail kit will help you accomplish just that. The cocktail includes the best of what Liquor.com has reviewed and used, such as Koriko shaking tins and strainers, a mixing glass, and Japanese-style jigger. Everything you need to start making drinks at home is here.
“Our friends at Liquor.com chose their favorite tools for making cocktails. This stuff is gorgeous, it works well and it packs the promise of a steady stream of delicious cocktail concoctions.” — Heather Ramsdell, Senior Editorial Director
Best Smoking Gun: Breville PolyScience The Smoking Gun Pro
A smoking gun will take an average home bartender to the next level. You may have seen these fancy gadgets in cocktail bars, but they aren’t all for show—they can add some serious flavor to your drinks. If you have someone on your list who loves experimenting and entertaining, this is a gadget they’ll seriously appreciate. This smoking gun from Breville is a bit of a splurge, but it can be used in the kitchen as well to give added flavor to meat, cheese, and more.
“Smoked bourbon Old Fashioneds is what got me hooked, but now I use this tool to smoke butter, deviled egg filling, and whipped cream for a hint of earthiness that only this smoke show can impart.” — Kristin Stangl, Food Editor
Best Moscow Mule Mugs: Advanced Mixology Mule Science Moscow Mule Copper Mugs
The Moscow Mule is an uber-simple cocktail: just ginger beer, vodka, and lime juice. But there’s one more ingredient many people forget about: a proper mug. Moscow Mules traditionally are always served in a 100 percent copper mug because the metals keep the drinks icy-cold for far longer than regular glass, regardless of the temperature outside or the heat of your hand.
These mugs boast the aesthetic of a classic Moscow Mule mug, with a rounded cup and a hammered finish. Each of the brand’s mugs is made with 100 percent copper and finished with a food-safe lacquer to prevent drinkers from copper tarnish.
Perfect for the home entertainer, the set comes with all you need to whip up a batch of refreshing cocktails, including a stirring spoon, coasters, copper cocktail straws, a shot glass for measuring, and, for when it’s time to call it a night, a special brush for cleaning copper.
Best Ice Cube Mold: Glacio Clear Ice Sphere Duo
One of the keys to making excellent cocktails is having nice ice. Whether you’re shaking up drinks or pouring whiskey on the rocks, having large ice cubes will help prevent ice from diluting too quickly, watering down your drink. Many bars use pricey machines to achieve such ice, but Glacio’s ice cube molds help replicate bar-quality ice from home—simply fill up the tray, pop it in the freezer, and a few hours later you will have 2.5-inch cubes.
The BPA-free silicone mold pops out cubes without having to bang the tray on the counter. Best of all, these large, rounded ice cubes let drinkers get creative—use the ice for sipping spirits on the rocks, for chilling down iced coffees, or adding different ingredients for creative cocktails (think mint sprigs in mojitos or edible flowers for fun punches).
Best Whiskey Stones: Barleo Whiskey Stones Gift Set
This set is excellent if you’re shopping for someone who loves their sipping spirits: rums, whiskeys, and more. Though whiskey stones are a bit controversial among purists, some people prefer using them so as not to dilute drinks with melting ice cubes. Simply chill them in your freezer for at least two to three hours and place them in your drink for a slight chill that will not affect the taste or quality of your spirits.
This set includes nine small chilling stones made from FDA-approved and BPA-free soapstones, a handsome wood box in which to store them, and a black velvet pouch. We recommend storing them in the freezer so you’re always ready for a drink.
Best Bag: LINALL Bartender Kit Bag
If you’re shopping for a bar enthusiast who is always armed with an arsenal of bar tools, consider purchasing a bag to hold all of that equipment. Beloved by working bartenders, this travel bag easily stores stirrers, spoons, strainers, and more in an easy-to-carry format.
The durable, rustic bag is constructed of heavy-duty canvas and finished with leather detailing and bronze-plated hardware. Open it up and you’ll find dozens of storage cells perfectly designed to fit shakers, spoons, ice clips, jiggers, and more. Water-resistant construction means if spills happen, it’s easy to wipe down the bag. When you get to the destination, simply unravel the bag, and all your tools will be laid out in front of you.
Best Showpiece: Godinger Monterey Iridescent Punch Bowl & Ladle Set
For the recipient who loves entertaining a crowd, gift the tools to make cocktails for a crew. This shimmering punch bowl will be a stellar centerpiece at parties. Made with iridescent crystal, the bowl has a luminescent rainbow finish when it catches the light. (Though note that because of the delicate finish, this punch bowl requires hand washing.) A matching ladle helps doll out sips for loved ones.
In the summer, fill the punch bowls with fresh juices and your favorite spirit, and be sure to add a generous amount of garnishes. (Pro tip: Fill large ice molds with flowers and herbs and freeze. Add to a punch bowl for a unique, aesthetically-pleasing punch.) In the winter, fill it with warm toddy riffs or boozy apple ciders. If you’re interested in spending a little more, Godinger also offers a punch bowl set that comes with the bowl, ladle, and an additional eight petite glasses.
Best Bottle: Forthave Spirits Marseille Amaro
Gifting a bottle is a tough option unless you’re very sure of the recipient’s favorite spirits and flavors, but you simply can’t go wrong with a small-batch amaro. Made in Brooklyn, this amaro is based on a Medieval recipe—legend has it, it was the secret recipe of four thieves, created with a blend of botanicals to protect drinkers from the plague. They were captured, and in return, they had to give up their prized formula.
Now, the recipe’s fans are New York’s top bartenders (think Eleven Madison Park and Peoples Wines) who serve the spirit neat or in a range of cocktails. The James Beard-nominated spirit is beautifully complex, with notes of eucalyptus and cinnamon. It tastes excellent on its own or in cocktails. The labels are based on historic illustrations, and every bottle is finished with a thoughtful, hand-done wax seal.
Best Glasses: Norlan Whisky Glass
These glasses are not your standard snifters. These innovative whiskey glasses were born out of a small Kickstarter and turned into a wildly successful full-blown brand. Instead of carefully crafted crystal or hand-blown glass, designer Sruli Recht, brand director Brian Fichtner, and CEO Shane Bahng use a 3D printer to create a glass that perfectly showcases the notes of Scotch.
They worked with a panel of whiskey experts to craft the perfect glass, using biomimicry and fluid dynamic modeling to create a hybrid of a tumbler and a nosing glass. The 7-ounce glass has a double-walled design to protect the liquid from the heat of your hand. The round outer wall fits easily in your hand, just as a tumbler would, but the tulip shape of the inner glass highlights the nose and flavors of your favorite sipping spirit.
Best High-Tech: Presto Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator
Ever wonder how your favorite cocktail bars concrete those stunning dried fruit slices that float atop cocktails? Dehydrators are a simple kitchen contraption that sucks the liquid out of ingredients, making interesting garnishes, unusual ingredients, and out-of-the-box liqueurs.
Some models can run you hundreds of dollars, but this entry-level option gets the job done at a fraction of the cost. There are four trays for ingredients, and each dishwasher-safe tray is easy to wipe clean. A see-through cover lets you check in on the process and monitor the ingredients.
Try dehydrating slices of citrus, spices, peels, or vegetables for top-notch garnishes. You can also use the dehydrator to make a host of other savory foods, like jerkies or ‘sundried’ tomatoes.
Best Book: A Proper Drink: The Untold Story of How a Band of Bartenders Saved the Civilized Drinking World
This is undoubtedly one of the most detailed books on the history of the recent craft cocktail renaissance. Penned by The New York Times cocktail writer Robert Simonson, the book walks through America’s cocktail scene, detailing the most important figures, drinks, and bars that brought us the cocktails we drink today—covering everything from the neon-hued drinks of the ’80s to the suspender-and-mustache bartender era of the early 2000s.
The book also includes a list of 40 cocktails, including 25 modern classics and 15 must-know cocktails compiled from the famous figures mentioned in the book. For cocktail geeks, A Proper Drink contains engaging anecdotes and tidbits on drinking culture. It’s less a recipe book and more a colorful tale of cocktails old and new.
Death & Co has long been lauded as one of the best cocktail bars in the world, known for boundary-pushing cocktails and tough-to-snag reservations. The bar has gathered much of this experience into a beautiful coffee-table book, filled with full-color photos, charming anecdotes on the bar’s history and favorite customers, and of course, some of the bar’s award-winning recipes.
Daniel Thomas, Bar Manager of Hilton’s San Diego Bayfront highly recommends Modern Classic Cocktails. “I enjoy this book because it includes a comprehensive summary of many tools, techniques, and inviting recipes that are so incredibly fun and important to the beverage enthusiast. It also includes stories and ‘regulars’ of the original Death & Co in New York City, which provides insight into the culture and vibe of D&C. Whenever I hit a creativity wall, I look to this book for inspiration.”
Best Equipment: Instant Pot Accu Slim Sous Vide Precision Cooker & Immersion Circulator
Sous vide machines are most commonly known as being the perfect tool for making uber-tender steaks. So why would a bartender need one? French for “under vacuum,” the machine is surprisingly versatile. Sous vide machines are excellent for their culinary properties, but also for infusing liquors or crafting custom spirits—ingredients and liquids are vacuum-sealed and cooked in low temperatures to fully infuse and cook flavors, making for unusual spirits.
This machine is particularly easy to use, with intuitive display and touch screen controls. Though it’s a great entry-level sous vide option, the unit can handle cooking temperatures from 104 degrees to 195 degrees and expertly keeps water baths uniformly heated and free of hot and cold spots.
Any home bartender will get plenty of use out of the Le Chateau Wine Decanter, a hand-blown container that's perfect for serving wine. For those who are partial to cocktails, the Liquor.com Cocktail Kit (view at Liquor.com) is curated by experts and includes quality pieces that anyone who enjoys entertaining at home will appreciate.
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Kate Dingwall is a sommelier and spirits writer. She has been writing about the bar and spirits world for five years and has her BarSmarts and WSET certification.