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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.
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.
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!
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.
No home bar is complete without an excellent cocktail shaker for mixing up everything from daiquiris, martinis, and more. Ask bartenders what shaker they prefer, and most will direct you straight to Cocktail Kingdom’s Koriko shakers. These durable shakers come in two parts: one large shaking tin and one smaller. Pop in your ingredients, ice, then secure the smaller tin into the bigger one. Shake till the outside feels chilly, then strain into a glass.
Each tin (large and small) holds two drinks and is made from weighted stainless steel. Pick a classic silver, or opt for a more sleek rose gold, gold, or black. Professional bartenders swear by these tins, as the weighted tins make it easy to shake full rounds of cocktails without feeling it in your shoulder or joints. Note that these Boston-style shakers do take a bit of experience to learn how to use.
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).
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 natural 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Best Coffee Table Book: Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails
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.”
Bitters are an essential part of cocktails—just a few drops of the high-proof extract will round out your cocktails, adding a new depth of flavor and complexity. Angostura bitters are arguably the most popular bottle with the trademark yellow top, but your gift recipient most likely already owns a few bottles of the brand. Instead, consider picking up a few bottles of a more unique craft brand.
Bittered Sling bitters are made in Canada by a husband-and-wife duo. She’s an award-winning bartender and he’s a chef, so together, they started crafting upgraded bitters with unusual flavors—think Marrakech lemon, Arabica coffee, and grapefruit and hops.
These bottles are knock-out gifts for picky bartenders—these premium, high-quality bitters lean on out-of-the-box flavors to amp up your classic cocktail recipes.
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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.