Nothing puts your guests in the holiday spirit like a little holiday spirits. From books to bottles to shakers and bitters, there are plenty of gift ideas from the cocktail world that can add pizzazz to celebrations throughout the year.
Prices don't include shipping unless otherwise noted.
WMF Loft Boston Shaker
I found this under my Christmas tree last year, and my mixing has never been the same. Precision-tooled in Germany, the WMF Loft shaker pairs a brushed stainless-steel tin with a heavy mixing glass, and the set feels so comfortable and natural to use, I wonder how I ever mixed drinks without it. WMF Loft Boston Shaker, $44.90
WMF Loft Cocktail Strainer
For straining from the new Boston shaker, of course! Lightweight yet durable, this strainer is broader than most, and a perfect fit with the WMF Loft’s mixing tin. WMF Loft Strainer, $16.90
Despite the name, it's not really for juleps. This obscure little bar tool is designed for straining stirred drinks such as Manhattans and Martinis from a mixing glass, and keeps those little chips of ice from the surface of the drink. The julep strainer doesn’t seem necessary if you have the more typical Hawthorne (spring-style) strainer, but once you’ve used one a few times, its utility becomes obvious. A good stocking stuffer. Stainless-steel Julep Strainer, $3.95
OXO Good Grips Mini Angled Measuring Cup
I find a lot of OXO tools too large and unwieldy to use, but these mini angled measures have become essential tools in my liquor cabinet. Marked for measurement in ounces (and fractions thereof), milliliters and tablespoons, these two-ounce cups make it possible to mix drinks that call for the exacting measurement of ingredients. Plus, the angled aspect of these cups means you can do all your measuring without having to lean down and eyeball the little line—an exercise that gets trickier when you’re mixing your second or third round. OXO Good Grips Mini Angled Measuring Cup (set of 3), $9.99
Mark it in your diaries for future reference: November 2007 was the month when our understanding of the history and culture of mixology permanently changed. That was when David Wondrich’s extraordinary new book, Imbibe!, was published, giving readers a deep and thorough understanding of the influential years of American drinking and bar culture by exploring the life, times and contemporaries of Jerry Thomas, author of the first known printed bartending guide. Wondrich tells an incredible story of the era, and offers dozens of recipes for the drinks that came out of it. Imbibe!, $16.29
OK, this is a shameless plug for my frequent meal ticket, but it’s also an endorsement of a source I regularly turn to when looking for new info on spirits and cocktails (or coffee, beer or wine—drinks in fields where I’m far less certain). I frequently find myself going back through old issues, digging out recipes suggested by one or another writer, knowing that the drinks have been vetted by experienced palates. That I’m responsible for a few of those recipes is just gravy. Imbibe, $18 / one year subscription
In case I haven’t pounded this point home yet, this latest tome in Beachbum Berry’s exotic drink canon is the greatest yet. Relying on primary-source research with some of the original bartenders from the earliest days of the mid-century Polynesian phenomenon, Sippin’ Safari paints a picture of this extensive era in American cultural history. Better yet, Berry has unearthed dozens of recipes, including the original and never-before-published recipe for the Zombie, the drink that launched the entire tiki movement. Sippin' Safari, $19.95
Big Basket O' Bitters
Bitters are an essential component of many well-crafted drinks, and Fee Brothers in Rochester, New York, has long been satisfying mixologist’s needs by supplying a growing array of bitters. The Cocktail Bitters Complete Set gives you bottles of orange, old-fashioned aromatic, lemon, peach, mint and grapefruit bitters; add the bottle of Whisky-Barrel Aged Aromatic Bitters, and you’ve got a mighty arsenal. Even better: toss a bottle of Peychaud’s Bitters in your cart, too, along with a bottle of Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6, and a liquor cabinet is equipped for taking on just about any drink. Fee Brothers Bar Cocktail Bitters Complete Set, $32.95; Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Aromatic Bitters, $13.50; Peychauds Aromatic Cocktail Bitters, $4.50; Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6, $4.50
Anything From LeNell's
For the New York crowd, LeNell’s in Red Hook is the English sports car of liquor stores: small and compact, but my god, what power. Check out the unparalleled collections of bourbons and bitters, or try out the signature whiskey: LeNell’s Redhook Rye. Cask strength, unfiltered, and old enough to order itself in a bar, this whiskey was selected by the lady herself, and is one of the greatest ryes in circulation. The latest bottling is expected in the store this week; this is what I’ll be looking for in my stocking on Christmas morning. LeNell’s Redhook Rye; call for price