Serious Eats: Drinks

Gift Guide: For the Cocktail Enthusiast

Don't know a cocktail fan? See our other gift guides. —Ed.

Nothing puts you in the holiday spirit like some holiday spirits. If someone on your list appreciates a decent drink now and then, here are a few gift ideas to help make the season, and the coming year, bright.

Good Whisk(e)y

20091209astar.jpgGlenmorangie Astar: C'mon, a decent bottle of booze is a no-brainer as a holiday gift, and the world of whiskey is so extensive that it's no problem to find just the right one. This is a recent release that's well worth checking out. The bright and spicy 10-year-old Highland malt is aged in used Tennessee whiskey barrels. Available online at drinkupny.com, $79.99.

20091209woodford.jpgWoodford Reserve Master's Collection Seasoned Oak Finish: For an extraordinary American whiskey consider this bourbon that's finished in barrels made from wood that's been air-seasoned for up to five years. The result? A fantastically flavorful whiskey. Available online at drinkupny.com, $88.99.

20091209yamazaki.jpgSuntory Yamazaki 12-year-old Single Malt Japanese Whisky: Asian distillers are producing some interesting whiskies nowadays and this is one of the leaders of the pack. Medium-bodied and delicate, with a flavor of stone fruit and honey, this Yamazaki is a good starter bottle for the exploration of the wider world of good whisky. Available online at drinkupny.com, $42.99.

Bitters

20091209bittermens.jpgBittermens Bitters: Five years ago, you could count yourself lucky if you found more than one type of cocktail bitters at a liquor or specialty store. Now there's a crowd of assorted bitters on the market, each intriguing in its own way. This one, an especially anticipated release, has extraordinary bottlings of Xocolatl Mole and Grapefruit Bitters that are flavorful and versatile. Available online at thebostonshaker.com, $18.

20091209celery.jpgThe Bitter Truth: These cocktail bitters made by craft bartenders in Germany are becoming essential items behind serious cocktail bars, both amateur and professional. My favorites include the remarkable Celery Bitters (try them in a martini or gin sour) and the spicy Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters. Available online at cocktailkingdom.com, $15.95.

Syrups

20091209pineapple.jpgSmall Hand Foods: Many commercial syrups taste bland, saccharine, and vaguely artificial. Fortunately some bartenders have launched small-scale, small-batch operations producing high-quality cocktail syrups using natural ingredients. In San Francisco, Slanted Door bartender Jennifer Colliau launched Small Hand Foods, which sells syrups such as Pineapple Gomme, Raspberry Gomme and Orgeat that are devastatingly flavorful and have become hot items in many Bay Area bars. Available online at caskspirits.com, $12.

20091209orgeat.jpgTrader Tiki Cocktail Syrups: Portland bartender-blogger Blair Reynolds recently launched his own line of syrups. His gift pack includes bottles of small-batch Orgeat, Cinnamon Syrup and Don's Mix (a tiki-centric mixture of grapefruit and cinnamon). Available online at tradertiki.com/store; $35 for pack of three bottles.

Bar Tools

20091209flask.jpgSeamless Arai Mixing Glass: Goodbye, leaky shaker from the thrift store—hello, professional barware from around the world. I initially didn't think your choice of barware made much of a difference in terms of drink mixing and serving. I was wrong. This elegant flask from Japan, a great stocking stuffer, elevates the aesthetics of the simple act of drink-mixing. Available online at cocktailkingdom.com; $49.95.

Books

"What's old is new" may be a cliché but in the case of cocktail books, it works. Some of the best books to come out this year have been reprints or revised editions of previous works.

20091209vintagespirits.jpgVintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh aka Dr. Cocktail: This is one of my most-used books in recent years. Doc's essential history of vintage drinks was revised this year and includes many new (or actually, old) drink recipes. Available online at amazon.com; $13.59.

20091209kappeler.jpgCocktail Kingdom: To dig deeper into the vintage catalog, peruse the replicas of classic cocktail books at this online bookstore. New selections this year include Modern American Drinks by George Kappeler, first printed in 1895 and now re-released with an introduction by Ted Haigh, as well as Cocktails: How to Mix Them by Robert Vermiere, a reproduction of the 1922 British bar guide with a new introduction by yours truly. Available online at cocktailkingdom.com; $29.95 and $19.95 respectively.

One Last Thing

20091209meehan.jpgMeehan Utility Bag & Bar Rollup: Has someone on your list been really nice this year? No, I mean really nice? If so, get them this is the ultimate gift for professional and amateur bartenders. Designed in partnership with Jim Meehan—you know, the guy behind PDT in New York and one of the most talented bartenders working today—this multi-compartmented leather bag from Moore & Giles features pockets and holders for virtually any kind of bar tool. Not to be too obvious or anything, but I'm saving a spot beneath my tree for one of these this year. (Now which one of you Secret Santas can help a blogger out?) Available online at mooreandgilesinc.com; $740.

About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.

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