The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set
Speaking of great ingredients, cocktail bitters are a hot commodity nowadays, with small-scale producers popping up all over the world. The German-based bartenders behind The Bitter Truth were pioneers of the craft-bitters phenomenon, and this year saw the debut of The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set, a box containing five 20ml-size bottles of the company’s distinctive bitters, including the award-winning Celery Bitters and the newest arrival, a richly complex Creole Bitters. The traveler’s set is easy to pack to parties and get-togethers, and offers a way to sample several of the many styles of bitters now making the cocktail rounds.
Parisian Shaker from the Artbar Collection
This two-piece Parisian Shaker from the Artbar Collection ($34.95 in stainless steel, or $114.95 in silver) is a hybrid of the two most common styles of cocktail shaker: the professional-gauge but tricky to use Boston shaker, and the convenient yet occasionally frustrating cobbler shakers, common to home bars. Simple in form and elegant in style, the Parisian shaker is basic enough for the novice mixer, but allows all the speed and flexibility desired by regular bartenders.
7-Piece Bar Tool Set
Most bar tools found in kitchen shops are—how should I put this—crappy, silly or a combination of the two. For high-quality bar tools that also look fantastic, the seven-piece set from German designer WMF ($150) is a great option. The set includes a strainer, a bar spoon and other essential tools in 18/10 stainless steel.
Raspberry Gomme Syrup
Good ingredients are essential to great cocktails, and San Francisco-based Small Hands Foods produces some of the best cocktail ingredients in the business. New to the portfolio is a Raspberry Gomme Syrup ($12), a luscious syrup made with organic raspberries that lends an unctuous, candied richness to classic drinks such as a Floradora or a whiskey-based Blinker. While you’re at it, pick up Small Hands’ ethereally rich orgeat, made with almonds, and the equally alluring pineapple gomme syrup.
New York-based writer and cocktail historian David Wondrich has almost single-handedly changed the way bartenders and imbibers view the world of cocktails. His latest book, Punch: The Delights and Dangers of the Flowing Bowl ($23.95), promises to do for large-scale drinks what his earlier book, Imbibe!, did for the mixing of craft cocktails. Plus, by giving this book to someone special on your holiday list, you’ll earn yourself the first-in-line spot at the punch bowl when New Year’s Eve rolls around.
Pierre Ferrand Ambre 10-year-old cognac
For people who drink cognac, some are year-round fans and others only venture to this particular font when the weather turns cool and the holidays roll around. Pierre Ferrand Ambre 10-year-old cognac ($39.99) is a Grande Champagne cognac that can take those in the latter column and entice them into a year-round enjoyment of the spirit. Bright and fruity, with elements of orange zest and apricots, Pierre Ferrand Ambre is a great introduction to this most prestigious of grape brandies.
Highland Park 25-year-old
Highland Park may not be the most familiar name in scotch whisky, but among bartenders and whisky aficionados, it holds a mighty reputation. Highland Park 25-year-old ($289.99) is definitely a splurge gift, but it's well beyond the ordinary, a perfect gift for the whisky-drinker on your list who deserves something extra special. It's round and honeyed, delicately peated and has a flavor rich with cocoa and dried fruit.