Serious Eats: Drinks
Gift Guide: For Spirits and Cocktail Lovers
Black Friday! Small Business Saturday! Cyber Monday! It's enough to make anyone want a drink, especially if you're stressing out about gift giving. If you're having trouble thinking of great presents for your favorite spirits aficionados, we're here to help. These gifts will be a hit with cocktailians, home mixologists, and fanciers of booze in general.
Check out our gift ideas below, and tell us: what's the best cocktail-related gift you ever gave or received?
Nothing says "party" quite like setting your drinks on fire, and this Volcano Bowl is the perfect vessel for the pyromaniacal. Here's how it works: you prepare a tiki-style drink in enough quantity to serve 3 to 4 people, or 2 heavy drinkers, or your Uncle Ed. The central hub resembles a volcano cone, with a pit at the top that you fill with overproof rum, which you then light just before serving. Make sure first, though, that you've reupped your homeowner's or renter's insurance.
Bitter End Cocktail Bitters Variety Pack
Four flavors of cocktail bitters in small portions. The Bitter End Cocktail Bitters Variety Pack ($25.00) includes Memphis Barbecue, Mexican Mole, Chesapeake Bay, and Thai bitters. The Memphis Barbecue bitters captures the flavors of smoky pork in a bottle; it's great for Manhattans and Old-Fashioneds. Mexican Mole bitters taste like mole poblano and works well in fall and winter drinks. With notes of cayenne, black pepper, and bay leaves, Chesapeake Bay is a great addition to a bloody mary. The Thai bitters evoke the flavors of Thai cooking: mint, galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime. It works especially well in Champagne cocktails.
Fountainware Sherbet Glass
I'm always on the lookout for unusual looking glassware that doesn't look like a traditional coupe glass or v-shaped glass, but that also doesn't carry the price tag of vintage or antique glassware. If you're like me, a Sherbet Glass ($3.95) might take the prize. The glass is designed to serve sherbet, and therefore the thickness of the glass might be a little heavy for everyday drinking. But to show off your beautiful cocktails when guests come over for dinner or drinks, I can't think of a better conversation piece.
Designed in conjunction with Jim Meehan, chief barman at New York's renowned speakeasy, PDT, the Bar Roll-Up ($135.00) provides a safe and handy way to transport knives, icepicks, graters, bar spoons, and other bar tools from job to job. Similar in function to a chef's knife roll, the Bar Roll-Up can be used on its own or in conjunction with the Bartender Utility Bag ($595.00).
Dale DeGroff's Pimento Aromatic Bitters
King Cocktail himself, Dale DeGroff, enters the bitters market with his Pimento Aromatic Bitters ($20.75/250ml). Pimento does not mean the pepper you're used to, though; instead, it's the Jamaican word for allspice, and DeGroff's bitters marries allspice with anise and other herbs. DeGroff's Pimento Bitters is most comparable to Angostura, and like the venerable bitters brand, DeGroff's is designed to be used in a range of cocktails.
Master of Malt Scotch Whisky Home Blending Kit
Something unusual for the Scotch fan, the Home Blending Kit ($81.07) from Master of Malt enables Scotch drinkers to practice making their own blends. Whether you like your blends smoky and rich, round and floral, or a balance of the two, this kit allows drinkers to craft their own Scotch blend.
Great King Street New York Blend
Blending your own whisky is fun; I've done it myself. But sometimes you just want to let the experts drive, so you can enjoy the ride. One of the finest blended whiskies available right now is Great King Street Artist's Blend, from Compass Box Whisky Co. Our own Andrew Strenio reviewed that release last year, and we still endorse it. For this year's New York WhiskyFest, however, Compass Box was challenged to produce a special blend. Great King Street New York Blend ($55.99) was the result. John Glaser, founder and whiskymaker of Compass Box, chose to match the blend to the setting, New York City, and crafted a blend similar to the type you might have tasted in a late-19th-century NYC taproom. (You can read the full story here.) The New York Blend is available mainly in the New York area, although some other markets have received small allotments. If you can't find it, the Artist's Blend is a tasty substitute.
Stainless Steel Spoon Straws
Fun stocking stuffer for the frozen-drink fan! KegWorks calls the Stainless Steel Spoon Straw ($2.75 each; or $2.50 apiece if you buy four or more) the greatest combination utensil since the spork, and being a drinks nerd, I'm inclined to say it might be even better. Well, maybe. At any rate, they're useful not just for frozen cocktails such as margarita slushies, but also for milkshakes, so buy four, get a discount, and use them as stocking stuffers.