Serious Eats: Drinks

Gift Guide: For Cocktail Lovers

Cranberry Crush

[Photo: Jessica Leibowitz]

Pat yourself on the back: you made it through Thanksgiving dinner with Uncle Edgar and his creepy new wife, and you even made it through Black Friday without getting trampled at Wal-Mart. But you're not done yet, pilgrim. It's time to shop. 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.

Burrough's Reserve Gin

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Know a gin lover? You'll make his or her entire 2013 if you send over a bottle of Burrough's Reserve Gin, from the folks behind Beefeater. Burrough's Reserve is an aged gin from Beefeater's master distiller, Desmond Payne. He takes the Beefeater recipe, distills it in one of the original copper stills of Beefeater's founder, James Burrough, and ages it for a few months. The barrels are the same ones used, previously, to age the Jean de Lillet Reserve aperitif wine. Payne calls this a gin for free-thinkers; what he means by that is that he's targeting people willing to try something new, and drink their gin not in a cocktail, but either neat or on the rocks, unadorned by vermouth or citrus or any of those other distractions.

I tried the Burrough's Reserve in late October and I loved it. It definitely tastes like Beefeater, in that the juniper notes are front and center, but it's mellowed by a toasty hint of oak aging, and rounded out by flavors of honey and citrus. Burrough's is available as a limited edition, so hurry. Find it at Crush Wine and Spirits, or Grand Wine Cellar, or Binny's ($60-70).

Whiskey: Instant Expert

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[Photo: Princeton Architectural Press]

John Lamond's Whiskey: Instant Expert lands in an impressive year for whiskey books. The book itself is something of an import; it was originally published a couple of years ago, in England, as Whisky: Le Snob, part of a series designed to educate laypeople on a range of topics.

It's a concise history of grain-spirits distillation, opening with the fundamentals of whiskey: how and where it's made, what's in it, and how to enjoy it. Then it moves through the major whiskey-making regions: Scotland, Ireland, the U.S., and the rest of the world. Lamond highlights the primary whiskey styles of each country and provides mini-reviews of major producers. It's impossible in a book of this scope to cover everyone, but Lamond does his best. The book's small enough to fit in your average stocking, and inexpensive enough to fit your average budget. If you know someone just getting into whiskey, this is a good bet.

Leopold Coupe Glass with Silver Trim

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C'mon, drink geek, it's time to class up your home bar a bit. This Leopold coupe from Cocktail Kingdom is just lovely, with its graceful stem and the touch of silver at the lip of the glass. It's tall enough to stand out over the typical coupe, elegant enough to be noticeable, but discreet enough not to make a scene. I wish we all added that touch of class to a party.

Buy online, $38 for 6 coupes.

Barrel Aged Cocktail Kit

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Take 12 ounces of booze, pour it into a bottle, top it off, and wait a few weeks. That's the idea behind this cocktail-aging kit from Tuthilltown. The kit contains a 375 mL bottle (about 12.6 ounces) and a honeycombed piece of charred oak. The kit approximates the effects of aging a cocktail in a barrel, by allowing the cocktail to come into contact with the charred oak. The honeycomb shape exposes more surface area of the wood to the cocktail, thus allowing faster aging. A kit like this won't provide your cocktails with the nuances of cocktails aged in actual used liquor barrels, but then again, it's much less expensive. I aged some Negroni in mine for a few weeks, and I loved the rich, mellow taste. You can also use it to make fancy aged simple syrup for sodas and non-alcoholic drinks.

Buy online, $12.

Cocktail Classes at Boston Shaker

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Know someone local to the Boston area? Send them back to school with a cocktail class from the Boston Shaker, in the suburb of Somerville. They'll receive hands-on instruction in cocktology, including the art of measuring, mixing, pouring, and serving cocktails. Your giftee will also receive a 15%-off coupon for any item in the store.

Buy online, $70.

Handmade Copper Flask

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[Photo: Kaufmann Mercantile]

Know someone who likes to drink like a boss? This beautiful copper flask from Kaufman Mercantile has a tin-lined interior. And it holds a full 9 ounces, which is generous for a flask. Need some ideas for flask cocktails? Check this out.

Buy online, $150.

Brown Bone Stirrer Spoon

20131203spoon.jpg I have a limited budget for bar tools these days, and living in a tight Brooklyn apartment with a wife, two kids, and two cats, I also have a small amount of space. So I've chosen to collect bar spoons. They're usually inexpensive; they're normally easy to store; and they provide a cool canvas on which a designer can make a mark. This cocktail spoon, with a handle made from bone, is a beautiful stocking stuffer.

Buy online, $10.

Vintage Cocktail Books

[Photo: Michael Dietsch]

If your loved one already has all the modern classic cocktail manuals—they've got Gary Regan's Joy of Mixology, Dale DeGroff's Craft of the Cocktail, and Robert Hess's Essential Bartender's Guide, and they already own The PDT Cocktail Book and the works of David Wondrich, plus Ted Haigh's excellent Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, chances are they'd be interested in the original source material, too.

Here's my guide to essential vintage books and how to track them down.

Dog Days Cocktail Napkins

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I'm usually pretty terrible at picking out decorative things for cocktail parties. But I know that cloth napkins add swagger to any gathering, and I also know I really need to step up my game; so these canine-themed napkins are my pick. As you know, we like dogs here at Serious Eats, so we couldn't pass these up. Each color has a different design, so you can have fun collecting the whole dog park.

Buy online, $8 each.

About the author: Michael Dietsch lives with his wife, son, and newborn daughter in Brooklyn. His first book, Shrubs, is due in 2014. You can reach him on twitter at @dietsch.

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