It is that time of year! Thanksgiving has come and gone, kicking off a month chock full of traveling, holiday glee and spending time with loved ones. It can be difficult to find the right gift for the beer, wine, and cocktail enthusiast in your life, but there are other useful items you can gift them that isn’t the booze itself. That is why we have explored the corners of the internet to find unique gifts for every taste. Our list has everything from stocking stuffers to sweet treats to tools that will make heads turn. If you need other special ideas, the 2016 version of this article has some excellent suggestions that are still just as relevant this year. Now to the gifts!
Tools of the Trade
Smoking Box for Cocktails – ($250) – Smoke is a flavor profile that has been a favorite in the cocktail community for years. From peat laden Scotches to unique mezcals, smoke has been rolling over cocktail menus across the land. That rich element does not have to be limited to certain spirits. With this smoker, designed by Charles Joly, you can add smoke to cocktails or food. This is a real creative opportunity as the smoke can come from a range of fuels and aromatics – from wood chips to your own herb and spice blend.
Black Matte Barware – (varies) – I want all of it. Catching up with the matte color trend, Cocktail Kingdom now offers a set of professional barware in deep black. The number of tools may be limited at the moment, but you know they are going to expand it over time. Better start collecting now.
Rogers-Smith Conical Jigger – ($39.99) – Also from Cocktail Kingdom, part of the David Wondrich Classic Collection. Before the double-sided jigger became a common site behind the bar in the late 19th century, bartenders used whatever glass was handy. A commonly used measuring tool was the 2 oz./60 mL sherry glass. This jigger is one sided, holding 2 oz./60 mL of liquor with a 1 oz./30 mL line in it. Cocktail like it’s 1899!
Ikura Knife – ($39.99) – Knives are as critical to a bartender as they are to the chef. It is rare that you will find the right knife that can make the delicate cuts you need for an orange peel as well as carve the ice you will be adding to a drink. That is why award winning bartender Aaron Polsky teamed up with Cocktail Kingdom to create this six-inch, forged, multi-purpose steel knife. It is the one knife to carve them all.
Vintorio Wine Aerator Pourer – ($16.95) – There is an elegance to having a decanter sitting out on the table, allowing the wine inside to breathe as dinner and conversation is being enjoyed. But there is something incredible about a pourer that can aerate wine as it is flows into the glass, thanks to the Bernoulli Effect. Science to the rescue again!
Yama Glass Stovetop Coffee Syphon – ($55) – This is one of my favorite coffee makers I have ever owned. It makes several cups of coffee by playing with air pressure – as you heat the lower bulb, it forces the hot water into the top chamber. This method delivers a smoother cup of coffee by ensuring the grounds are well-steeped in the water. It can also be used to infuse herbs into liquors and syrups, or make a cup of strong loose-leaf tea. It is a hands-on process, but the show and the end results are worth it.
Vibes Hi-Fidelity Ear Plugs – ($23.99) – Bars are loud. Especially on Friday and Saturday nights, when there may be bands playing, or just the din of thirsty customers two or three deep waiting for a cocktail. To drown out all of that background noise and protect hearing, Vibes has created ear plugs that allow bartenders to hear orders while still tuning out background noises. And anything you can give as a gift to make a bartender’s job easier while protecting their health is an incredible gift indeed.
Fun for Everyone
Star Wars Tiki Glasses ($79.99 for a set of five) – Do I really need to explain why you need a C-3PO tiki glass? With the new Star Wars movie coming out ten days before Christmas, you will want these in a cantina near you before they sell out. But if Star Wars is not their favorite intergalactic war, ThinkGeek has you covered. If those on your list are more excited about the Infinity War this coming May, then the Guardians of the Galaxy line better fits their style. Of course, they can stay on Terra get ready for an Avengers homecoming. Here are some drinks to make with them!
Viticulture – ($60.00) – Some of you may not know this, but board games are a pretty big deal again. They are currently in a Golden Age, with themes ranging from building economic and military empires to selecting the right slices of pizza. Incredible game developer Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games has captured the various elements of running a winery, from growing the grapes to giving tours to shipping to distributors. This game is fun to play with two people, but is designed for up to six. If wine is not your libation of choice, Brew Crafters offers a similar experience for the beer geek in your world.
Ginvent Calendar – ($138.00) – Yes, the whiskey and beer advent calendars are great to have. In case you were too focused on brown spirits to notice, gin has been in the middle of a boom of its own. Gin distilleries have been popping up all over the world, but especially in the United States and Great Britain. Discover twenty-four new gins with this calendar by Master of Malt that will take you, or your gin-loving friend, right up to Christmas day. As a side note, according to the Chicago Rabbinical Council, many gins are kosher as long as they do not have additives. For a more in depth look at kosher liquor for Hanukkah, our own Amanda Schuster spells it out in a very digestible way.
Cocktail Courier Subscription – ($149.97 for three months) – We all have one friend who has a home bar that rivals some professional set ups. They have a separate refrigerator for various shrubs, syrups, and other cocktail experiments they have been creating. If you want to buy them something they could use but are not 100% confident on what to send, just leave it to Cocktail Courier. They send delightful cocktails, ranging from simple to complex, sweet to savory. You don’t have to stop at three months; if you really love the person, you can send them an entire year of cocktails!
But First, Cocktails Candy Bento Box – ($65) – The bento box is a staple of Japanese culture; a single, balanced meal packaged in an easy to transport vessel. This concept has been the inspiration for other uses worldwide, including a candy sampler from the good people at Sugarfina. They have come up with a bento box of cocktail flavored goodies, from champagne flavored gummi bears to Jamaican rum truffles. If the box is not your speed, they have a wide range of other cocktail inspired goodies to indulge. For your friends, of course.
uKeg 64 oz. Pressurized Steel Growler – ($149) – Growlers keep getting better and better. The seals are improving to keep beer carbonated longer and the insulation is keeping the brew colder longer. Now we have growlers that are pressurized, have their own tap, and will keep beer fresh for up to two weeks. It is like being able to have a portable keg right behind your bar! If you think they will need it, you can get this fantastic contraption in a 128 oz. size as well.
Glass Cocktail Shaker with Measurements – ($30) – I do not know about you, but there are some pieces of cocktail history I wish would come back into vogue. During the 1950s and ’60s, you could find glass cocktail shakers with metal lids. Printed on the glass were graphics and recipes that reflected some of the drinks that could be crafted by the right set of hands. It may not be the real deal, but Outset offers something similar for that home bartender with a little bit of nostalgia for the Mad Men days of cocktailing.
Vintage Wall Art – (Varies) – Has there been a more popular time for bitters and amari in the United States? Their popularity has always been strong in Europe, but here it is like we are discovering them for the first time. This is a perfect opportunity to decorate someone’s bar area with a vintage advertising poster. They can be big and bright or dark and delightful, much like the spirits they are promoting. Find their favorite one and present it to them framed and ready to hang!
Whiskey Wisdom Card Deck – ($15.95) – The rise of Food Network and other popular culinary programs brought with it the rise of people wanting to understand how the food they enjoyed was created. This need for information spread to all aspects of the culinary world, including the cocktail scene. When you sit down to play some poker or euchre, have this stocking stuffer handy. Not only will you have a nice set of cards to play, you will learn something about this popular brown spirit. Not to leave anyone out, Uncommon Goods also offers the All About Beer Card Deck and Wine Lover’s Card Deck.
Jarvis Bar Cart – ($89.99) – I am still a fan of the bar cart. Seeing Alton Brown turn an old airplane serving cart into a rolling bar, combined with more people entertaining at home, and a bar cart becomes a lovely way to showcase the care that was put into curating their bar. The Jarvis even has a detachable tray that you can use to serve the cocktails you are so thoughtfully crafting at the holiday party!
Brian Petro, a native of the great state of Ohio, found himself in the town of Dayton after graduating from the Cleveland Institute of Art. His path has wound through the design, education, and restaurant industries, all of them adding a little something to the overall flavor of his creative endeavors. The first time he stepped behind a bar, it felt like home. Ever since, he has absorbed all of the liquor knowledge he can find, from culture to history to recipes, and done his best to share what he knows with the world. Or, at least the readers of Dayton Most Metro, where he is the writer about all things cocktail. He also likes the word “Brilliant” too much and appreciates the beauty of winter more than most. Follow him @SmartGuyInATie.