Holiday Gift Guide for The Cocktail Enthusiast
"A gift card?! Just what I've always wanted!"
– said no one ever.
Let's face it, nothing beats opening up a nicely wrapped package to discover a thoughtful gift inside. I've compiled a short list containing a few of my top gift ideas for the home bartender, cocktail enthusiast or your mooch neighbor that comes over and drinks all your booze (or you know, yourself).
I own and stand by each of these products. These are my opinions and I was not paid to promote any of these items. Where possible I have contacted each company to try and save you some cash (Dad move), so look for "barrelageddad" promotion codes below. Merry Christmas!
#1: Wintersmith's Ice Baller Double ($80)
I think it's safe to declare 2017 the Year of Clear Ice. You can't get on the 'gram without seeing it and for good reason – there aren't many things sexier to a cocktail wonk than a crystal clear chunk of ice taking a spirit bath. I love making my own batch of clear ice as much as the next ice snob, but it's time consuming, messy and takes up a lot of freezer space.
Enter the Ice Baller Double. This compact device will deliver two crystal-clear, slow-melting 2.36" diameter ice balls using a standard home freezer and any water source, says Wintersmiths. I can vouch. Pair it with your favorite spirit or cocktail for the perfect chilled – but never watered down – experience. The compact size and fact that it makes 2 at a time make it ideal for the home bartender. If you're looking for cubes, check out their Ice Chest, or hit their Kickstarter page for the next gen Phantom which should looks awesome!
Runner up: TrueCubes ($45)
TrueCube's offering is a little easier on the budget and while it's larger than the Wintersmith's Ice Baller, it does make four 2x2x2 cubes at a time versus two spheres.
Use code "barrelageddad" to save 10% through 12/31/17.
#2: Breville Smoking Gun ($99)
This is one of my favorite "next level" bar tools. Sure, there are cheaper ways to smoke a cocktail but when it comes to convenience this can't be beat. The sheer amount of smoke this puts out will have the fire department showing up at your house (use a skull decanter around Halloween to wow your guests). With the wood chip kit (sold separately) you have your choice of apple, cherry, hickory and mesquite woods at your disposal. Use it to take a Black Manhattan to the next level or try smoking your simple syrup (do it now!).
Bonus: This is a double threat for the foodie as well, as it's perfect for smoking meats, vegetables and pretty much anything else you can think of. My wife and I smoked some salmon to perfection.
Note: I have the Polyscience version which apparently has been replaced by this unit on Amazon. Same thing really with a few cosmetic upgrades.
#3: Alkemista Infusion Vessel ($60)
This vessel from Ethan+Ashe is as beautiful as it is functional. Infusions are a great way to add versatility to any spirit and expand your cocktail game. Infuse some bourbon with cinnamon for a special Hot Toddy, or use the same infusion to bring a spiced kick to your tiki cocktails. The possibilities are endless.
My favorite to date is a coffee bean-infused sweet vermouth. Use this in a Negroni, Manhattan or Mudslide Flip to blow your mind. The big benefit to this design is that the infusion chamber is on the bottom, so you can infuse a small amount of liquor as an experiment before pouring an entire 750ml bottle in. Note that as of this posting it's now available in Copper or Matte Black finishes as well!
Use code "barrelageddad" to get 10% off sitewide through 12/17/17.
Runner-up: Teroforma's 1pt Master Kit ($65)
This is also a beautifully designed product which includes seven different proprietary dry infusion blends along with the bottle and a tasting straw. It holds 375ml versus the Alkemista's 950ml. This is a runner up only because the infusion chamber is at the top of the bottle, so you must use the full 375ml of liquor each time you infuse. On the plus side their excellent dry blends take the guesswork out of the equation. I confidently recommend either of these options as excellent infusion kits.
Use code "barrelageddad" to save 10% off orders of $50 or more through 1/31/18.
#4: Cocktail Kingdom Essential Set ($99)
After building a home bar set piece by piece over the past two years, this is the first complete set I've encountered that has 1) all the essential pieces you really need and 2) the quality you'd want. These are the tools you'll use day in and day out so spend look at this as an investment (wait, these are supposed to be gifts, right? ;) I can attest that this is an awesome set with Japanese inspiration and attention to detail. Also available in stainless steel or copper finishes.
#5: Personalized Oak Barrel ($60)
I couldn't create a Top 5 Gift list without something that incorporated barrel-aging, amiright? For the cocktail enthusiast that really wants to expand their home bar program I recommend adding barrel-aged cocktails to the mix (it's easier than you might think). Once you've had a barrel-aged Vieux Carre, Manhattan or Negroni there's no going back. I recommend the 2 liter over the 1 liter because if you're going to wait 4-6 weeks for a batch, you want it to last a while (and trust me it will go quick).
This makes a great gift as well because you can customize it for free with your own design. This is the home bartender equivalent to a coffee table conversation piece. Note that the cost is actually $36 but shipping is pricey and can take a while so best get to ordering if it's a Christmas gift!
#6: Cocktail Books ($10-20)
Knowledge is power my friends. The best way to expand your cocktail prowess is to learn from the best, so I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of my favorite books. There's no better way to expand your skillset than to learn from the best bartenders in the F&B world (and hey they make great coasters that say "Don't worry, I know what the hell I'm doing"). Here are a few you can't go wrong with:
A list wouldn't be complete without a few stocking stuffer surprises. Here are some smaller items for smaller budgets that are sure to bring joy.
Elements Shrub Gift Set ($25)
Shrubs made their presence felt in the cocktail scene this year as a must-have ingredient and I can't recommend Elements Shrub enough. Not only are their organic recipes on point, the owner is a fellow dad, cocktail enthusiast and small business owner. These also make amazing mocktails, just add club soda for a refreshing yet flavor filled beverage.
Use code "barrelageddad" to get 20% off through 12/31/17.
Viski Flask ($39)
Maybe it's pushing the stocking stuffer budget a bit, but it would just fit so nicely in one ;). Loving these sleek, minimalistic flasks from Viski – I've got the gunmetal gray version. With their beveled edges and smooth finish, they slide in and out of the pocket or purse with ease.
Use code "barrelageddad" to get 15% off through 12/31/17.
OXO Jigger ($7)
Sure, after raving about the Cocktail Kindgom set above this may seem strange but the fact is this is my go-to jigger. It's not the sexiest piece, but it's functionality makes all the difference. Cocktails are like baking in that each measurement is critical (try 1/2 oz of simple in your Old Fashioned instead of the proper 1/4 oz and tell me I'm wrong). I've got several fancy jiggers but always find myself reaching for this one due to it's clearly marked measurements. There is a Japanese style variant as well.
Luxardo Cherries ($20)
I admit these are a guilty pleasure, which make them a perfect gift option. It took me a while before I ponied up $20 for a jar of cherries but once you have them, there's no going back. It's not just the cherries either – the rich Marasca syrup is a fantastic addition to many cocktail recipes. Case in point one of my favorite cocktails – The Cherry Blossom. Kanpai!