Raise your hand if you've spent an obscene number of hours online shopping over the last few days! (You can’t see it, but both of my hands are raised.)
According to Forbes, shoppers spent a record $10.8 billion this year on Cyber Monday alone. I don't know about you, but I definitely contributed a fair chunk of that myself…I love, love, love buying holiday gifts! It's without a doubt one of my love languages and something that brings me more joy than I can explain. In fact, I consider it a personal challenge every year to find the perfect gifts for the people I love, be it something needed, something wanted, something unexpected, or something that I create myself. And the best part is that the people I buy for tend to share the same interests as me, so shopping for them maaaaay on occasion turn into a few gifts under the tree for yours truly....
If you’ve been following along here at Parched, you know that I'm passionate about cocktails. I spent many years mixing drinks and managing a bar, so I have a deep appreciation for a well-made tipple and great respect for the precision required to execute a thoughtful, perfectly balanced drink. And I also reeeeally love pretty glassware and funky ingredients and functional, handy mixology tools. So I thought that with holiday shopping officially underway, I’d share some personal recommendations as well as some of my favorite finds of the season in case you’re looking for gifts to give the cocktail lover in your life. Plus, if you’ve been reading the “Cocktails with Carolyn” series on stocking your home bar and want help finding tools and glassware to complete your home bar setup, I’ve got you covered!
Shakers and strainers and spoons, oh my! In today’s cocktail-loving world, there are countless gadgets you can buy to use behind the bar. Some are needs, some are just fun to have, and others….well….others are simply a ridiculous waste of money and space! The truth is, you don't require anything fancy to mix a good drink, so stay away from the novelty items and stick with the needs (and maybe a few wants!). Here are some things I recommend and/or personally use myself that would make great gifts:
Two-Piece Weighted Cocktail Shaker Set ($20): Like Carolyn, I prefer a tin on tin shaker and this set gives you a tight seal and is easy to get apart. Two musts when you’re making drinks.
OXO Cocktail Strainer ($7.99): Tight coils, a bit of weight, comfortable. I use this at home and it’s never let me down
Barfly Fine Mesh Strainer ($9.00): This little tool makes creating double strained or fine strained drinks a breeze. And this particular line comes in several finishes in case you're looking to match other non-stainless steel tools you have at home.
Viking Japanese Style Jigger ($9.99): I highly recommend a Japanese style jigger to a classic one because a) it makes whipping up cocktails easier and b) it allows for better precision and consistency. With measurement lines already etched inside, it eliminates having to use an extra tool to measure out ingredients that don't fall into a 1 oz or 2 oz pour, and it eliminates guesstimating those pours by giving you precise guidelines (which is important when it comes to giving a recipe and the person who created it their proper due!). This is the one I have, but there are heaps out there to choose from.
OXO Angled Mini Measuring Cup ($4.99): While I primarily measure ingredients using a Japanese style jigger, a small measuring cup is a great alternative. With this one you can see measurements from both the top and the side, which some people find simpler to use.
Barfly Japanese Style Bar Spoon ($12.00): As with most of my bar tools, I like a Japanese style bar spoon. Compared to the American or European versions, it's skinnier, longer, and aesthetically I think it looks more elegant.
Crate & Barrel Hatch Mixing Glass ($9.95): Not a necessity, but something I love to have on hand when I'm going stirred not shaken. I bought this one last year for my sister and it's beautiful. Hard to beat this price for something that looks far more expensive than it is.
Winco Wooden Muddler ($7.50): I like simplicity plus height and a little heft when it comes to a muddler, so if I had to choose only one muddler to have on hand, I'd personally opt for a wooden one. However, there are sooooo many designs out there -- stainless steel with a textured rubber bottom, stainless steel with a flat metal bottom, wooden with a flat bottom, plastic with flat and rounded bottoms, etc. -- that it really boils down to what kind of drinks you make most, what you're muddling in, and what feels most comfortable in your hand.
Chef'n FreshForce Citrus Juicer ($12.50 on sale now) and/or OXO Small Citrus Juicer with Built-in Measuring Cup ($14.99) : From citrus reamers to high-end professional juicers, the options in this category run the gamut. I like a good, solid handheld juicer for my lemons and limes, but I also keep a reamer on hand for larger citrus like oranges and grapefruit, as well as for when I want a little pulp in my drink.
Victorinox Pairing Knife ($13.50): Not a need, but if you're anal when it comes to making garnishes look fresh and precise like I am, this is a great knife to have in your bartending tool chest.
True Cubes Ice Tray ($45): Again, not a need. But for those square, crystal clear cubes of ice you find in cocktail bars, this will help you make them. There are a variety of clear ice tray options on the market, but True Cubes combines performance with capacity, which are selling points for me.
So many cocktail books, so little time to read them all! There's nothing I enjoy more than digging into a good book, and books about cocktails are no exception. Sure, I enjoy reading through cocktail recipes, but what I enjoy more is learning the history behind various boozes and tinctures, how drinks were originally created or ingredients are made, the stories behind renowned cocktail bars....you get the idea. So in my opinion, a well-written cocktail book is the gift that keeps on giving. Here are a couple that I think are absolute must-haves:
Death & Co. Cocktail Codex ($40): For anyone who enjoys making drinks, I suggest you RUN….do not walk….and add this cocktail book to your repertoire. While Death and Co.'s first book is absolute genius and I highly recommend it as well, this one breaks the vast world of cocktails down into six fundamental recipes (which the author believe are the root of all other drinks) to give you history coupled with technique so that you really understand the genres and learn how to build from there. It’s not just a book of recipes, it goes beyond the “how” to teach you the “why,” and provides the tools you need not only to execute drinks beautifully, but to improvise successfully. It’s also chock full of gorgeous photos, easy to read, and offers insight that's easy to apply to the real world, so whether you simply make drinks to enjoy at home or you work in a swanky cocktail bar, this book is definitely for you. (PS: It's almost half off on Amazon right now!)
Smuggler's Cove ($30): My dear friend and fellow tiki drink lover, Lisa, gifted me this book a few years ago, and it's the only book on tiki cocktails that you'll ever need to read. Written by the owners of the famous tiki bar Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco (which is arguably one of the best tiki bars of the modern era and a bar I'm desperate to visit myself), this book provides a wonderful background on the history and culture of the tiki cocktail, delves into the lore and legend behind the tiki movement, offers in-depth information on various rums and their uses, and includes over 100 original and historic recipes. It's a really fun read and a fantastic book for both tropical drink lovers and serious mixologists alike. (PPS: This one is also on sale on Amazon right now!)
Have I mentioned that I have a slight obsession with pretty glassware? There's just something about sipping a drink out of a pretty glass that makes it taste better, which has me buying far too many cocktail glasses than any human being should be allowed to. I like sets of glasses as much as I like to mix and match them, so it's not uncommon for me to buy them singularly or in sets of two, especially when there's a good sale or I find random one-offs at a flea market or antique store. Below are some I've come across in my recent online browsing that I think would make a lovely addition to any glassware collection. And if you're unsure as to which ones to choose for the cocktail lover in your life, make sure you check out Carolyn's article on glassware in which she breaks down which glasses you need, which ones you don't, and what drink goes best in what glass!
Anthropologie Gatsby Tumblers (set of 2 for $38): I may or may not have taken advantage of the Black Friday sale to get myself a set of these…
Crate & Barrel Hatch Rocks Glasses ($4.95 each): I bought these to match the mixing glass mentioned above and they are so beautiful! Again, you can't beat the price for glasses that look far more expensive than they are.
CB2 Eve Coupe ($7.95 each): Pour a Kir Royale or a French 75 in these ASAP!
Pottery Barn Hammered Highball and Old Fashioned Glasses ($10 each or a set of 4 for $40): I can picture a whole lot of summertime G&Ts in these…
Pottery Barn Jupiter Hobnob Highball Glasses (set of 6 for $48): Different colors for different cocktails for different occasions!
World Market Metallic Gold Patterned Old Fashioned Glasses (set of 4 for $24): These are just plain fun.
Riedel Vinum Cognac Glasses (set of 2 for $59): Elegant and sophisticated, and from a brand that really understands glassware.
FOR A BIT OF EXTRA FUN
Porthole Infuser ($125): Get creative and make your own infused concoctions with this gem! My friend, John, has one and he's made some tasty combinations, some of which have followed a recipe and some that he's made up. The only drawback is that it doesn't hold a lot of booze. But I'm sure that's more about how we much enjoy our cocktails than it is about the product!
Regatta Craft Mixers (12-pack for $14.99): Every bar needs a supply of quality mixers, and Regatta is offering 20% off their all-natural, non-GMO mixers until December 31st! From Ginger Beer to Tonic Water to Club Soda, now is the time to stock up and take advantage of this discount using code SPIRIT20.
Scrappy's Bitters The Essential Gift Pack (4-pack sampler for $29): A great way to experiment with more than just your classic bitters. Pack contains 0.5 oz each of Orange, Aromatic, Chocolate and Firewater.
The Cocktail Garnish (5-pack starting at $4): These gorgeous, dehydrated garnishes add a stunning finish to your cocktail! Made seasonally, they are wildly popular among cocktail enthusiasts, and can be purchased both in small packs or in bulk (approximately 50 garnishes for $28, 110 garnishes for $55, or 190 garnishes for $80)
Classic Cocktail Picks (set of 6 for $6.95): I've gifted myself and everyone in my family a set of these because they are perfect for every cocktail you ever want to make!
Ocean Cocktail Picks (set of 5 for $9.99): Another item that might be wrapped for yours truly under the tree...
Cocktail Clothespins (pack of 250 for $9.99): We've all seen those cool cocktails with the wee clothespins holding fruit and herb garnishes to the rim of the glass, which add a special touch when used with the right cocktail.
Cocktail Grow Kit ($12.00): Grow your own herbs to use in your cocktails!
Drunk, Stoned, or Stupid Party Game ($18): This could either lead to a whole lot of laughter or a whole lot of tears....
Happy shopping, friends! Stay tuned for more holiday guides to come.