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COCKTAILS

Emily Schindler
The Best Cocktail Gifts, According To Bartenders
Books, juicers, cherries, and everything else you need for any cocktail drinkers in your life.
Written by

Cocktail gifts are always a good idea. But this year, as we spend record amounts of time at home, they make a little extra sense. That’s why we gave you 14 Of The Best Gifts For Cocktail Drinkers as well as our Essential Cocktail Set. And now it’s time to bring in the outside experts.

We asked 15 highly accomplished bartenders and beverage professionals across the country - who have enough collective cocktail knowledge to fill several libraries - about the sort of gifts they’d like to give this year. Their recommendations are perfect for anyone who’s even remotely interested in Negronis, Martinis, or some whiskey neat in a nice-looking glass. Read on for expert gift ideas that’ll help you get your shopping done in record time.

Want more advice from cocktail experts? Text our Happy Hour Hotline, open to all Friends of The Infatuation members. Try a month of membership for free with code HAPPYHOUR.

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Gates Otsuji

Founder, Controlled Substances

“It might seem silly at first, but one of the best bar tools I ever bought was a Chef’n FreshForce Citrus Juicer. It’s a hand-press juicer, and its double-hinged design not only keeps it from popping apart, it reduces the stress on your hand when you use it. Easily cleaned, comfortable to use, and super-durable (I’ve had mine for 10 years now), I take this juicer along with my kit for events and use it on-the-fly at home. I’d recommend it to anyone.”

Get a Chef’n FreshForce Citrus Juicer ($24.99) →

“Effortlessly creating a citrus peel twist is one of those moves that should be in your wheelhouse - and safety is paramount whenever you’re using a blade. I’ve seen a lot of people cut themselves with peelers that slip on the fruit. Do yourself a favor, and skip the flat scalpel blade. Instead, get yourself a micro-serrated blade peeler, which puts a little more grip on the skin of the fruit. I recommend these Swissmar peelers to my clients and the bartenders I train, and frankly, I won’t use non-serrated blade peelers unless I have no other choice. Best $6 I’ve ever spent.”

Get a Swissmar Peeler ($5.99) →

“With COVID-19 shutdown protocols in the UK, almost all of the distilleries in Scotland were forced to cease operations. These old distilleries are designed to be in constant production, so this led to the waste of hundreds of thousands of liters of product. Prior to the crisis, Scotch whisky was already in high demand, and prices were already rising due to new import tariffs, introduced at the beginning of 2019. It’s going to take quite some time for production to catch up, so if you know someone who values their scotch, this is the time to gift them their favorite bottle.”

Get some scotch →

John deBary

Author, Drink What You Want; Co-Founder and Board President, Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation

“No matter how much time you’ve spent behind the bar, prepping to make cocktails at home is always a chore. For me, it’s all about comfort and convenience, and having a palette of at-the-ready cocktail ingredients from Cheeky is a great practical-yet-luxurious gift. Think of it as a cocktail meal kit - it has everything you need to start whipping up your own Daiquiris and Margaritas. Plus they have a handful of cute tutorials to help noobies get started.”

Get a Cheeky kit ($15-60) →

“2020 was a big year for zero-proof (i.e., non-alcoholic) drinking with a couple of fantastic cocktail books dropping as well as a slew of new products. I created Proteau as a way to bring complex and engaging drinks to everyone. Ludlow Red is a blend of blackberry, black pepper, chrysanthemum, and fig vinegar, and Rivington Spritz has strawberry, Chinese rhubarb, hibiscus, and champagne vinegar. Both are perfect straight from the bottle - no mixing required - and meant to serve as an accompaniment to great food and great people.”

Get some Proteau ($19.50) →

Claire Sprouse

Bartender/Owner, Hunky Dory

“I really like the Heirloom Pinole from a woman-owned farm, Ramona Farms. Milled from either wheat berries or corn (my personal favorite), it is used as an ingredient in beverage recipes throughout some indigenous cultures. It has a great nutty richness, which I think makes it a great substitute for dairy or eggs that often weigh down a lot of traditional holiday cocktails. It’s a dry powder, so you just stir it in. It’s very easy to keep on your home bar.”

Get some Heirloom Pinole ($6) →

Yasuaki Saito

Partner, The London Plane

“If you love a Manhattan or an ice cream sundae, you should know about Orasella. Longtime friends Anne SanGiovanni and Heidi Stender set out to make a natural version of the famous bright red cherries that find themselves at the bottom of cocktail glasses and atop hot fudge sundaes around the world. Produced with local sweet cherries, the team at Orasella follows a traditional Italian recipe with maraschino liqueur that results in deep flavor with a rich syrup. Perfect as a gift for others or yourself, these cherries are both nostalgic and delicious.”

Get some Orasella Cherries ($19) →

Marc Farrell

Founder, Ten To One Rum

“My go-to drink all year round is a Ten To One Old Fashioned. It’s super easy to make and always hits the spot. When I’m home, I just make my life easy and throw everything in a rocks glass, stir, and enjoy. My favorite bitters combo is Angostura bitters and Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla.”

Get some Bittercube bitters ($23.99) →

“I always recommend Riedel rocks glasses to my friends. Not only do they have a sophisticated but clean design, but they’re also the perfect size and dishwasher safe.”

Get some Riedel rocks glasses ($29.99) →

“Another favorite gift item is a coupe glass. The Daiquiri is one of the oldest and easiest cocktails to make, and when you serve it in its proper glassware, you can convince all your friends that you’re a professional bartender. You can find these coupes from CB2 on my bar.”

Get some CB2 coupes ($3.95) →

Susan Eggett & Alex Maynard

Founders, Sequoia Gold Hospitality Partners

“For your more adventurous drinking friends we recommend Saint Benevolence Rum Clarin. Haiti’s ancestral spirit, this rum clarin is an eau de vie of sugarcane with funky fresh vegetal notes. 100% of the profits from the sale of this rum goes to fund health care and other community-based initiatives that the owners have been doing in the town of St. Michel de l’Attalaye for over 30 years.”

Get some Saint Benevolence Rum Clarin ($32.50) →

Andra “AJ” Johnson

Managing Partner & Beverage Director, Serenata; Founder, Back to Black Cocktail Pop Up

“Tiki is not something I have really fine-tuned in my bar career because I’ve never worked in a bar that focused on Tiki drinks. Being behind the bar at Serenata, I had to find that fine line between what is Tropical and what is Tiki. I was gifted Shannon Mustipher’s cocktail book, Tiki, during a cocktail competition in NYC and I was taken aback by the vibrancy and knowledge behind the category that I had never immersed myself in before. It’s a great read and point of reference for a home bartender or an expert.”

Get Tiki ($22.49) →

“I love a good apron. For a bartender, it’s our uniform. But just as cocktails have classic recipes that we follow and then tweak with our own flair, aprons are a way that we can represent ourselves in our polished craft. It’s gotta be comfortable and breathable, but most importantly, your apron has to be made for you. Craft Made Aprons has a huge selection of materials and prints for you to select from.”

Get a Craft Made apron ($60-80) →

Ruby Roo

Bartender, Pieces; NYC Glam Award Bartender Of The Year

“Some of us have extensive knowledge of cocktails from working in upscale bars, some of us know the basics from working in local dives, and some of us only know how to order a vodka soda. John deBary’s Drink What You Want is for all of those people, and anyone in between. This approachable cocktail book is filled with classic and inventive recipes, tips and tricks, and a lot of factoids that even seasoned mixologists will find intriguing. I keep mine on my bar cart or coffee table during parties so guests can get inspired and have fun with their drinks.”

Get Drink What You Want ($17.61) →

“Anyone who has worked behind a bar can tell you that a bar key bottle opener is like gold. Bartenders will also tell you that they go missing all the time. My easy solution was to order my own. I also chose to have my Instagram handle inscribed on one side and a cute catchphrase on the other. That way, if a sneaky coworker snags it by accident, it has my name on it - and if I leave it on the bar, patrons might be inclined to give me a quick follow. I loved it so much I ordered custom ones for a few of my service industry pals.”

Get a custom bottle opener ($13.95) →

Julia Momose

Partner & Creative Director, Kumiko

“Shōchū is the national spirit of Japan, and I find it to be one of the most versatile spirits. I like to recommend a bottle of rice (kome), imo (sweet potato), or barley (mugi) to start. I love Takahashi Shuzo’s Hakutake Shiro rice shōchū, and Nishi Shuzo has a number of amazing sweet potato shochu like Tenshi no Yuwaku or their more classic Satsuma Hozan. For barley shōchū, Iichiko’s Silhouette is a beautiful example of the category. Each of these is fabulous straight, on the rocks, with club soda, or in the wintertime, as oyuwari (mixed with hot water). To round out the gift, set up a private cocktail class with myself or one of the other bartenders from Kumiko. Inquiries may be made to hospitality@barkumiko.com.”

Get some shōchū →

“For bar tools, check out MTC Kitchen. They have one of the best selections including my favorite brand, Yukiwa, from Niigata.”

Get some Yukiwa bar tools ($4.20-148) →

Estelle Bossy

Bartender & Beverage Educator, The Lady Bossy

“Nearly every bartender and sommelier I’ve met is fascinated by Chartreuse, the herbaceous cordial distilled by Carthusian monks according to a secret, centuries-old formula in southeast France. Packed with archival illustrations and a handy bottle guide at the back, this volume tells the rich history of this mysterious elixir and the monks that make it.”

Get Charteuse the Liqueur ($55) →

“Coasters don’t just protect the table - they’re a tiny stage, elevating cocktails both literally and figuratively. These enameled beauties are available in three lustrous color sets inspired by Necco wafers. Designed by the Katch sisters and handmade in the USA, the Waifs arrive gift-wrapped in a miniature hat box.”

Get some Waifs coasters ($285) →

GN Chan

Founder, Double Chicken Please

“This small bar cabinet will be the perfect additional piece for your home/room. The mid-century modern style blends well with different interior décor vibes.”

Get a mid-century bar cabinet ($429.99) →

“A stylish tea pot is always a good idea for a home kitchen counter, whether you serve tea, cocktails, or just H2O.”

Get a Wabi Sabi tea pot ($30) →

Geoffrey Chang

Bartender, Serenata

“Whether you’re a professional or an amateur everyone is going to need a good quality shaker. This three-piece Barfly shaker works excellent for a professional bartender, while still being easy to use for an amateur with its built-in strainer. It’ll make a great addition for anyone who enjoys making their own cocktails at home during the holidays.”

Get a Barfly shaker ($31) →

“The next step to level up your bar at home is making crystal clear ice. Whether you’re making cocktails or drinking a spirit on the rocks, clear ice will add that extra level of finesse to your drink. It melts slower than normal ice cubes and makes for better tasting cocktails, and these clear ice molds are perfect for professionals and amateurs alike.”

Get some clear ice molds ($35.99) →

Aaron Thorp

Co-Founder, Supergay Spirits

“My go-to gift is usually vintage barware - specifically, vintage decanters. They have application for both cocktails and wine and are likely something cocktail enthusiasts won’t buy for themselves.”

Get a vintage decanter ($265) →

“For those looking to perfect their cocktail game, a refractometer is really the only way to make sure sugar levels are consistent across all sugar applications. After all, cocktails are all about balance.”

Get a refractometer ($69.50) →

Robert Björn Taylor

Hospitality Professional/Beverage Consultant, @kingbjornce

“A great gift for the novice or home bartender would be a complete set of tools: weighted shaker tins, a jigger, a hawthorn strainer/julep strainer, a bar spoon, and possibly mixing glass. I say possibly because mixing glasses are common in the household kitchen - but if you choose to mix like a professional, go ahead and get the complete set. These I would consider buying from Cocktail Kingdom, but you can shop from local vendors or small businesses online as well. It’s great to support the little guys in these times.”

Get a set of bar tools ($84.99) →

“I’d also consider getting a couple of starter bar books. A great one is Cocktail Codex. You can learn basic cocktail fundamentals - like how to make syrups - and get some all-around great knowledge. If you already have that and just feel you want to know some science and history, a good pickup read is Proof by Adam Rodgers.”

Get Cocktail Codex ($25.47) →

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