Sure, anyone can mix a vodka and soda water, but a true cocktail connoisseur takes pride in carefully mixing a drink made up of top-quality ingredients, using the best tools and accessories and serving it in style.
To help those who have craft-cocktail obsessives on their gift lists, we spoke to bartenders, distillers, bar managers and other drinks experts to discover their favorite products to gift and why.
Here are some of their top recommendations.
1. Cocktail Kingdom Bartender Kit Satchel
Cocktail Kingdom is known among those in the industry for making some of the best bar tools—probably because the founder owns several bars himself. And this stylish and useful bar kit satchel has everything you need to make expert-level cocktails, ready to go.
“More often than not, it’s great to take your cocktail equipment with you to your friends’ houses, to work, on any journey really—this satchel is great,” says Liana Oster, bar director at NoMad London.
2. Cocktail Kingdom Mixing Glass
A proper mixing glass is a must for any budding cocktail maker.
“My favorite cocktail to make at home is a classic Manhattan,” says David Giuliano, beverage director at Il Buco and Il Buco Alimentari in New York City. “You have to be able to stir the drink properly, because a Manhattan should not be shaken, nor stirred in metal. Invest in a nice etched glass and it will really elevate their bar cart.”
3. Ume Plum Liqueur
“There are many reasons to grab this bottle for entertaining this holiday season,” says New York City-based cocktail consultant Pamela Wiznitzer. “First, it’s a product founded by women. Second, the color is absolutely stunning and really makes heads turn when you use it in a drink.”
4. Bittered Sling Bitters
Wiznitzer also calls out this set of premium bitters, which would make a great stocking stuffer—you could even divide them up or give a full set to someone special.
“Bitters are the ultimate seasoning and flavor providers in our cocktails,” she says. “I love the Bittered Sling because the founders behind the brand took their love of craft cocktails and created a line of products that not only add more dimension to your concoctions, but are made of the highest quality ingredients.”
5. Starfrit Rotato Express Electric Peeler
Artfully peeled citrus and other produce often garnish a cocktail, and when it’s done well it can really wow.
“This machine has saved me hours and hours of work,” says Micah Melton, beverage director of The Aviary and Alinea Group in Chicago. “It can peel potatoes or apples in seconds, and it will turn an orange into a foot-long orange twist at the touch of a button. Great for bartenders and for entertaining around the holidays, people can use it to make some limoncello or to garnish New Year’s Day Champagne cocktails.”
6. Vitamix Blender
If you have a frozen cocktail lover on your list, look no further than the ultimate ice pulverizer, the Vitamix.
Daniel Nguyen, the founder of Sông Cái Distillery, shares that it is “a super versatile secret weapon for any bartender. It can be used to make simple syrups, frozen cocktails or large quantities of shaken cocktails,” he says. “The aeration is superior to using a shaker—try a Ramos Gin Fizz in a blender.”
7. The Japanese Art of the Cocktail (Harvest, 2021) by Masahiro Urushido and Michael Anstendig
If your cocktail lover is building their drink book collection, this 2021 release is a must have.
As Jessica King, co-owner and operator of Brother Wolf in Knoxville says, “You may have every gadget and spirit known, but without proper instruction it’s all just liquid in cups.” The Japanese Art of the Cocktail is the new standard in fancy drink-making, packed full of legitimately helpful tips and useful techniques.
Oster of NoMad London seconds this recommendation. “Apart from the fact that I am an eternal book worm, this is one of my favorite books I’ve read recently,” she says. “Masa has always been the King of Hospitality to me; being able to delve into his mind and understand the hows and whys of his workings is a book every cocktail lover should read.”
8. Mixology & Craft Bartender Kit
Every bar cart needs an attractive set of tools, but it’s important to make sure they’re actually functional.
“Some sets include tools that I don’t know how to use,” says Elizabeth McCall, assistant master distiller at Woodford Reserve. “This bartender kit has everything you need to make classic cocktails and won’t leave you wondering what all the tools are for.”
It also includes a stand to hold everything in one place.
9. Dexas ice•ology Clear Ice Cube Trays
Nearly every cocktail expert we spoke with had something to say about ice: its importance, how to achieve optimal ice cubes and how to achieve clarity.
“For bartenders both home and pro, the three foundational elements of any cocktail are liquid, glass and ice,” says King. “And while anyone can make ice, crystal clear cocktail ice is a rare commodity.” She likes these sphere molds for an affordable way to get solid (pun intended), clear ice cubes
10. Custom Ice Stamps
One way to add some serious flair to a cocktail is to use an ice stamp. Mari Howe, bar manager at Pacific’o on the Beach in Maui, likes to look for fun and funky ice stamps on Etsy, like this one.
“Using an ice stamp can elevate your cocktail, and the ice, even further. You can customize these stamps any way you want, with your logo, monogram or with a fun or seasonal design,” she says.
11. Browne & Co Ice Tongs
Now that your gift recipient has the perfect, fancy ice for their cocktails, they’ll need the perfect fancy pair of tongs for serving it. Howe from Pacific’o on the Beach recommends these ice tongs from Browne & Co., because they “will grip the ice so it doesn’t fall and break.”
12. Original Luxardo Maraschino Cherries
The easiest way to spot an inexpert cocktail maker is by the cherries they use in their Manhattan.
“Nothing outs an amateur faster than putting those other candy red cherries in a cocktail. They are for ice cream sundaes, not for cocktails,” says Giuliano. So save your cocktail loving friend the embarrassment and gift them a jar of authentic Luxardo Maraschino cherries, straight from Italy.