Finding the perfect holiday gift can be maddening (is this the color they’d want? Is it something they already have? Is it so last year?), but really, once you have a sense of a person’s taste, it’s not impossible. This season, we’ll be talking to members of various tribes to find out exactly what to get that audiophile, beauty fanatic, or gamer in your life. Think of it as a window into their brain trust — or, at least, a very helpful starting point. For our latest installment, we asked a dozen prominent names in the wine and liquor scene — from spirits and cocktail writers to mixologists and sommeliers – to tell us what they’re most excited to get this holiday season. Below, the liqueurs, mixing glasses, and Japanese jiggers that even the nerdiest booze connoisseurs on your list will want to add to their bar cart.
“Often overlooked, a nice ice bucket can make an impactful statement on a home bar. It can be a functional centerpiece so look for one that is attractive to your taste and large enough to hold a substantial amount of ice so you are not constantly having to refill it! This beauty is a great replica of a vintage Dutch-style ice bucket made from hammered copper at a very reasonable $30.” —Allen Katz, co-founder of the New York Distilling Company
“Anyone interested in the cocktail world should pick this up — a novice, enthusiast, or a journeyman bartender will learn from the man that brought us PDT.” —Kenneth McCoy, chief creative officer of Public House Collective
“Hydro Flask makes a lot of tumblers and water bottles that you can take for camping or backpacking. I love hiking out here in the Bay Area and they have a tumbler that works like a wineglass, but it’s insulated and has a lid on top, so you can take it with you when it’s full of liquid or even a cocktail, and it will keep it to temperature so it doesn’t get hot while you’re out. It’s nice to have, especially for situations like the beach where you’re not allowed to have glass, but a canteen totally works.” —Lou Bustamente, spirits and cocktail writer, author of The Complete Cocktail Manual
“I always want to make a pretty garnish at home but am sometimes lacking the tools. A good channel knife or paring knife can really add something special to the presentation of your cocktails. I’m obsessed with this Global paring knife: The dimple handle is practical but is also really fun and gives it a stylish edge.” —Amanda Streibel, lead sommelier at Spyglass
“While everyone loves a bespoke fancy cocktail, recently I’ve been a big fan of batched punches. Not only are they easy to prep in advance, but they are a great way for your party guests to serve themselves (meaning you don’t have to play bartender all night). Spend as much or as little as you want – you can always find beautiful punch bowl sets at the local thrift store, or you can find pretty reasonable options like this one on Amazon. If you’re making a gift of it, consider adding Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl by David Wondrich — a great historical read about the history of the boozy punch.” —Julia Tunstall, co-founder of A Bar Above
“While these are hugely expensive, they are (as far as I know) the only way to get a truly perfect clear ice ball. Start by freezing a clear ice block, then warm up the ice ball press. Set your block inside, put a pan underneath to catch the drips, and wait. In a few short minutes you’ll have an enviably beautiful ice ball. This is definitely a luxury item that’s not for every budget, but I’m just going to keep asking to see if I get lucky some year!” —Chris Tunstall, co-founder of A Bar Above
“This is something I’ve never invested in before: a proper Japanese bitter bottle, which is this little bottle that you fill up with your favorite bitters that will always dash the same amount of liquid every single time. With the centered bitter bottles that you find here that have the little plastic tops, the amount of bitters that comes out changes depending on how much volume there is in the bottle, so you’re never getting very precise amounts of flavor in your drinks. These Japanese ones will consistently deliver the same amount of bitters in a drink. They’re much more precise.” —Lou Bustamente
“The prized piece of cocktail-making tools this season are surely Cocktail Kingdom’s new matte black line of spoons, strainers, and jiggers. A matte black Japanese jigger will help me remember which one is mine on the rail — that is, until everyone has one! And let’s face it, isn’t matte black the supreme finish for everything from motorcycles to barware?” —André Darlington, co-author of The New Cocktail Hour and forthcoming Booze & Vinyl: A Spirited Guide to Great Music and Mixed Drinks
“If I could put only one item on my wish list, it would be this Cynthia Rowley flask bangle bracelet. It holds about three ounces of liquid, so it’s TSA-approved. I’ve wanted one ever since I spotted a glamorous bartender friend wearing one on a flight to New Orleans. Her bracelet was full of rum, but I think I might want to fill mine with a pre-batched Negroni for the flight.” —Kara Newman, spirits and cocktail writer, author of Shake.Stir.Sip
“Apologue Liqueurs is a brand-new Chicago-based liqueur company that launched with three initial liqueurs: persimmon, aronia berry, and celery root. They use local ingredients — all natural with no additives — and unlike the norm with other spirits, actually list all of their ingredients on the bottle, which is amazing (no secret scary colorings or other ingredients). They showcase overlooked midwestern ingredients and make them pop, and have enough complexity and depth to be a base spirit but also play well with others, like a Persimmon Spritz (so good!).” —Eden Laurin, managing partner of Chicago’s The Violet Hour
“I’d like to suggest something more personal, for the home cocktail or bar enthusiast. Robin Mix, father of Leyenda and Speed Rack’s own Ivy Mix, is a glass artist out of Tunbridge, Vermont, and he has been hand-making mixing glasses for some time now. These things are thick, sturdy, and stunning to look at.” —Jim Kearns, beverage director and partner, Slowly Shirley and The Happiest Hour
“This device makes troublesome corks on older bottles a total nonissue. The Durand basically combines the classic waiter’s corkscrew with horizontal compression from a forked ‘Ah so’–style wine opener. This way, you can’t rip the middles out of your corks if they happen to be crumbly, nor can you accidentally push the cork into the bottle if they happen to be a little loose. One of the few tools that’s a must have for any working floor professional, with great applications for the enthusiastic amateur who likes mature wines.” —Morgan Harris, head sommelier at Aureole
“This is what every modern bartender has been waiting for. Dave Arnold, the legend behind Booker and Dax has finally made a centrifuge for culinary use. No need to spend $8,000 on a large piece of loud laboratory equipment, now you can get the same results at just a fraction of the price and save yourself some time. With the Spinzall you can clarify juices and infusions, concentrates purees, makes nut oils, and more. You are only limited by your creativity.” —Pietro Collina, bar manager at the NoMad
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