Random Recipe

Featured

Categories

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Mixologist

GiftsFor some people it's a burden and for others it's a joy—that time of the year when everyone is expected to exchange gifts. Whether or not you enjoy the holiday season there is one thing most of us agree upon: how frustrating it can be to try to come up with good gift ideas. Sure, there's amazing and expensive technology out there with plenty of fun gadgets that will be obsolete by this time next year, but how about a more traditional approach? Why not give a gift that will inspire or will teach, or will assist? I'm talking about useful gifts for the mixologist in your family.

A Shopping List
I've written before about using good tools and technique with an emphasis on making the most of what you already own. That's fine for the rest of the year, but this is the perfect time to consider items that can help elevate your mixologist's skills and abilities so they (and you) can enjoy even better cocktails in the coming year. These suggestions are in no particular order, and some of the best resources for buying these items are listed at the end:

  1. Boston Shaker - It has to be the most useful tool for the home imbiber. The Boston Shaker is what almost every professional bartender uses to mix cocktails. It's comprised of a large, 28 ounce metal tin and a 16 ounce pint glass. This simple tool will have your mixologist shaking in no time! They are easy to clean and usually very inexpensive. What's that you say? They already have a 3-piece (cobbler style) cocktail shaker? Get them a Boston Shaker anyway—trust me—they will be glad you did. A 3-piece shaker might look convenient, but they are messy, they don't seal (or don't come apart!) and they are often just more clumsy than they need to be. Since the Boston Shaker is so cheap, you'll want to add:
  2. Strainer -  There are several kinds including 2-prong and 4-prong Hawthorne strainers (the kind with the spring), and julep strainers. These inexpensive tools are indispensable when using a Boston Shaker to filter out the ice allowing your mixologist to pour cocktails like a pro. Even if they already have a Hawthorne, chances are they don't have a julep strainer. A julep strainer is basically a large oval spoon with holes in it. It is used inside a mixing glass where it fits down into the mouth of the glass at an angle and holds back ice that was used to stir and chill a cocktail. Remember, an all-spirit cocktail like a martini or a manhattan likes to be stirred, and a julep strainer is the best way to pour it cleanly into a chilled glass.
  3. Tovolo Ice Trays - Perfectly square ice cubes are all the rage. They look great, they work well in a shaker, and they melt slower than refrigerator crescent-shaped ice-maker ice. The best bars use Kold-Draft ice makers which produce large, perfectly clear cubes, but you can get really close with Tovolo silicone ice trays. I use them myself. They make more efficient use of your freezer space, they are easy to remove individual cubes, you won't crack them "twisting", and the ice will melt slower and looks gorgeous in the glass. Speaking of glasses:
  4. Coupes, cups, and mugs -  The exciting resurgence of cocktails has brought back a lot of traditions. One of them is the use of the cocktail coupe, an elegantly styled glass that looks like a champagne saucer. While they are not quite as common as the v-shaped martini glasses you see everywhere, they are making a strong comeback. They are also petite. The days of the huge cocktail glass are behind us. Quality is replacing quantity. Specialty glasses also make great gifts. Sometimes a certain drink calls for a specific serving vessel. The Moscow Mule, for example likes to be served in a copper mug, and the Mint Julep works best in a silver cup.
  5. Books - It sounds like a gift cliche, but the right cocktail book will do more for your mixologist than any tool. Understanding the classics and having experience with original recipes from their historical context is the best way to understand spirits, modifiers and mixers as well as how to use them to make more contemporary concoctions. Give your mixologist the exposure to drinks as they were meant to be. I recommend just about anything published by Mud Puddle Books. They have created a line of reprinted classics—exact replicas, actually—allowing everyone access to important pre-prohibition guides that would otherwise be hard-to-find antiques. Their fine selection of reprints include The Bartender's Guide by Jerry Thomas, David Embury's Fine Art of Mixing Drinks and many other noteworthy texts.
  6. Measuring Cup or Jiggers - Consistency and quality both require proper measurements. Not everyone can free-pour with precision, and even top bartenders measure everything they create. Your mixologist should too, and to help them do it, I recommond the OXO Mini, a slick measuring cup that comes in both plastic and stainless steel. The plastic measurement marks are easier to see than those on the stainless version, but either will make a perfect gift for your mixologist. Jiggers are great too, but I like the convenience of using a single tool to measure everything rather than a drawer full of jiggers.
  7. Muddler - Every mixologist will eventually need a good muddler. Taller is always better. You don't want to hit your knuckles on the rim of a glass or metal mixing tin. Sure, you can use the handle of a spoon, or even a few chopsticks held in a bundle, but having a nice muddler is going to make it that much easier to get consistent results out of herbs, berries and citrus.
  8. Ask for suggestions - Honestly, this list could go on forever! If you don't see any ideas here or you want spend a bit more money, leave a comment or send me a note. I know I can come up with plenty of suggestions even if you think your mixologist seems to have everything.

Where To Buy
One of the most convenient places I have found to buy gifts is Amazon.com. Being that Summit Sips is an online resource, it only makes sense that I would direct you to an online retailer. In order to make this easier, I have done all of the research for you. You may have noticed the Store link in the menu bar here which has always brought you to a page powered by Amazon containing all of the items I recommend. Recently however, I also added a second section of antiques and vintage items I am making available. So, the store now has two separate sections: one filled with Amazon items and another containing items I have collected over the years that I am willing to sell. Keep in mind that these are not connected in any way, so they use separate shopping carts.

Buying from Amazon or grabbing something unusual directly from me is only the start. You can find great ideas on sites like Barsupplies.com, Kegworks.com, Cocktailkingdom.com or just about any restaurant supply store. Finally, every mixologist loves to have good ingredients, so even your local liquor store can be an excellent resource!

10 comments to Holiday Gift Ideas for the Mixologist

  • Hey - this is a fantastic article. Really well done and covers just about everything!

    I found it because of the mention of "Boston Shaker" and after a brief look around I really look forward to reading more from your site. (The "ice spheres" one is next.)

    Thanks for taking the time to write something like this up!

    Cheers,

    a.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by thebostonshaker, Randy Hanson. Randy Hanson said: Fresh Sip, Holiday Gift Ideas for the Mixologist - http://ow.ly/L9hf [...]

  • Randy

    Hey, Adam! Thanks for the comment. I hope you find some of the previous postings as interesting as this one. I looked at your site and it's exciting to find a fellow enthusiast out there. What shaker are you using right now? I'm using a WMF tin/glass combo, but I am currently exploring some all tin combinations (more to come on that subject ;-)).

  • Lauren

    Thanks for taking the time to write the article! I've been in the bar biz for five years (all through college), but sadly I'm going to have to leave it soon to find a full-time job. :/ I've used about every combination possible when it comes to shaker tins, but whatever the combo I've always relied on Mission Restaurant Supply. I live in San Antonio so it's easy to just go downtown to their store, but they have locations in three other cities and an online store. Their prices are so low it's insane. If you're Christmas shopping, I definitely recommend them for bar supplies.

    Once again, thanks for writing the article Randy!

  • Lauren

    Sorry! I guess I should have given you the link to the website for the bar supplies. They have everything you mentioned in the article, plus some random stuff that you wouldn't have thought of.

    Here's the link:
    http://www.missionrs.com/bar-equipment-and-supplies.html

    Happy hunting!

  • Thanks for your input Lauren. I also have it on good authority that Naranja (japan) makes excellent tins. I need to try some basic 18 ounce "cheaters" with my tins, and then I want to give Naranja a shot. Fortunately, shaker tins are not going to break the bank, so it's not a big problem to try a few until you get your hands on a combo you really like.

  • Pete

    Kold-Draft ice machines are a great "gift idea." In addition to their ice machines and ice makers producing perfectly square cubes, the ice machine actually freeze out impurities while the ice is produced. It is a unique process. Plus, Kold-Draft's square cubes melt slower and who wants to slog through the bin for good ice or, worse, serve a watered down drink.

  • Pete, Thanks for your input. While I agree that a Kold-Draft machine would make an incredible gift, it's not very practical for several reasons. First, perfect cocktail ice does not come cheap. A Kold-Draft machine costs several thousand dollars! Second, your gift recipient would need adequate space for this or may be required to do a home remodel to accommodate the freezer/cuber and a refrigerated bin for ice storage, not to mention water supply and drainage lines. Third, it's not exactly something that can be gift wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree. You would have to coordinate delivery and/or installation and that just ruins the surprise. Finally, although the Ice Butler made by Kold-Draft is an option (still very expensive), that unit does not have the square cuber of the larger machines. Until Kold-Draft makes a Butler-sized residential unit with their square cuber, $14 Tovolo ice trays might be the best option. Nevertheless, if you are still feeling the giving spirit, I'll take delivery of a KD machine any day of the week—just let me know when to expect the delivery truck!

  • Pete

    I know, I know. Was just excited to comment on Kold-Draft ice. I read the above post in the spirit of Christmas, and by that I mean to say, I went into "dream if you dare" mode (Christmas can be cruel without the occassional high-minded dream, huh?). I saw he reference to Kold-Draft and, let's face it, it would be the ideal gift. Kinda like the lexus commercial with the big red bow. So, imagine with me, the Kold-Draft Ice Machine gets delivered to the bar, the money spent (the same as any similar machine) gets the giver some serious good will (and likely much love) in return...and the very-pure square cubes a-plenty become the gift that keeps on giving.

  • I totally agree with your dream, and more than anything, I appreciate your enthusiasm—especially when it comes to ice! There's a few other posts about ice. Have you seen the one about the spheres? Talk about a great gift, why not a Japanese Taisin Ice mold? Perhaps the 80mm version would be best.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>