A big part of any hobby is having the right tools to truly enjoy it. With cocktails there are a few standards that you should have in your cabinet, but you can constantly be adding new tools to your liquor cabinet if you get serious about this hobby.
Disclaimer: The tools linked below are actually our very own! They are sold by our sister company, Top Shelf Bar Supply, run by A Bar Above co-founder Julia. So while we are totally biased, we go genuinely believe they are your best choice – because we designed / selected them ourselves. Ok, on to the list!
- Cocktail Shaker – We recommend this cocktail shaker vs the cobbler style cocktail shaker because you can always separate the 2 pieces of metal that holds your glorious beverage. Other styles of shakers can get frozen together and getting the shaker open could take power tools.
- Hawthorne Strainer – This is used in combination with the cocktail shaker and keeps the ice and pieces of fruit and herbs from getting into the final cocktail
- Bar Spoons – The Bar Spoon is used to stir spirit forward drinks. And you can never have too many bar spoons!
- Jigger (coming soon!) – If you want a good cocktail, then you need to be able to measure your ingredients properly. Getting a good jigger that is easy to read will make the process of making drinks more enjoyable for everyone.
If the person that you are giving the gift to doesn’t have a large selection of bar tools, then I highly recommend our 14 piece bar kit. It has everything they will need in order to get started making you some tasty craft cocktails. (And they aren’t cheapo tools, either!)
DIY Manhattan Kit
If you prefer to grab a few different items and put them together in a nice basket or box, then making your own Manhattan Kit would be a fun idea. Grab your favorite Bourbon or rye, a nice sweet vermouth, some bitters and cocktail cherries.
You can’t go wrong if you buy the following ingredients:
- Rittenhouse Rye
- Carpano Antica sweet vermouth,
- Angostura Bitters
- Maraschino Cherries
You can really expand this gift to fit your budget/needs. You can add glassware, bar tools (like those spoons I mentioned earlier), ice molds a mixing glass and fun coasters to take this gift to the next level. Throw it all in a nice basket or box and throw a ribbon on it. Done!
With the renaissance of craft cocktails over the last decade, there have been a lot of great new bitters that have been created to support the growing demand. Long gone are the days that you could only buy Angostura Bitters and maybe Peychaud’s if you looked really hard. Now there are more bitters companies then you can shake a cocktail at. (See what I did there?)
With bitters, you can never have enough variety. It’s called the “bartenders spice box” for a reason! Bitters also have the benefit of being shelf stable for a very long time. The companies below have a large selection of different bitters to choose from, but I encourage you to take a look at your local bottle shop for some help and inspiration. If that’s not convenient, you can also buy most online.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Scrappy’s Bitters
- Scrappy’s Bitters
- Bittercube Bitters
- Bitter Truth Bitters
- Amargo Chunco Bitters (A great choice if your recipient loves an authentic Pisco Sour)
Syrups & Tonics
Along with the boom in bitters choices, there are a LOT of cocktail syrup companies to choose from nowadays – so many in fact that choosing one can be overwhelming. Just like with bitters, going to a local bottle shop could be a great idea if you plan on going this route. But again, most are available online too:
- Cocktail and Sons
- Small Hand Foods
- True Syrups
- Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.
If your friend is into spirit forward drinks, then a mixing glass is a great gift. Sure you could use a pint glass, but this makes you look so much cooler. 🙂 If you plan on buying this, I highly recommend picking up the strainer that is typically used with it: the Julep Strainer.
A Barrel for Barrel-Aging
The humble barrel has so many possibilities for cocktail lovers. They can barrel age a Manhattan, Negroni or Boulevardier. They could even age your favorite white whiskey or bitters. For the more culinary minded recipient, they even make barrels that you can make your own “balsamic style” vinegars. Aim for a round a 2 liter barrel as the recipient will have to fill the barrel and that could be the most expensive part.
If you have no idea what to give the cocktail lover in your life, glassware is a great choice and this could be a great add on item for any gift in this list.
- Whiskey lover – Glencairn glasses
- Rum or Tiki Lover – Tiki mug
- For someone who loves Speakeasy cocktails – I really like the selection of glassware from the History Company. They have some beautiful pieces, but they can also be extremely expensive ($40 for 2 glasses). Hopefully you can find some inspiration from them, then head to your local thrift shop and find something similar!
Bar & Cocktail Books
You can find just about anything that you want on the internet, but the author might not always have the best advice (like this article). If the recipient of your gift giving wants to know more about cocktails or just increase their recipe repertoire, what better way to learn than from some of the best bars and bartenders in the country?
Any of the books below would be a nice addition to any home bar library:
- For the science minded cocktail enthusiast – the selection of glassware from the History Company.
- For Tiki cocktail lover – Smugglers Cove
- From the operators of one of the most iconic bars in the country: Death and Co and their recent release, The Cocktail Codex
- Jeffrey Morgenthaler has changed the way we drink in this country and influenced many bartenders all across the country/world. His Bar Book is not to be missed.
- Jim Meehan is most famous for opening PDT, one of the original Speakeasy style bars. Check out his Meehan’s Bar Manual.
- The Dead Rabbit has won just about every award there is to win in the craft cocktail scene and the Canon Cocktail Book
- Last but definitely not least, Jamie Boudreaux is one of the early adopters of advanced techniques behind the bar, Canon in Seattle. If you have ever seen a cocktail topped with foam or fancy pearls “caviar” in your drinks, you can thank this man. Check out the Canon Cocktail Book.
This should be no surprise, but booze can be one of the more intimidating things to buy for a cocktail lover. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! (Note: if this list looks familiar, that’s because it’s the same thing I recommended in my Bartender gift guide a few weeks ago. Whether you’re a bartender or not, these are great choices!)
There are 2 common categories of spirits that are often given as gifts: spirits that are meant to be sipped or put into a delicious cocktail and liqueurs that are fun to mix in drinks.
Spirits for Sipping or Mixing:
You could aim for the $50 price point and be pretty happy with a lot of spirits:
- Tequila- Siete Lequas and Fortaleza are both brands that produce some beautiful tequilas that would make a great gift for a tequila lover.
- Amaro – Amaro Montenegro, Amaro Lucano and Amaro Nonino are all very popular and delicious
- Whiskey- Colonel E.H Taylor, Basil Hayden and 4 Roses Small Batch would all be great choices for the Bourbon category.
- Rums – Plantation Rum pineapple infused rum, Santa Teresa 1796 and Clemente Rhum Agricole.
- Gin – Plymouth, St. George Terroir Gin, Spirit Works Barrel Aged Gin. This last one is a bit unusual, but still delicious
Liqueurs are a fun way to expand the range of what a home bartender can offer. These liqueurs are the perfect guilty pleasure because they can sometimes be expensive and you usually don’t need a lot in a cocktail. If you want to put together a sample pack of a few different types, you can try to find 375 ml packagings instead of the more common 750 mls. The list below can be difficult to track down, but that also means the lucky recipient probably doesn’t have it in their liquor cabinet either. Once again check out your local bottle shop for some of these products.
- Bitter Truth Creme De Violet
- Green Chartreuse
- Yellow Chartreuse
- Liquore Strega
- Spirit Works Sloe Gin
- Chareau Aloe Liqueur
- Lucid Absinthe
- Belle de Brillet Pear Brandy
Large Format Containers:
Entertaining can be a lot of fun and a lot of work. Getting your place clean, organized and ready for guests can be an all day event, not to mention getting food prepped. If your a host, you want to mingle and make sure your guests are having a good time. Setting up a few premixed beverage stations will free the host up from having to bartend all night. Plus you have the added benefit of the host thinking of you every time they pull out your container.
Bartender gift guide
Simple Beverage Container
That’s a wrap! Hopefully this list has given you some inspiration for the cocktail lovers in your life. And with a bit of luck, I hope they will make you a few drinks in exchange for your generosity!