I'm trying something a little different here, and putting together the first-ever Cocktailians Holiday Gift Guide. This is basically a listing of interesting things that you, or I, or a cocktailian you know, might like to get in their stocking this year. (And no one's paid anything to get on here -- all these products are things that I've either bought for myself, or I haven't tried them but think they look interesting enough to buy or recommend to others. Exceptions (Chopin rye vodka, To Have And Have Another) noted in tooltips.)
That said, on to the loot, presented in no particular order:
A cocktailian will always accept a bottle, particularly an interesting one. You could go in several directions here, ranging from something new, like the Charbay Hop Whiskey or Dad's Hat Rye (more on that presently) to something newly available, like the bitter liqueurs Byrrh, Salers, and Suze, or even something that's been around for a while. Such as a bottle of Chartreuse, for instance, which is useful in lots of different drinks and is probably a bit too spendy for all but committed home bartenders to splash out on...so why not give someone a bit of a nudge? Also, I tasted Larceny, a really nice new wheated bourbon from Heaven Hill, at Tales this year and quite enjoyed it. Great Lakes Pumpkin Spirit is unusual and far more whiskeylike than I'd expected. And I haven't tried it, but I'm very curious about the Bittermens New Orleans Coffee liqueur, with its promised chicory notes. On the gin side, there's the intense Perry's Tot and the well-balanced, more citrusy and floral Dorothy Parker, both from the New York Distilling Company in Brooklyn, and Plymouth Navy Strength is now findable. I'm also curious to taste the Half Moon from Tuthilltown and see what it's like. And, for the vodka lover, I've been impressed with the Core Vodka made from apples by Harvest Spirits in the Hudson Valley (which also makes the gorgeous Rare Pear brandy), Tuthilltown's Heart of the Hudson (also made from apples) , and the red-label Chopin Rye vodka is earthy and unusual -- all of these have more character than most vodkas out there, so they may not be your thing if you're looking for clean no-flavor ethanol. Or you could go more personal with a bottle of homemade liqueur; the recipe for cranberry liqueur looks great for this time of year. Master of Malt sells all sorts of interesting spirits out of the UK, and teeny 30mL sample bottles are available if you just want a dram of something intriguing. Their Whisky Advent Calendar gives you a bunch of intriguing samples (some worth £350/bottle), one a day till Christmas. (If you don't dig on whiskey, check out their Ginvent Calendar too.) But if you have a ton of money to burn, go delving into the Finest & Rarest spirits on offer: pre-ban absinthe, rhum agricole from the 1920s (!), Creme de Thé from 1850 (!!), and rye from 1863 (!!!).
There are lots of interesting ingredients and garnishes available, too. There's of course tons of different bitters out there: I really like the Scrappy's lime bitters, and am amazed that there aren't a ton of different lime bitters on the market. (Memo to self: start working on lime bitters.) Dale DeGroff has released his Dale DeGroff's Pimento Aromatic Bitters, developed with absinthe maven Ted Breaux. KegWorks, which has a pretty good selection of bitters, offers a two-pack of Fee Brothers barrel-aged bitters: the Gin Barrel-Aged Orange and the Whiskey Barrel-Aged Old-Fashioned Aromatic bitters. They also carry the hard-to-find Bittermens New Orleans Coffee bitters and the intruiging, Old Bay-inspired Bitter End Chesapeake Bay bitters. I'm also interested in trying two brand-new bitters, "Dr." Adam Elmegirab's Teapot Bitters and Basement Bitters' Bitter Frost, made by the Tuthilltown folks and featuring their rye, maple syrup, sarsaparilla, and other stuff and aged in a rye whiskey barrel. This makes them sound like they're in the same kingdom as the Bad Dog Barcraft Sarsaparilla Dry Bitters. The Meadow, in Manhattan and Portland, has a great bitters selection, and they carry the full line of the evocatively-named Bitters, Old Men selections; I especially want to try the Great In '28, heavy on the cardamom, juniper, and grapefruit. They also have the Brooklyn Hemispherical Black Mission Fig bitters -- the only fig bitters on the market. (I make my own fig bitters, and want to check them against the pros.) And, Master of Malt sells a rum-based Black Pepper Bitters.
On the garnish front, the Barker & Mills Bourbon Vanilla Cocktail Cherries are spectacular (if you don't make your own), and the Boston Shaker has those as well. And for mixers, KegWorks carries Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water, the hard-to-find winner of our Tonic Water Shootout a few months ago. And there are lots of neat syrups to play with: the Clément Sirop de Canne, a spiced cane syrup flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, and clove, makes a wonderful Ti Punch when added to rhum agricole and lime. Cocktailians friend B.G. Reynolds makes a great line of Tiki syrups under the Okole Maluna banner; the grapefruit-cinnamon Don's Mix is fantastic, as is the vanilla-pimento Don's Spices #2, almond-barley orgeat (though I add a teeny splash of orange flower water to this), and falernum. I can also recommend Extinct Chemical Co. Acid Phosphate (pictured above) -- try an Angostura Phosphate sometime -- and their lactic acid Lactart also looks interesting.
And what will you be drinking out of? I like the 3oz. (ahem) flasks from Cocktailians friends and neighbors SITE NYC, as well as the pictured hand-blown glass Tiki mugs from The Boston Shaker. Their partner The Uncommon Green has some neat-looking rocks glasses with street maps emblazoned on them, you can get a 4-pack of ceramic Tiki mugs from Cocktailians friend Okole Maluna, and the elusive Nick & Nora cocktail glasses are available from Tabletop Style. I also dig the round Metal Serving Trays from SITE NYC -- in either bright yellow or robins-egg blue -- and the midcentury-inspired design of the Bar Recipe Glassware from Fishs Eddy. (Their Polka Dot Glassware is fun, too.)
And what will you read while you sip? Boston cocktail blogger and Cocktailians friend Frederic Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut has published Drink & Tell: A Boston Cocktail Book. I can recommend Destination: Cocktails, James Teitelbaum's exhaustive guide to the best cocktail bars around the world. (How in the world did he find the time or resources to research all this?) KegWorks has a reprint of the 1947 Angostura Mixing Guide. Philip Greene has published the magnificent To Have And Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion (more on this anon.) And, Chuck Cowdery, writer of the best bourbon-focused blog around, also publishes the Bourbon Country Reader, a detailed well-researched newsletter that looks like it's worth a subscription.
As for gear, Cocktail Kingdom of course has tons of great things, from Yarai mixing glasses (and the beautiful Japanese Paddle Mixing Glass) to Lewis ice bags (and attendant big-ass mallets), and even the hard-to-find real swizzle sticks. If you're looking to barrel-age drinks, spirits, or bitters, Tuthilltown will sell you both small new barrels and larger barrels that they've used to age their whiskey, not to mention a cheaper "barrel aged cocktail kit" of a bottle with a charred honeycomb stave in it. KegWorks even has a dog collar barrel so your pooch can play St. Bernard!. The Boston Shaker has some nice-looking julep spoon straws -- these can be difficult to track down as well -- and for those who want to dabble in the modernist end of cocktailing, KegWorks has you covered with a Cocktail R-Evolution Molecular Mixology Kit, with pipettes, sodium alginate for spherification, lecithin for emulsifying foams, instructional DVD, and more.
And, if all this drinking stuff has left you a little peaked, I can also recommend great coffee from Tonx, which'll send you expertly-sourced and freshly-roasted beans every other week. (You can get a free trial here.) Or give an early gift with a ticket to the New York Distilling Company's Sandy benefit on Repeal Day, next Wednesday, December 5th: you get to see some night distilling in action, you'll get half a bottle of new make rye, half a bottle of the rye after it finishes aging, and the chance to win your own personalized 5-gallon barrel of rye. If you want to get some art and help out a great bar which was hit hard by Sandy, St. John Frizell's Fort Defiance is offering "junk bonds": gift certificates costing double their face value, each decorated with a different bartender's portrait. What a great idea!
...or wait, you were looking for a Holiday .GIF Guide instead? Tonx has you covered there, too.