There’s definitely a bartender in your life, in some capacity or another. And if said bartender is near and dear enough to your heart to receive a holiday gift from you this year, you might as well make it something they’ll actually use, because nothing’s worse than receiving a leaky rose gold novelty cobbler shaker from your local home goods store (cute as it may be).
So in the spirit of gifting cool, functional, and vetted barware to the professional in question, we asked a handful of industry veterans what they’d want to unbox this season; without further ado, we give you this bartender-approved shopping guide for any budget.
Joanna Carpenter, Bar Director at Town Stages in New York City’s TriBeCa neighborhood, recommends going the timeless and functional route with a classic jigger from her go-to purveyor of quality barware. “Cocktail Kingdom’s 1oz/2oz Japanese Jigger is a great gift for home bartenders, because usually cocktails made at home are done using simple measurements,” Carpenter explains. “Having this in his or her life basically allows for consistent drinks; they’ll taste the same every time, and taste good. Which is obviously what you want.”
This option is perfect for those looking for a stocking stuffer or small token under $20. Carpenter adds: “You don’t have to spend a ton of money on it, but it looks elegant, and it also looks like you know what you’re doing.”
“The Cuisinart Retro Style Stand Mixer makes blending drinks––and lots of them––a snap,” says New York-based rum expert Shannon Mustipher, who also serves as Bar Director for Glady’s in Brooklyn. “This is ideal for low stress entertaining, as well as being easier to master over shaking for home bartenders just starting out. It’s cute, too.” You could also place a pre-order for Mustipher’s forthcoming hardcover, Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails which is due for release in March of 2019.
Mustipher also recommends this 28oz crystal stemmed mixing glass for stirred cocktails or for simply sitting pretty on a bar cart (or both). “Again, I love the retro look and visual interest that the shape of this glass adds to a bar cart or the act of mixing for friends,” says Mustipher, adding that functionality and style are key.
“My gift to a home bartender or anyone passionate about bartending is a simple but commonly overlooked item: a 2×2′ ice tray,” says Jesse Vida, a Dead Rabbit and BlackTail alum now based in Singapore, where he’s recently been named Head Bartender at ATLAS. Vida recommends picking up two of these ice molds from Cocktail Kingdom as the perfect accessory to any stirred drink or pour that calls for a great cube. “Ice plays a very important part in the creation of any cocktail; the 2×2′ cube is an industry standard for an Old Fashioned or any drink down on the rocks,” Vida continues. “This is also a great gateway to getting creative with how you use ice.”
OXO Good Grips Y Peeler, $8.99
Speaking of stirred drinks, Old Fashioned enthusiast and American Whiskey bartender Tracey Eden can’t recommend this essential accessory enough. “It’s very important to have a sturdy fruit peeler. You want to be able to get a peel that is really gets into the fruit so you can properly extract the oils into your cocktail. Those oils can really complete a drink and give the nose of the cocktail a bright, citrus aroma that hits your senses right before taking a sip,” says Eden. She’s a fan of the easy grip that this OXO peeler offers, making it “great for gracefully clumsy people like me.”
Urban Bar Japanese Steel Ice Pick and Axe, $74.99
If you’re looking to offer a harmless and productive way to take one’s anger and frustration at the current political climate, look no further than this sleek stainless steel and wood ice pick, a favorite of Nigal Vann, bartender at Chicago’s Apogee Lounge. “This is my favorite ice tool because it has a very nice weight, minimizing the effort I need to use to crack away the perfect hand-chipped ice for my scotch pours. The pick is perfect for carving guidelines, and the axe can be used to finish the job.” Vann is also a fan of its easy-to-clean design and endurance, attesting to its ability to “stay sharp over hundreds of uses.”
“When you want to be flashy in a humble way, start with your tools,” suggests Vann. “This humble brag is a great conversation piece and adds a world-class service as you’re not touching your ice and looks more professional than using a scoop. It can take a bit of practice grasping the ice with the claws, but it’s worth the two minutes it takes to do so,” he says of these stainless steel tongs.
Theoretically, one can never have too many ice molds––especially when the season calls for themed cubes. Darnell Holguin, Beverage Director and Partner at Manhattan’s Las’ Lap, recommends this festive pack of holiday trays. “It’s all sort of fun shapes of Christmas-related things like gingerbread houses and candy canes. You can try using different teas and fruit juices to make different flavored ice cubes for a fun, evolving sip.”
Custom Hand-Welded Bottesi Strainer, Price Varies
“Bottesi is a little pricey, but they personalize things for bartenders,” says Karlos Hernandez, bartender at subterranean cocktail bar Gibson & Luce in Manhattan. “They actually hand-weld barware and ship it out; you could commission a strainer from there, or buy one of their existing pieces, which are fun and crazy but functional.”
An Entire Home Bar for Several Thousand Dollars
You may or may not be looking to seriously spoil your favorite bartender in the most extra way possible. If that’s the case, Dante NYC bartender Marlo Gamora has just the thing for you. “If someone were to gift me the ultimate bar tool, it would be a physical bar. I would invite everyone over for every occasion. Anyone can make a cocktail at home with tools in the kitchen. But, buy me a bar and I will always make you a cocktail in style!” Well played.