Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
The gift-giving season is upon us, and amid the stress of dealing with family members for whom it is perennially impossible to find an appropriate gift (here, Dad, have another tie!), we should give thanks for cocktail fanatics.
The reason for that is that there’s an endless and ever-changing world of cocktail-related widgets, tools, ingredients, glassware and whatnot out there, and cocktail fanatics never tire of adding new items to their collections. Of course, there are limits. An antique silver punch bowl like the one that sold at Sotheby’s back in 2010 for $5.9 million seems a little over the top to me. Similarly, you could fly him (or her) to Vegas, jump into a limo to the Wynn’s XS Nightclub and splurge on a couple of Ono cocktails at $10,000 a pop. But honestly, why bother? There’s so much out there that’s so cool for so much less money. Here, for instance, are some great cocktail-related gifts for those on more modest budgets.
La Boîte Bloody Mary Seasonings ($15 for 2.5-oz jar)
Renowned spice specialist Lior Lev Sercarz (owner of La Boîte à Epice in Manhattan) teamed up with top bartender Jim Meehan to create four custom Bloody Mary spice blends, ranging from the traditional to the unusual.
Leopold Stainless Steel Jigger ($19)
There’s something about the hourglass design and hefty feel in the hand that makes this new jigger from the folks at Cocktail Kingdom ineffably appealing.
"The Drunken Botanist," by Amy Stewart ($20)
Anyone who loves cocktails should own this book. It’s an erudite and thoroughly entertaining dive - historical, botanical, anecdotal - into practically every ingredient that one might find in alcoholic beverages, from how juniper ended up in gin to the crucial cocktail role of the cinchona tree (hint: its bark is the source of quinine).
Nachtmann Bossa Nova Tumblers ($35 for 4 glasses)
Appealingly retro with their basket-weave design, these beautiful tumblers come from a branch of the Riedel wine glass company. They might make you think of the Brazilian Tropicália musical movement of the 1960s; alternately, they might make you wish you had an Old Fashioned in front of you, right now.
Grado Bushmills Whiskey Barrel Headphones ($395)
In case you’re looking for a crazy splurge - though not to the level of a $5 million punch bowl - these are an ideal gift for the serious audiophile/cocktail lover in your life. The bodies are made from recycled Bushmills whiskey barrels, while the audio parts come from Grado - in other words, they look cool and they sound great (admission: I’ve used Grado headphones for years). Plus they were designed in part by a hobbit! OK, not exactly - it was actor Elijah Wood, together with L.A. music-scene dude Zach Cowie.
More from Food & Wine:
Gifts for Cocktail Connoisseurs
Holiday Cocktail Party
Gifts for Wine Lovers
Best Hotel Bars
Incredible Holiday Spirits
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