Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chemistry of the Cocktail Holiday Gift Guide

'Tis the season when many of you are trying to decide what presents to give your family, friends, and relatives. But what to get for those with boozy interests? Here are a few ideas.

Under $10

Lime Squeezer - if anyone you know likes making tiki drinks or other lime-intensive tipples, one of these will make their life significantly better. Juicing limes with a standard glass or plastic juicer can get rough on the wrists. The extra leverage afforded from this device makes it a snap.

Oxo Mini Angled Measuring Cup - if someone you know enjoys cocktails and doesn't already own one of these, you should definitely get them one. It blows jiggers out of the water, with just about every measurement needed up to 2 oz in an easy to view format. It also pours very cleanly, which cuts down on messes. A necessary tool for any modern home bartender.

Glencairn Whisky Glass - another must, this time for whisk(e)y drinkers. As I mentioned a few months ago, a tulip-shaped glass is necessary for anyone who wants to get the most out of their neat spirits. The glencairn is pretty much the standard and I really enjoy the set I purchased (unit cost will also go down a bit if you purchase multiples). They also look super classy, which doesn't hurt.

Under $20

El Dorado 5 Year - one of the best bargains in rums, perhaps spirits, out there. This is an excellent rum, both as a sipper and for making cocktails. A great balance between molasses sweetness and fresh fruits. This should be a hit for anyone who enjoys full-flavored rums.

•Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond - don't be deceived by the low-rent packaging (though for a few dollars more you can get the classier-looking Old Grand Dad 114). The whiskey inside is tasty stuff. You're getting a younger version of Basil Hayden bottled at a higher proof, which means that it has a much more robust flavor. If you're really worried about the appearance, find a cheap-ish decanter and gift it that way. Anyone who likes their whiskey bold should be able to appreciate this bourbon.

Under $30

Buffalo Trace - BT's basic bourbon, but still one of their finest products. While it doesn't carry the cachet of the BTAC, it's pretty much ubiquitous and thus perfect for the times when you want to have something tasty without having to think too hard about it.

•Sazerac 6 Year Old Rye Whiskey - this is one of the best starter ryes out there. Just over the line, it still has a lot of corn sweetness, which should make it more palatable to staunch bourbon drinkers.

Beachbum Berry Remixed - if you are going to buy one book about tiki drinks, buy this one. It collects recipes from the Bum's first two books, along with updates and numerous additions. Sippin' Safari is nearly as good, though it leans more towards history, while Remixed has more recipes. If you really want to make this a great present, go to your local FedEx/UPS/whatever and get it spiral bound. The recipient will thank you for it.

Under $50

Highland Park 12 Year - this is one of the best all-around whiskies I've had so far. Sweet malt, heather, sherry, and smoke in one whisky mean that there's a little something for almost every kind of scotch drinker. The presentation is also relatively classy, just in case that matters.

Jefferson's 10 Year 100% Rye Whiskey - one of the best rye whiskeys I've had the pleasure of trying short of the annual BTAC releases. And this one is half the price, which makes it an incredible deal. Balanced sweetness, lots of rye spice and mint. A delicious experience.

Scarlet Ibis Rum - while this one is only a hair over $30, it's easily one of my favorite sipping rums and a little off the beaten path. Great balance between bittersweet molasses, mocha, and hogo. Simple presentation, but what's inside the bottle is absolutely divine.

If you have any specific questions ("My friend like X, what should I get him/her?"), I'm happy to chat about them. Just shoot me an email (bottom of the sidebar on the left). Also, check out other holiday guides from Scotch & Ice Cream, Dramming, Scotch Noob, and Sku's "What to Get" and "What Not to Get" guides.


  1. El Dorado 5 year - thanks for the tip! How does it compare with the El Dorado 12yo? Also, Plantation 5yo seems like a hit in this price range.

    1. Florin, there is a definite family resemblance between the 5 YO and 12 YO. However, the 12 YO is much more wood-focused, with lots of sweet molasses, chocolate, and mocha. The 5 YO has those, but in much lighter form with the addition of some nice tropical fruit flavors. The 12 YO is great if I want something sweet, but as a balanced drink I actually prefer the 5 YO.

  2. Yo Jordan!

    You've made some fine gift giving selections. A lemon/lime juicer is actually on my with list along with one of those double jiggers and a proper bar spoon. Also agree on your booze suggestions. The Highland Park 12 is fantastic and a great value. A bottle of that should be in everyone's bar. A much better "house Single Malt" than the standard Glenlivet 12 and Genfiddich 12. While there's nothing wrong with them, they are not even in the same league as the HP 12.

    Cheers and Happy Holidays!