When it comes to gifts for the bar cart, in many ways I recommend all of the things from last years. That list has aged well. But given the chance that you bought all of those things and still would like to give a little something special to the cocktail-enthusiast in your life, let me offer seven suggestions.
- A nice bottle of Cognac or Armagnac. First of all don’t say “Brandy”. Cognac and Armagnac are districts, this is similar to Champagne in that it is a geographical definition but there is very little Cognac that is bad (overpriced however? Possibly). Brandy is is a catch all term for everything from ambrosia to stuff that is better used to clean medical equipment. With Cognac and Armagnac the odds are with you, and I predict a comeback for this grape-derivative. After a few years of bourbon-hype (I blame hipsters) and a much needed tequila/mezcal-revival ( and damn it; hipsters are responsible for that too so I cannot make rude jokes) I think the time is right to bring back Cognac as a cocktail ingredients. In 2018 Margaritas will be replaced by Sidecars to begin with, and I see in my cristal ball that there will be a couple of cool things re discovered and a handful invented. You don’t have to go higher than V.S.O grading as it is for cocktails.
- All of the cocktail books I’ve recommended before+ Cocktail garden. I haven’t bought any new cocktail books lately but had a look at Cocktail garden and it stuck the right note between useable and fun. I really want to encourage people to use more fresh ingredients in their cocktails; it makes a world of difference in taste but also appearance, and it is a chance to play around and be creative without breaking the bank (yours truly has poured a lot of expensive alcohol down the drain as my cocktail making efforts have rendered it undrinkable).
- Metal straws. I read in an interview recently that Tom Ford had replaced all the paper stars with metal ones in his home in an effort to reduce carbon footprint and amount of waste. He has small children so I assume that milk, juice and smoothies are drunk through straws (and besides Ford is a teetotaler? Sober alcoholic?). Good for Tom that he is responsible in that regard. However, that thinking is also applicable when it comes to long drinks. Very stylish that, metal straws for your Gin Fizz.
- Coasters. Cocktail glasses, in fact all glasses, leave rings on tables if not careful. Nice coaster are thus a good gift, and can be adjusted to the recipients taste. Pretty much every museum I’ve been to this year has had a set in their shop.
- Champagne bucket. I’ve spoken lovingly about punch bowls before, and it should be noted that some punch bowls can easily be filled with ice and used to chill champagne, prosecco or many small bottles of tonic should you want to. I personally have a slightly taller and slimmer champagne bucket that also serves double duty as a waste basket under my desk or frequently as a vase for branches or big bunches of flowers.
- Homemade sweet vermouth. My love of a Negroni is well-known I think, and for that (and many other cocktails) you need sweet vermouth. Having started to make my own I have never looked back. An easy and inexpensive gift to give a friend. Find my recipe here.
- Ice moulds. I’ve mentioned this before but it seems that not all of the world has gotten the memo so I repeat; Muji has a few excellent moulds in silicone to make nice ice cubes. Why haven’t you gotten them already? It makes all the difference to a drink.