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Between the long hours and physical demands, bartending is a tough job. Every bartender you know could likely benefit from a little TLC in the form of a thoughtful gift. Here are our picks of the best bartender-approved gifts guaranteed to make an impact on their personal or professional lives in one way or another.
Best Gadget: Breville Smoking Gun
"The smoking gun is popular with some chefs as a tool to add cold smoke aromas and flavors to food, but it’s great for bartenders as well to make terrific smoked cocktails,” says Victor Bautista, bar manager of Concord Hill in Brooklyn. “You can use various types of wood chips like apple, cherry, or hickory but also teas or other dried ingredients." He adds, "The hose is flexible and allows you to fill any vessel with smoke—a glass, bowl or a small decanter, which is what I like to use for our Smoke Break cocktail."
To make this cocktail, Bautista first mixes the drink (fig-infused Elijah Craig bourbon, Cardamaro, Braulio, walnut bitters and maple) and pours it into an ornate decanter before adding smoke from apple wood chips using the gun. Then, once enough smoke has accumulated inside the decanter, he removes the gun’s hose from the neck and closes the decanter with its topper.
Bautista’s weapon of choice is this compact Breville model, which features dual air speeds, a detachable silicone hose, a stainless steel burn chamber (also detachable) and a built-in stand.
Best Gift Card: Zeel Massage Gift Card
Sometimes, the best gifts for bartenders have nothing to do with bartending. “I love what I do, but over the years I’ve learned that not having a hobby [or activities] outside of the world of booze can be detrimental to my health,” says Kate Carpenter, the president of the Jacksonville Chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild. “A massage, a hammock, some watercolor paints, a Bob Ross coloring book, a gardening set—hell, even a chia pet would be dope.”
Austin-based bartender Alexis Mijares agrees, especially when it comes to body care. “A massage is very high on the list as body maintenance is something we tend to forget to prioritize!”
Best Gadget: LEM Mighty Bite 10-Tray Dehydrator
"I’m in a constant battle with myself about not wanting to spend too much money on myself on expensive gadgets I don’t really ‘need’ for at-home bartending,” says Patrick Smith, who works with NYC institutions Gramercy Tavern and The Modern.
If this is the case with the bartender you'd like to gift, Smith recommends a dehydrator as an option, which can be used for many culinary purposes (think protein bars to take to work), garnishes, powders and so much more. This 10-tray model from LEM features digital controls, 15 square feet of dehydrating space, a rear-mounted fan for even drying, and a convenient hinged bottom door.
Best for Back/Neck Relief: Kanjo Memory Foam Acupressure Mat & Pillow Set
Bartender wellness is key at any time of year, so if you’d like to get something that can be used over and over again (versus a one-time gift like a massage), consider Kanjo's memory foam mat and pillow set. Both pieces are designed to relieve tension, stress, muscle soreness, and knots that inevitably build up over time when bartending. Plus, it comes with a convenient roll-up storage bag.
Best Splurge: Whynter Portable Ice Maker
It’s likely that the bartender you’re shopping for relies on silicone molds to make their ice, which can take forever in terms of prep. An ice maker, whether countertop or built-in, would be a dream gift for many bar pros, like Leah Schoenburg, a bartender at The Dandy Crown in Chicago. “When you’re actually making cocktails, ice trays are never enough,” she says.
Of course, you should be cognizant of kitchen space when deciding between an undercounter or countertop model, but either way, Whynter makes excellent ice machines that are both durable and easy on the eyes. Take this portable stainless steel model, for instance: it’ll produce up to 49 pounds of ice in a single day.
Related: The Best Ice Makers
Best Stocking Stuffer: The Cocktail Parlor Midnight Stinger Candle
Veteran bartender Courtney McKamey is the mastermind behind The Cocktail Parlor, a one-stop-shop for sensory cocktail experiences that go beyond the glass. This Brooklyn concept transforms ultra-fragrant cocktail recipes into natural soy-wax candles, like the Midnight Stinger, which layers notes of Elijah Craig bourbon, Fernet-Branca, mint and lemon. Each candle is 12 ounces and burns for up to 52 hours, so it’s definitely worth the investment. Also, if your recipient is located in Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens, you can include some of McKamey’s sweet treats (think boozy cupcakes, cookies, cakes, truffles and more), all of which are equal parts beautiful and delectable.
Related: The Best Gifts for Cocktail Lovers
Most Unique: Flavour Blaster Cocktail Kit
Several bartenders highly recommend the Flavour Blaster, a cocktail-specific gadget that, well, blasts flavor into your drinks. Bautista elaborates: “You can make smoke bubbles to place on top of cocktails [for a] very cool effect—when the bubble is touched, it turns into smoke. The Flavour Blaster is super easy to use as it skips a step of burning the chips; however, it’s a lot more expensive.”
This starter kit is a great investment, which includes one Flavour Blaster gun, a USB charging cable, one aroma tank, five bottles of Cocktail Aroma, five tank coils (a separate one for each aroma), one bottle of Bubble Mixture (Bubble X) and a one-year limited warranty on the gun. Choose from a variety of colors.
Related: The Best Home Brewing Kits
Best for Agave Lovers: Tuyo Mezcal Pairing Plate & Copita
For the mezcal lover in your life, Los Angeles-based bar pro Cari Hah recommends finding the perfect dedicated vessel: a copita. “Drinking your favorite mezcal from any kind of glass is always a joy, but a beautiful copita makes the experience that much more special,” she says. “There are all kinds of different copitas, but the main thing that is important is the shape of the vessel—it should be shallow with a wide shape so that you can really let the mezcal breathe, and the aroma of the agave will delight you at every lift of the glass to your lips.”
One of Hah’s favorite styles is this hand-cast black and gold copita and saucer set from Tuyo, which offers stunning products inspired by Mexico. “This [set] is a really good option because it comes with a little plate that you can [use for] orange slices sprinkled with sal de gusano or crispy spiced chapulines next to your mezcal to pair," she says.
Best Handmade: Forge to Table 3.5-Inch Paring Knife
Kitchen supplies and gadgets are a smart gift idea, according to Smith. "In general, I think the most overlooked aspect of bartending is the amount of work you do that overlaps with being in the kitchen,” he says. “No bartender will ever say no to a new paring knife.”
We asked a few bartenders about their favorite knives for cutting garnishes and the like, and Liquid Kitchen founder Kathy Casey recommends Japanese-style knifesmith Forge to Table. According to Casey, these handmade knives make for excellent bar tools, and you can even add wooden Sayas (protective sheaths) to your order. Each knife is also made by third-generation artisans using high-quality steel from Japan, and orders are shipped rather quickly.
Best Set: Godinger Dublin Crystal Punch Bowl Set
"The one thing I’d wish for someone to buy me [is] a punch set,” says Washington, D.C.-based bar pro Chris R. Martino. According to him (and many other bartenders out there), you’re much better off skipping the tools (most have their go-tos) and going for something your recipient might not typically stock up on.
You can find some great punch bowl sets out there (the more vintage-inspired, the better), which typically include a punch bowl, ladle and matching teacup-like drinking vessels. This 10-piece Godinger set is a perfect example: Its elaborate etching on the pedestal punch bowl and matching cups will give a luxe feel to your favorite bartender’s new centerpiece.
Related: The Best Whiskey Decanters
Why Trust Liquor.com?
Longtime wine and spirits writer Céline Bossart has tested countless products over the years—between her picks and a handful of ideas from fellow industry pros, this list is sure to cover all of your shopping needs for the career bartender in your life.