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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 Overall: 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.
Best Budget: Barrel Aged in a Bottle Oak Infusion Spiral
Many bars these days feature barrel-aged drinks: finished cocktails that are rested in a small barrel for some number of days in order to add rich, luscious woody notes. But barrels aren't cheap, and their potency is diminished after being used a few times, so most bartenders won't ever have much opportunity for a whole lot of R&D with new or unexpected cocktails they'd like to try barrel-aging. This holiday season, why not give your favorite barkeep the gift of experimentation? The infusion spirals from Barrel Aged in a Bottle, which are made from American oak and charred to a robust level of #3, fit conveniently through the neck of any 750 ml. bottle. Now the budget-minded bartender in your life can experiment with oak-aged flavors without burning one of their precious barrels.
Best Splurge: Euhomy Countertop Ice Maker
It’s quite possible that the bartender you’re shopping for relies on silicone molds to make his or her 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.
Euhomy’s countertop ice maker can produce 24 ice cubes per 18-minute cycle—meaning you could make up to 40 pounds of ice cubes every day, if you were truly motivated. It also includes features like an automatic cleaning function and a water-saving recapture system. Best of all, your favorite bartender can adjust the thickness of the ice cubes according to their needs. Picture-perfect Negroni on the rocks, anyone?
Related: The Best Gifts for Gin Lovers
Best Stocking-Stuffer: Corkcicle Whiskey Wedge
After a long shift, your favorite bartender deserves to relax with a pour that's not only delicious but also aesthetically pleasing. Enter the Whiskey Wedge kit from Corkcicle. To use, just place the angled silicone ice mold into the borosilicate double old-fashioned glass, fill the mold with water, and freeze for a few hours. The resulting glass-ice combo offers about as little surface area contact with the ice as possible—ideal, as melting ice speeds dilution, and your favorite bartender deserves to relax after an arduous night behind the stick! It also creates a truly one-of-a-kind visual presentation of his or her preferred post-shift tipple.
Related: The Best Whiskey Decanters
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 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.
Related: The Best Mezcals Under $40
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 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 Gift Card: Cocktail Kingdom E-Gift Card
Not sure whether your favorite bartender would prefer an ice machine, a mezcal copita, or an acupressure mat? Give them the gift of choice with an e-gift card to Cocktail Kingdom. This tried-and-true retailer offers sturdy and attractive barware—from perfectly-balanced spoons to crystal-clear mixing glasses—plus a full selection of bitters and tonics, glassware, tiki gear, cocktail books, and even t-shirts.
Related: The Best Gifts for Bourbon Lovers
Chances are, your favorite bartender is already well-stocked with gear at their place of work, so the ideal gift might be something that adds a touch of class and elegance to their home instead. For a stunning gift that offers equal parts aesthetic beauty and practical application, the Godinger Dublin Crystal Punch Bowl Set (view on Macy's.com) is hard to beat.
How much lead time do you need to order gifts around the holidays?
Typically, most domestic shipping services recommend getting your holiday gift orders in no later than early-to-mid-December in order to ensure delivery by Christmas Eve. With the supply chain issues currently plaguing all economic sectors, however, you may want to play it safe and get your ordering done even a couple of weeks earlier than that.
Can you ship alcohol from state to state?
Laws governing alcohol distribution in the US are notoriously convoluted, especially when shipping from state to state. If you're someone with the proper licenses to sell and distribute alcohol, then interstate shipping via FedEx or UPS may be possible (although you must advise the carrier your package contains alcohol, a surcharge will be applied to the shipment, and an adult must sign for it). If you're an unlicensed individual, your best bet is to check with your preferred local or online merchant about their shipping policies. Certain states don't allow the receipt of packages containing alcohol from other states, so you may find yourself looking up merchants based in your desired destination state, and ordering over the phone. Good luck!
Why trust Liquor.com?
This roundup was edited by Jesse Porter, a spirits writer who's been the happy recipient of numerous booze-themed gifts over the years, and who's proud to say that he's only ever re-gifted two or three of them.
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.
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