We’re just about at zero hour. And maybe you’ve forgotten one of your pals who’s most deserving of something this Christmas. A booze related gift is almost always appreciated (y’know, as long as they drink) and most are easily available. Michael Bowers, our official bartender, gives us six gifts worth putting under any ethanol aficionado’s tree.
You don’t have to have an office on top of 30 Rock to feel like Jack Donaghy. Few things could be more right than standing at the sideboard pouring yourself a generous dram of booze from a cut glass or crystal whiskey decanter. Even budget liquor seems classy dispensed from the right container. Crate and Barrel offers an affordable example, but if there are some antique stores in your neighborhood, you should start there. Frilly numbers seem to out number more masculine pieces, but gems are out there and they have a lot more character than just about anything new off the shelf.
Bottle of Unexpected Booze
There’s certainly nothing wrong with receiving a nice bottle of single-malt scotch or good bourbon, but just about every man with a couple tumblers to his name has a bottle or two already. Consider giving something less obvious. If he lives this side of the Atlantic, there’s a good chance he’s never had the chance to experience the singular deliciousness of a marc. You could do much worse than a bottle of vintage Armagnac. Or maybe buy him some rum. El Dorado 15 year old is one of my absolute favorite spirits—and at around $40 a bottle it’s hard to find a better value.
Completely unnecessary, but they sure are pretty. Good for anything you might want to dispense in drops and dashes.
Useful Set of Jiggers
Anyone who even occasionally mixes drinks at home should own a good set of jiggers. Measuring the small amounts that are used in compounding a single cocktail is a tricky and dubiously accurate business using a measuring cup, and is a hassle using measuring spoons. The jigger is a device perfectly suited to its purpose. Fill to the top and you’ve got your measure. No stooping down to make sure you’re up to the line. No accidental over pouring. Its either full or it isn’t. Brilliant. They can be found at just about any restaurant supply store and shouldn’t set you back more than $2 a piece. Avoid odd sizes. A set of three—a 0.5oz x 1oz jigger, a 0.75oz x 1.5oz jigger, and a 1oz x 2oz jigger—can quickly and efficiently measure just about any volume you’re likely to need.
Lewis Bag and Wooden Mallet
Another simple solution. If you want crushed ice, put ice in a bag and hit it with a hammer. As an added bonus, the canvas wicks away moisture so your ice isn’t soggy and unnecessarily diluting your booze. It may seem ridiculous in December, but come Derby season that silly canvas bag and wooden mallet will make all your Julep swilling friends green with envy. The bags are available here, or make your own with some duck cloth and a sewing machine fitted with a sturdy needle. As far as mallets go, rubber works okay, but wood is the way to go. You’re not likely to find one at a big box hardware store, though. Find a fine woodworking shop and ask for a wood joinery mallet.
Demerara (Raw) Sugar Cubes
It seems like a nit-picking concern, but the difference between raw and refined sugar can be huge in a cocktail, especially for the richer libations of winter. They take a little more time and energy to dissolve than a refined sugar cube, but it is worth the effort. Try them in a hot whisky sling. Fill a mug 2/3 full of boiling water, dissolve a sugar cube, add 2 oz of middle of the road single malt and grate some nutmeg on top. It will suddenly become clear to you how life was bearable before central heating.
About our Bartender – Michael Bowers is the Head Bartender at the Modern Hotel and Bar in Boise, Idaho. His patrons know him for the uncanny precision with which he tends his bar. Michael’s cocktails have been noted by, among others, Food and Wine, Sunset Magazine, and the New York Times. See more in The Drink archive.