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Gift Guide: The Best Buys for the Home Mixologist and Drinks Enthusiast

Cocktail connoisseurs are some of the easiest folk to buy gifts for

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By Bon Appetit US | December 11, 2023 | Gift Guide

If you’ve got a cocktail lover in your life, a bottle of booze is probably the first gift that comes to mind. But trust me—you can do better. If this friend is truly looking to up their home mixology game, they’ll need more than just alcohol to do it. The best gifts for cocktail lovers and home mixologists can range from well-made essential equipment and ingredients to display-worthy glassware, chic bar carts, and books that will help take them from bartending beginner to craft cocktail master.

Whether your giftee is the type to meticulously curate and arrange their bar setup until it’s magazine-cover-worthy, a mad scientist who’s got three types of milk punch in the fridge and a jug of their own (highly questionable, consume-at-your-own-risk) wine fermenting in the basement, or someone who loves to nerd out on drink history, there’s a cocktail gift here for them. And hey, if you’re looking to spruce up your own home bar this holiday season, stock up on a few of these gift ideas for yourself.

Boozy books

For aspiring mixologists who are serious about improving their understanding of the craft, a book is an ideal gift. Meehan’s Bartender Manual from the acclaimed bartender behind New York’s PDT is a true deep dive, covering everything from cocktail history and mixing techniques to bar design and ingredient production. Cocktail Codex explores the hows and whys of six classic cocktail families, creating a solid foundation of knowledge and theory from which your cocktail-loving friend can expand and innovate. For the friend who’s into riffs on classics, Every Cocktail Has a Twist has more than 200 variations on the drinks we all know and love. And for more essential cocktail books, head over to Al Sotack’s guide on our sister site, Epicurious.

Art Boozel: Cocktails Inspired by Modern and Contemporary Artists by Jennifer Croll. Available via Takealot. Image: Supplied.

For those who like it shaken, not stirred

If your giftee has been using the same janky old cocktail shaker since their college days, give them an upgraded model that will make churning out margaritas, sours, and Bond-style martinis a breeze. If top-tier functionality is the priority, go for our product-test-winning Boston shaker or cobbler shaker. For the more design-minded mixologist, opt for the sleek brass set from Hawkins New York that includes an ice bucket and a jigger.

Heartdeco Stainless Steel Cocktail Shaker Bartender Tool 12 Piece Set, R436. Available via Takealot.

And for those who like it stirred, not shaken

Sure, it’s possible to mix a cocktail with a regular old pint glass glass and regular old spoon; but nothing beats having a dedicated vessel and tool designed for the job. If your cocktail-loving friend likes classically stirred cocktails like negronis, manhattans, and old-fashioneds, they’ll appreciate the gift of a beautifully designed stirring set that feels luxe to use and looks elegant on a bar cart. The newly launched Stirred Set from BA DTC fave Material is a collaboration with Death & Co. and includes a whimsical wavy handle pitcher, a glass jigger, and a spoon that doubles as a muddler. For something modern and minimal opt for the Pembrooke Set from Lulu and Georgia, and for a more classic look, try the Harrison Barware Set from Viski.

Riedel Mixing Glass, R879. Available through Yuppie Chef. Image: Supplied.

Eye-catching glassware

I spend far more of my free time browsing colourful luxury glassware than I care to admit. The pastel-hued coupes (and wine glasses and champagne flutes and lowball glasses) from Estelle Colored Glass have lived rent free in my head since I first set eyes on them. They’re not the kind of thing I’d ever buy for myself, which means I’d be delighted to receive them (friends and family reading this, I’m not not looking at you). If your giftee is lacking in the glassware department, give them a set that will spark joy every time they mix a drink. If they’re anything like me, they’ll love the Estelle glasses or the multicolored martini glasses from French American designer Sophie Lou Jacobsen, but scroll down for some more traditional options too.

Betty Drinking Glass from Poetry. R119. Image: Supplied.

Bitters and mixers

Bitters can be thought of like cocktail seasoning, the mixologist’s equivalent to a cook’s herbs and spices. Most cocktail drinkers will be familiar with Angostura, Peychaud’s, and orange bitters, so why not broaden their horizons with a set that includes variations like celery, cardamom and black walnut? If they’re into gin and tonics or spritzes, they’ll love this set of craft mixers from Milwaukee-based company Top Note.

Garnishing supplies and tools

A cocktail cherry, a salt rim, or an expertly executed lemon twist can make all the difference when it comes to making and serving cocktails at home, so make sure your giftee is stocked up on everything they need for the job. And if you’re looking for something with a little sparkle, opt for a set of jewel-tipped cocktail picks.

Fancy ice

As any mixology professional will tell you, ice is an absolutely crucial component in any cocktail. If you’re looking for a worthwhile splurge, the GE Profile Opal 2.0 is our favorite ice maker and is a great gift for anyone who regularly hosts (or just has an affinity for ultra-crunchy ice). We also love this set from the makers of our favorite silicone ice trays—it includes four types of ice molds, all of them so pretty you’ll be sad to watch them melt.

Bar carts and trays

If your giftee has been storing their cocktail-making supplies on a random shelf or tucked away in a cupboard, give them a way to display it all properly. A bar cart can become the focal point of a living or dining room if it’s properly decked out. If you don’t want to go all out on a cart, a tray is a great way to organize bottles and bar equipment in a way that feels intentional and styled rather than overcrowded and, well, frat basement-y.

A bar cart can become the focal point of a living or dining room if it’s properly decked out. Image via Pexels.

A choose-your-own-alcohol adventure

And if you’re still set on gifting the cocktail lover in your life a bottle of booze, why not let them pick out what they want themselves? A gift card from ReserveBar also makes a great addition to whatever else you’ve chosen off this list.

This story originally appeared on Bon Appetit US.