If you want to go beyond the gift card this year, but are nervous about what to give someone with a home bar, I’d start by considering a gadget or tool.
Professional shaker tins — like these from Koriko, starting at $17 for the set — are what the pros use and they’re unbreakable. It always makes me nervous seeing someone shake a cocktail with a pint glass.
My favorite find this year is this pineapple corer and slicer from VacuVin. It removes the fruit from the skin in one spiral piece, and that makes pineapple garnishes or syrups a snap to make… but also leaves a pineapple cup to serve a punch in.
Related: 2015 Gift Guide
Cocktail bars pay close attention to the ice they put in their drinks because bad ice can change the flavor of a perfectly crafted cocktail. Large, clear cubes of ice aren’t just a pretty gimmick — they melt slower, and don’t pick up freezer odors. These Tovolo King Cube ice molds will make dense, crystal clear ice in a home freezer.
Club soda is a staple of every bar. Instead of buying bottled, this professional soda siphon from Impeccable Culinary Objects uses CO2 cartridges to make homemade seltzer for pennies on the dollar. And, it’s cool-lookin’ too.
A lot of bartenders already have Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book — it’s the one recipe book to have, if you can only have one book. If you can have two, get Amaro by Brad Thomas Parsons. Published in 2016 this bible of bitter Italian liqueurs covers the history, flavor, and recipes for everything from Campari to Frenet to Jaegermeister.
Some of the best bartenders have a culinary background — they know how flavors and textures work together. The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dorneburg draws on the experience of dozens of professional chefs to help aspiring chefs to create their own recipe riffs.
And, of course, every bar needs to have good music. Just last week a new compilation album of Christmas classics is out. It’s called A Capitol Christmas Volume 2, and it follows last year’s release of A Capitol Christmas Volume 1.
Each of these products costs less than 40 bucks.
If that’s still too much, try the free new app from Tattersall Distilling that is filled with thousands of cocktail recipes. It’s available for iPhone in the App Store; coming soon to iPad and Android products.