Dizzy Gift Guide 2013

While it's too late to order UK designer Kate Broughton's classic cocktail gift wrap in time for Christmas, how lovely would it be to use this later in the year?

Although it’s too late to order UK designer Kate Broughton’s classic cocktail gift wrap in time for Christmas, how lovely would it be to use this later in the year?

If you are anything like me, you have lots of cocktail lovers on your holiday gift list (and you are also one yourself). What are the holidays about, if not spreading the love? While your hunt for Pappy’s may prove fruitless,  here are some cocktailian gift ideas that should be readily available at fine shops (or online retailers) near you. Cheers to the holiday season, and may your glass always be half full!

ice_sphere_glass

For the whiskey drinker who likes their poison on the rocks, ice sphere molds ($12.95 for a set of two) are an essential accessory. Not only does a globe of ice look impressive, it melts more slowly and evenly, leading to less dilution.

absinthe glass set
Spirits connoisseurs know that absinthe won’t make you hallucinate (that’s just a myth), but at 106-148 proof, the anise flavored hooch demands to be served properly.  This stylish absinthe glassware set ($24 without spoons, $48 with) is made in the classic Belle Epoque style with 1-ounce reservoirs so you can easily measure your desired absinthe-to-water ratio.

Restoration Hardware bar collection
Restoration Hardware might not be the first place you think of for bar accessories, but their vintage hotel silver bar collection ($29-$79) is almost as charming as real vintage flea market finds. Cast brass with a soft patina, these shaker tins and tools recall a simpler era.

anthropologie decanter
Nothing dresses up a home bar quite like a crystal decanter. Anthropologie has a nice range to choose from, such as this quilted crystalline decanter ($68) that begs to pour something strong and delicious.

unbound-maraschino
If you are looking for a DIY gift, you could easily make your own brandied cherries — but if you are short on time and ingredients, these all-natural maraschino cherries ($7) will be welcomed by any fan of the Manhattan or the Mai Tai.

bamboo-straws
For the beach bum on your list, these faux bamboo straws ($7.95) are the perfect addition to tiki drinks. Pair with a set of tiki mugs ($22.41) for the full effect.

potc-front-cover
Speaking of beach bums, the one and only tiki drink historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry returns to publishing with the release of “Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them” ($34.95). A compendium of vintage Caribbean drinks, this epic collection of recipes shares the stories behind the spirited history of the West Indies.  Of the 77 recipes in the book, 16 of them are “lost” and have never been published in any form, and another 19 have never been published in book form before.

Whiskey John Lamond
For the novice drinker getting started in the worlds of bourbon, rye, and Scotch, Whiskey: Instant Expert ($13.21) is a handy field guide to all things whisk(e)y. Learn the lingo, dive into the histories of famous Scottish and American distilleries, get buying tips, cocktail recipes, and more.

regions_of_scotland_tasting_set
Drinks by the Dram is a genius business idea making high-end whiskey (and other spirits) more accessible for the masses. Tasting sets feature 3oml wax-sealed bottles of otherwise rare and expensive bottles. For instance, their Regions of Scotland tasting kit ($57.06) includes a sample of Glenfarclas 40 year old, which retails for $499 for a 750ml bottle. You’ll want to place your order soon if you want it to arrive before Christmas, as this company is based out of the UK.

silver banded punch bowl
For the party host on your list, this silver banded punch bowl ($129.95) is not only the ultimate crowd-pleaser, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Add a copy of Kara Newman’s Cocktails for a Crowd ($13.91) full of punch recipes, and you’ll ensure your name is always on the guest list.

Dizzy Gift Guide 2012 & Giveaway!

One of The Dizzy Fizz's Facebook friends will win this box!

One of The Dizzy Fizz’s Facebook friends will win this Julibox!

Thanks darling readers for taking the time to stop by every now and then. I know things were quiet there for a while I persevered through the infant-raising stage–it’s amazing how much easier it is to type now that I have at least one arm free twenty percent of the time. The Dizzy Fizz Facebook page is closely approaching 1,000 fans, and to help sprint past that milestone, I’ve got a fantastic Julibox giveaway to announce! If you haven’t already heard about Julibox, it’s a monthly subscription service that sends you a cocktail party in a box. [So brilliant, cocktail kits mailed to your door–I’m a little jealous I didn’t think of this!] Each kit contains liquor and mixers for four servings of two different cocktails, plus the recipes. At $40 each, these little bundles of love would make a charming holiday gift (or one heck of a care package) for the home cocktail enthusiast on your list.

On New Year’s Eve, one lucky Dizzy Facebook fan who lives within Julibox’s distribution locations [and is 21-plus] will be chosen randomly to receive their December box featuring two rum cocktails–Ron Zacapa and Rhum Barbancourt! Winner will be announced by Jan. 2, 2013. This contest is closed – winner has been selected, thanks everyone!

Speaking of cocktail lovers on your holiday gift list–look no further than this year’s dizzy-approved gift guide for other presents made for year-round-tippling. And while it’s nice to support your favorite small businesses, the holiday season doesn’t have to be all about spending money–homemade gifts, charity donations and volunteering your time to those in need are also excellent ways to celebrate.

Barrel Aged Cocktail Kit

Tuthilltown Spirits’ Barrel-Aged Cocktail Kit ($12.50) features a 375ml glass bottle with an oak stave straight from their barrels inside. Also available from Tuthilltown are 1-liter mini barrels ($60) perfect for the home bartending enthusiast who has everything. Check out this video featuring Portland, Ore. bartender and barrel-aging pioneer Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Tuthilltown’s Gable Erenzo for instructions on making your own barreled batch of White Manhattans at home.

Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was known to have a deep affection for the lush life. Delve into Hemingway’s favorite cocktail recipes, historic love affair with liquor and anecdotes from Papa himself in To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion by Philip Greene ($24.00).

Bitters

Thanks to the bitters boom of recent years, the lone bottle of Angostura is now a rare sight behind the bar. Learn the history of bitters–once claimed to be a panacea–as well as DIY tricks to making your own flavoring agents and recipes in Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All by Brad Thomas Parsons ($16.49).

P&H SODA CO SARSAPARILLA SYRUP

If you have a Sodastream at home, or some other type of soda-making gadget, you’d best be acquainted with Brooklyn-made P&H Soda Syrup ($10 per 12.7oz bottle). The Sarsaparilla (water, organic cane sugar, organic sarsaparilla root, organic spices, organic citric acid), like a gentler version of root beer, is a classic.

gatsby-ice-bucket
Nothing says “I’ve graduated to adulthood” like a stylish home bar. Complete the look with a posh ice bucket, like this Gatsby Ice Bucket from Crate & Barrel ($54.95) with clean, deco lines, and class up your next fete.

Mr-and-Mrs-Cocktail-Glass-Set
Here’s a great two-for-one gift for the marrieds on your list–Mr. and Mrs. rocks glasses ($18). Hers features a sweet pair of lips and his features an ever-in-style handlebar ‘stache. If their house is anything like ours, both will be filled with something brown, bitter and delicious.

Dizzy Gifts 2011

‘Tis the season for spreading holiday cheer–and no, that doesn’t necessarily mean spending money–but if you’re in the market for some last-minute gifts for your favorite cocktailians, check out this Dizzy-approved shopping guide:


Do you have a tiki drinker on your list? Hook them up with the B.G. Reynolds Sampler Pack, featuring 5 oz. bottles of passion fruit syrup, orgeat, falernum and Don’s Mix, as well as a recipe booklet and swizzle sticks, all for$18. And if you want to add tiki mugs, B.G.’s got those too.


Royal Rose Syrups make perfect gifts for imbibers and teetotalers alike–add them to your next cocktail, homemade soda, or drizzle on top of your favorite dessert. Make locally in small batches, flavors include rose, lavender-lemon, raspberry, three chiles or tamarind, while cardamom-clove is especially useful for holiday drink-making. Purchase 8-oz. bottles for $11 each or go for a four-pack sampler for $44.


Cocktail geeks and history buffs alike will be thrilled to unwrap their own copy of “Prohibition” by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick ($30), a documentary aired on PBS earlier this year chronicling America’s noble-yet-disastrous experiment. Captivating, educational, and at times, sobering, the film digs deep to reveal America’s political and moral struggle with its own alcoholic tendencies.


Mr. Boston’s Official Bartender’s Guide: 75th Anniversary Edition, edited by Jonathan Pogash, aka the Cocktail Guru, is a classic drink-mixing guide featuring more than 1,500 recipes including nearly 200 new recipes from today’s best bartenders. Order yours for $10 on Amazon.com or get a signed copy for $20 here.


Nothing classes up a home bar quite like a Mad Men-style ice bucket, and this Crate & Barrel version delivers ($50). Of course, you’ll want to toss in a pair of tongs ($9) too.


Although on back-order until late January, The PDT Cocktail Book ($17) is a must-have for any serious bartender. Jim Meehan, head bartender at the infamous hot dog shop/speakeasy, spills his secrets of the trade along with more than 300 recipes, all charmingly illustrated by Chris Gall. Note that many of the recipes call for ingredients that are hard to find outside of NYC and other major cities, but the culinary prowess behind them should keep readers inspired to try their own variations.


Hand-cracked ice is not only an impressive start to any cocktail (such as juleps, swizzles and shrubs), it also dilutes the acidity. This handsome ice pick from Williams-Sonoma ($60) should satisfy any ice geek’s desire to crush it.


For the cocktailian who has everything, this stag head pourer ($26) from Pottery Barn should turn heads. Toss the standard plastic pourers and easily measure drinks by the ounce with this charming reindeer version.

Dizzy Gifts 2010

‘Tis the season to show your loved ones some good cheer with food, drinks, acts of kindness, and of course, presents! Ok, so we don’t have to let Retail America control our holiday celebrations — there’s plenty of ways to show that you care without spending money (check out my round-up of DIY cocktailian gifts from last year), but chances are, you’ll get some joy out of giving and receiving gifts this season. Need ideas for your favorite imbiber? Feast your eyes on this Dizzy-approved shopping list:

Know a cocktail fan who does a lot of frequent flying? The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set ($18.99) is designed to pass TSA standards and includes 20ml bottles of celery, orange, creole, old time, and Jerry Thomas bitters.

Every cocktail lover needs a good flask — how else are we supposed to enjoy Negronis in broad daylight or during office hours? This leather-covered vessel from J. Crew ($34.95) will separate the debonair from the debaucher.


Flip through more than 80 elegant recipes of Prohibition-inspired tipples in “Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined” ($24.99) by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric. The West Village master mixologists break down variations on the classics and creations of their own.

Krystina Castella was smart enough to write “Booze Cakes” ($12 ) a cookbook combining everyone’s two favorite loves — booze and baked goods. She might not have the recipe for my infamous whiskey old fashioned cake in there, but you will find knockout photos and recipes of confections such as Pina Colada Cake, White Russian Cupcakes and Honey Spice Beer Cake.


Know someone who’s just getting started in bartending or could use a refresher? “The Big Bartending Book” by and Jeff Masson and Greg Boehm ($9.95) offers clear instructions on how to whip up 1,000 top cocktails and plenty of advice to give newbies confidence behind the stick.

 

This is a great idea for wine lovers — A Date With Wine bottle stopper ($45) makes it easy to remember when you last opened that delicious bottle of vino. You’ll never drink musty, overexposed wine again.


And how gangsta are these shot glasses? Mug Shots ($16.95) is a set of six shot glasses featuring the mugs of the most notorious gangsters in history, from Al Capone to Bugsy Siegel.

There are plenty of funky-shaped bottle openers out there, but this iron set of Nambu Tekki Tool Bottle Openers ($20 each) look cool hanging in your kitchen and have versatility — such as for smashing up some ice.


If you were at the Holiday Spirits Bazaar (recap to come), then hopefully you got a chance to try SkimKim’s Blooody Kim Jong-Il Mix ($10), a tantalizing blended kimchee bloody mary mix. Beyond vodka, I would pour this on just about everything, from tacos to meatloaf, or just eat it straight from the jar — it’s that good.

Give your home bar an instant soda fountain with the SodaStream Red Crystal Soda Maker ($179.95), which turns ordinary water into sparkling water or soda. Easy to transport, no electricity required, and if you buy it at Sur La Table, they will recycle the spent carbonation canisters for you and give you a discount on new ones.

You can search flea markets far and wide for a decent punch bowl, but if you are looking to give a punch serving set as a last-minute gift, look no further than Crate & Barrel’s Virginia Punch Bowl Set ($136.95). The elegant footed bowl and cups made of handblown and molded glass will turn any house party into a dignified soiree.

Dizzy Gifts, Part 3: Tools & Accessories Under $50

Hopefully by now you’re doing better than I am and you’re already done with your holiday shopping. If like me, you were busy with too many pre-holiday events and are now shopping last-minute, here are a few handy ideas for those cocktail lovers on your list–good luck!

Dizzy Gifts, Part 2: Education

 

Thinking about his next drink.

“Study as if you were going to live forever; live as if you were going to die tomorrow.”–Maria Mitchell, American astronomer

If you’re anything like me, once you become passionate about something, you have a strong desire to learn as much about that something as you can. Some people might call me a nerd. Sure, there is something to be said for artistic intuition and natural talent, and there isn’t a field of study for everything–abstract expressionist painting or a sense of humor, for instance–but when it comes to having a craft, such as writing or making cocktails, well, I come from the school of thought that you can never have too much school for your thoughts (although we should all get outside more and learn from nature, too).

I’ll never forget the time I met Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown a year and a half ago at a Sagatiba tasting at Brandy Library. Spirits and drinks historians whose books include “Shaken Not Stirred: A Celebration of the Martini,” “The Soul of Brasil,” and “Cuba: The Legend of Rum,” the couple travels the world to uncover the secrets behind the history of drinking. They are also the directors of Exposition Universelle des Vins et Spiritueux in Southern France. [In short, they are my idols.] Dave Wondrich, author of “Imbibe! From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash,” also made a similar impression on me last year. These writers have managed to make a living by constantly seeking to quench their thirst for knowledge of drink-making of the past, present, and future.

Most cocktail enthusiasts consider themselves geeks and are in a constant state of study. So if you have a few of those types on your holiday shopping list, why not drop some knowledge on them and give them a gift that will last a lifetime? Here are some suggestions:

The Bartender’s Gin Compendium” by Gaz Regan navigates the world of gin, from its roots as genever to the prominent brands of today.

“The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in American from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet” by Garrett Peck charts the shift in social attitiudes towards drinking since the days of Prohibition and includes lots of facts on how we drink today.

Spirituous Journey: Book One” by Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller is one of the most thoroughly-researched looks at the birth of spirits and the distillation process, from China, to India, to Persia, through Europe and onto the New World.


“Lush Life: Portraits from the Bar” by author/illustrator Jill DeGroff is not only a stunning collection of her caricatures of who’s who in the world of bartending, but the book also includes colorful stories and classic recipes.

Imbibe Magazine is the premiere publication on liquid culture and the art of drinking, and is must-have for anyone in the cocktail industry.

Astor Center’s classes on cocktail-making and spirits history are an excellent resource for cocktailians in NYC. Gift certificates are available to cover the cost of the sessions.

And last but not least, BarSmarts Wired is an online version of the B.A.R. (Beverage Alcohol Resource) program developed by the leading mixologists in the industry. For $45, students receive educational DVDs, a workbook, and a bar tool kit, and earn certification once they pass the class, which takes about four weeks.

Dizzy Gifts, Part 1: DIY

Homemade maraschino cherries. Image from Cocktailians.com

In case you haven’t noticed, the holidays are approaching faster than a speeding balloon boy. Since many of us are pinching pennies this year, I thought I would kick off my cocktailian gift guide series with a list of DIY projects for those looking to do something homemade (and inexpensive). Keep in mind, if you’re doing an infusion, you’ll want to get started now so those flavors can sink in! Also, be sure to use triple-sanitized, airtight bottles to contain your concoctions. I’ve linked to the experts for instructions on relatively easy gifts you can make with a quick trip to the supermarket and liquor store: