With only a day to go before Santa arrives, here are a few last-minute ideas for the booze lover in your life. From serious gifting to stocking stuffers, these selections are sure to please even the most picky cocktailian in your life.
8. Most Intriguing New Artisan Spirit: Beefeater Burrough's Reserve Oak Aged Gin
Desmond Payne, Beefeater's master distiller, nurtured this recipe, starting with the original Beefeater formula, then aging it in Lillet barrels, whose herbal-citrus profile adds a distinct perfume to the mixture. The product was painstakingly -- and rather secretly -- distilled in #12, one of James Burrough's original stills with a diminutive capacity of only 268 liters. The gin has a soft, golden color thanks to its rest in the Lillet casks. With its notes of vanilla and spice, this bottling -- which is meant to be sipped neat -- will be a revelation for any gin lover.
7. Most Intriguing Bar Tool: The Lewis Bag
When New Orleans bartender Chris McMillian, known for his skill with a mint julep, wants to make an impression, he pulls out a Lewis bag -- originally made as a bank coin-carrying bag -- loads it with ice, and proceeds to crack the ice while reciting "Ode to the Mint Julep." Histrionics aside, this is the be-all-end-all party conversation starter, and it makes great ice to boot. Cost: $4.95, yes, that's right. Well, plus about $12 California shipping.
6. Most Retro Bar Accessory: Tom and Jerry Set
Troll eBay or any local antiques store and you're likely to stumble upon one of these blasts from the past. Back at the turn of the century and well into the 1950s and '60s, the country was Tom and Jerry mad, preparing and serving up this eggnog punch in customized T & J punch bowls and glasses. The name of the drink has a fabulously sordid lineage, tracing its origins tracing back to between 1821 and 1835 and being inspired by the antics of Corinthian Tom as he acquainted his country cousin Jerry with the pleasures of city life, chronicled by sports writer Pearce Egan in his 1821 Life in London. All sorts of debauchery ensued in Egan's tale, not the least of it being the exploits of Jacco Maccacco, dog-fighting monkey. (Yes, really, look it up; don't take our word for it.) With the cocktail boom in full swing, there has never been a better time than now to revisit our naughty, bibulous Christmas past. Cost: Between $20 and $50, depending on the set.
5. Most Basic and Not So Basic Bar Book: Home Bar Basics, and Not-So-Basics
The name tells it like it is. Cocktail lover Dave Stolte -- an artist by trade -- has written a simple, but never simplistic, guide to stocking and manning your home bar like a pro. From focusing on the 12 basic drinks every home bartender should know to variations on a theme, Stolte's fits-in-the-pocket guide is spiral-bound so it can be laid flat, has waxed pages to prevent boozy stains and is a trove of information. Now in its second printing, it is, as the cover says, "authentic, practical, no bullshit." Cost: $14.99.
4. Most Local Bitters Collection: Miracle Mile Bitters
Beloved by Los Angeles bartenders, Miracle Mile bitters show up in countless cocktails in this town. From chocolate chili (currently featured in Brittini Rae's spiced eggnog at Goldie's) to Castilian (showcased this past summer in Dave Kupchinsky's Oaxacan Angel), Louis Alderman's small but curated selection of bitters will challenge any home bartending aficionado. Any one, or a collection of several (bergamot and sour cherry, perhaps), will encourage any budding or accomplished mixologist to experiment all the more. Cost: $17.99 each.
3. Most Enjoyable Drinking Game: Diplomacy
Five minutes of game play -- and 30 minutes of negotiations, preferably with a cocktail, or many of them, in hand. Diplomacy was a favorite of Henry Kissinger's (the game has been around since 1959), and after only a few rounds you'll understand why. No dice, no "get out of jail free" cards, just like-minded friends, hell-bent on world domination, making and breaking alliances. Pull out the shaker and mixing glass and have at it. Cost: about $20.
2. Most Welcome and Watchful Gift: A Night of Uber
Let your friend(s) have the night off from driving, especially if it's a bar-hopping evening. Arrange to pay for transportation with Uber and make sure everyone gets home safe.
1. Most Heartfelt Gift: Buy Your Friends (and the Bartender) a Round
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Drinks are meant to be shared. Pick up the tab -- martinis, punch bowl, tiki surprise, a glass of bubbly -- and spread the joy.
Happy holidays to all and to all a good night.
Lesley blogs at 12 Bottle Bar, tweets at @12BottleBar and is the author of the book "Gin: A Global History." Email her at email@example.com. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.