Holiday gifts for cocktail geeks

  • The updated and revised edition of The Bartender’s Best Friend (Wiley) by Mardee Haidin Regan is a kind of Swiss Army knife of cocktail books, with chapters on selection booze, gear and loads of recipes for drinks old and new. Not a day goes by that I don’t consult it – which probably says as much about my drinking habits as it does about the quality of this fine book.

  • What makes Drinkology: The Art and Science of the Cocktail (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) by James Waller especially easy for newbie cocktailians is that it organizes drinks by base type of spirits. It’s also a handsome little book, with more than 400 recipes.

  • For those looking beyond ho-hum recipe books, there’s Boozehound (Ten Speed Press) by Washington Post spirits writer Jason Wilson. Sure, you’ll find recipes – some very nice ones; but this is really more of a memoir by a smart (and smart ass) and funny writer who chronicles a bibulous education that takes him around the world, hunting down rare and interesting hooch, and debunking alcohol industry hokum. Can’t think of a better tour guide for a trip through the good, bad and plain strange in booze.

  • Even if you know punch is way more than Everclear and whatever juice-like liquid you can throw together and serve in a trashcan, chances are you’ll walk away enlightened (and very thirsty) after reading Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl (Perigee Trade) by David Wondrich. Written by one of cocktail geekdom’s best and brightest, Punch is what would happen if you had a really great college prof (which Wondrich was) teaching a history course on booze, with drinks served in the classroom. The first third of the book tells the story of how punch went from being basically a sailors’ drink, to being the drink of royalty, as well as America’s founders. Recipes, along with fascinating anecdotes, round out the rest.

Next to a nice bottle of hooch, few things do more to raise the spirits of a cocktail geek quite like nifty tools and recipe books.

Some last-minute holiday gifts for the cocktail lover:

  • Few things sound and taste as lovely in the glass as big-ass ice cubes. Tovolo King Cube Extra Large Silicone Ice Cube Trays (around $15) make six perfect, 2-inch-cubes.
  • Forget those Day-Glo abominations masquerading as true maraschino cherries. Here’s the real deal, from Italy’s Luxardo ($18). No bar should be without.
  • Jiggers look nice, but making good cocktails takes precise measuring. If there’s one piece of bar gear I can’t do without, it’s my OXO Good Grips Baking Mini Measuring Cup (1/4 cup). What’s especially neat-o about these (apart from the puny $5 price) is that you can see how much you have in the cup from above. In other words, no more bobbing up and down and craning your neck to see what’s what. Makes for an ideal stocking stuffer.

Like love and rainbows and unicorns, you can never have enough cocktail books. Seriously.

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