Cocktail Gifts

This blog is an opportunity to share all of the amazing gifts out there that have to do with.. cocktails! We’ll be sharing accessories, staples, and recipes for cocktail connoisseurs.

The Art of a Dry Ice Cocktail

Here’s an interesting way to celebrate your next Halloween: make a spooky, dry ice cocktail for your loved ones (well, your age 21 and above loved ones).

Check the Yellow Pages for ice suppliers in your area and ask them if they have food-grade dry ice, which is basically frozen carbon dioxide. Be careful – It is extremely cold, so use some ice tongs! Add a big enough chunk to your bowl to keep it out of the straws, but a little will go a long way. It will sink to the bottom and start to transform directly from solid to gas. As this happens, it will create a smoke effect which can be just as fun as the flame in this drink. In this case, think of your entire bowl as the volcano crater! It’s just carbon dioxide, but it’s in your drink – which is why you should only use food grade dry ice.

dry ice cocktail

Now imagine all the other cool effects you can make with dry ice…

Volcano Bowl

Nothing says PARTY like setting your drink on fire! If you are feeling festive, beachy, or simply want to impress your guests, try these volcano bowls and you won’t be disappointed.

volcano bowl

These bowls can hold up to 32 oz of delicious cocktails of your choice to be shared as communal beverage.  With these 17 inch neon straws, two (or more) people can enjoy the cool fruitiness simultaneously without getting consumed by fire. You can buy these ceramic bowls from Amazon, and yes, they are dishwasher safe.

As far as making the perfect drink goes for a bowl this size, try SummitSip’s recipe,

Volcano Bowl
6 oz grapefruit juice
2 oz lime juice
.75 oz grade A maple syrup
.5 oz simple syrup
3 oz Demerara rum
2 oz Jamaican rum
1 oz gold rum

Shake with lots of crushed ice and pour unstrained into your bowl filled with ice cubes. Add straws, and if appropriate, setup your volcano with 151-proof rum or other high-proof spirit and set it on fire. Dim the lights and carefully avoid the flames as you sip. Hula dancing is optional.

Let’s check out this bad boy in action:

This is a fantastic gift for cocktail enthusiasts who love that extra dramatic touch.

Feature image from

Post image from Binder Of Daemons.

cocktail bitters

“Bitters are to a cocktail as salt is to soup.”

A bitters is an alcoholic beverage flavored with herbal essences that has a bitter or bittersweet flavor. A couple of drops of bitters will make a huge difference in your cocktail. They are, well, bitter, on their own, but will make every other flavor interesting and multi-dimensional.

For the average beginner cocktail enthusiast, I recommend the Angostura Aromatic Bitters on Amazon.

cocktail bitters

Its unique blend of natural herbs and spices can add flavor to a wide variety of food and drinks.  People have used it on ice cream, fruits, jellies, and sodas. It also brings out the best in your mojitos and will make a wonderful stocking stuffer.

For the more experienced cocktail enthusiast, I recommend going big and getting the Fee Brothers Bar Cocktail Bitters Complete Set. It’s a 12- bottle bitters set that has every flavor imaginable to man.

cocktail bitters

The following review from oldtaku pretty much says it all,

Your flavor options are:
– Fruit: Peach, Lemon, Grapefruit, Cherry, Rhubarb, Cranberry, Orange….
– Other: Mint, Plum, Old Fashioned, Celery, Aztec Chocolate.

The fruit flavors speak for themselves, but the others are more interesting. The mint bitters can add a lot to a simple mojito. Celery works fantastic with tomato juice or bloody mary mix. The plum is very cinnamon-y, and the Old Fashioned is like the plum but with extra heavy spices.

The Aztec Chocolate Bitters aren’t quite as tasty on their own, but work well when paired with a good spiced rum like The Kraken.

Get some bitters – it’ll make your mixoligist’s dreams come true!

How to buy Jiggers

Jiggers are those two sided measurement devices for cocktails. (Here’s the etymology.) They’re useful for measuring out the ingredients for cocktails, and they’re an absolutely necessary tool for the cultured cocktail enthusiasts.

cocktail measure jigger

If you’re just starting out with cocktails, there are thousands of options, and it’s an easy thing to just pick a stylish one.

But wait! Don’t do it! Some jiggers are more useful than others. And a stylish jigger will just be replaced by its more utilitarian cousin faster than you can say French 75, 75 times. (Ok, that’s not so fast, but you have to allow for shipping or a trip to the store.)

Here’s the problem with the random stylish jigger. It’ll come in some strangely proportioned measurement. A common one is 3/4 oz and 1-1/4 oz. There may be a way you can get 1 oz or 1-1/2 oz, but I’m not in the mood for a brain-teaser: I’m in the mood for a cocktail!

So here’s what you want in a jigger: accurate measurements of different varieties. I highly recommend getting two jiggers: one 1/2 oz and 1 oz, and one 3/4 oz and 1-1/2 oz. With those two and a bar spoon, you can make any cocktail you desire. Or if you desire a single purchase, here’s a set of three that will work well.

This is another cheap item. It could make a great stocking stuffer or as a part of a larger set. Happy gifting!

Icecream Dishes

Cocktails should taste good. That’s first and foremost. But cocktails are supposed to really look good, too. And on that dimension, you can’t have a good looking cocktail in a bad looking glass.

So if you’ve a cocktail enthusiast in your life, get them some creative glassware. Here’s my trick: ice cream dishes.

Icecream dishes for cocktail

Small ice cream dishes can be great for a minimum volume boozy cocktail, particularly with a nice garnish in it. My wife brought home a few never-used-anymore glass ice cream dishes from her grandmother a few months ago, and I use them whenever I have company for cocktails.

If you’re getting together with family, try going out to your local junk store. You might be able to find some dishes with real character.

Watch out for capacities when shopping online, though. You wouldn’t want a dish that holds 13 ounces… That’d be a punch bowl.  As American’s waistlines have grown, so have their ice cream bowls… or vice versa!

Bar Spoons!

Not all cocktails are created equal. Many are shaken. Some extremely delicious cocktails are stirred. Get your finger out that drink! You need the right tools for the job. Yeah. I’m talking to you Susan Hayden.

You need a bar spoon. And actually, I’m going to say you need two bar spoons: one with a simple end and one with a weighted cone at the end.

bar spoons

So why is this so complicated? Here’s what you can do with these magical items:

  • Measuring Ingredients: It’s handy for measuring small amounts of ingredients: a spoonful is about an 1/8 ounce. A couple spoonfuls for 1/4 ounce.
  • Stirring Cocktails: I think this is best done with the non-spoon end of the bar spoon with the simple end.
  • Cracking Ice: Hold a larger cube in your hand, and use the weighted end of the cone end to break the ice before mixing.
  • Floating Layers: Carefully pour from a spout off the side of the cone end of the spoon for a perfect floated layer.

They’re cheap enough for a stocking stuffer, but consider wrapping it out of the package. It’ll be funnier.

Little Measuring Cup

I mentioned this in an earlier post on jiggers, but I thought it merited another, more formal, mention in its own post. I like a good cocktail. Which means, I like a precisely created cocktail.

I like variety and simplicity when I’m making cocktails for myself, but I don’t like doing dishes. So when I’m making an Aviation for myself, I’ll leave the jiggers in the cabinet and turn to my trusted angled Oxo mini-measuring cup.

liquid measuring cup for cocktails

The measuring cup has angled measuring surface (giving it the strange shape). And that means you don’t have to bend down to counter level to read it. You can look straight down at the surface as you’re pouring and quickly and accurately measure the pours.

And because you can measure any amount, you don’t have to get several jiggers dirty each time you make a cocktail. (This keeps my wife slightly happier with me.)

My only problem with this cup is it list 1/4, 1/2, and 1 oz, but not 3/4 oz… quite the common measurement! But the ease of use still makes it a great gift for the cocktail enthusiast. And at less than $10, it can make a great stocking stuffer or a portion of a themed gift.

Happy Black Friday!


Now, I’ll admit: as our kid-focused week continues, Friday Night Cocktails is a bit of stretch. But that’s not going to stop us. No sir! We shall overcome. So what’s a good piece of gear for libation lovers of all ages?

How bout a good juicer?
cocktail juicer

There’s nothing like fresh squeezed, either with your morning cereal or with your evening Last Word. The freshness makes the difference. But all that hand-squeezing is no fun. And we’re not going to go crazy with a giant counter-top juicer. What’s in the middle?

A good manual juicer, like the (admittedly horribly name) Chef’n Juicester, available on Amazon. This one may not be best if you just juice grapefruits, but for limes, lemons, and oranges this should do the trick. It also has a measuring cup on the bottom, making it easy to measure out the juice for a cocktail.

It’s on my CheckedTwice list, if not my niece’s. 🙂

How to build a better ice cube

With this post, you’re getting a good view of my wishlist. Our refrigerator has an ice maker, and that’s the ice I use for cocktails. And that works pretty well. But for a fancier, that quickly made ice isn’t as pretty as it could be. And if it’s not freshly made, it can get that “old ice” taste.

I have some whiskey stones, and for some drinks, that’ll do the trick. They look fancy and they don’t impart any taste.

But what about those cocktails where you need the ice to add a little water to the drink? What do you do then? What’s the right ice?

Here’s what you want: beautiful, clear spheres and cubes, that are larger than your average ice cube.

cocktail ice mold

The gold standard comes from Japan. Check these ice molds out! I saw these in our hotel’s bar while we were in Tokyo. It’s an amazing effect to the ice sphere almost the same size as the glass with your whiskey. But at $200? It’s a little pricey for frozen water.

Well here’s what’s on Andrew list on CheckedTwice. I haven’t tried out the products, but I can’t wait to get that opportunity.

The first contender is in the sphere category: Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds. These molds have a screw top which keeps the ice under a bit of pressure. (The reviews have a lot of information.) They won’t come out as clean as the Japanese model, but it’ll still make an impact.

Our second contender is in the cube category: Polar Ice Crystal Clear Ice Cube Tray. These molds are exciting, and as ThinkGeek puts it: “Be classy with Science!” The bottom of the tray is insulated, so the ice freezes in a slow orderly manner. This pushes any impurities in the water towards the bottom where it can be removed at the end.

Will it work? I don’t know. We’ll see in January… I hope!

How to buy a Muddler

cocktail muddler

Ok, I have to admit it. This whole category is a bit of a selfish indulgence. I enjoy making a finely crafted cocktail nearly as much as I enjoy sipping them on my balcony in this fine Houston fall weather. Maybe you know someone like me? Handsome and cultured?

Well, if you do, count yourself as lucky… to have found such a great place to get gift ideas for that person! Each Friday we will showcase a bit of gear that will perfectly round out your aficionado’s personal bar program.

Muddle your cares away…

And we’re getting things started with a fun one. The muddler is a key tool for the bar used in cocktails from the classic Sazerac to the trendier Mojitos. You use to mix, mash, and blend solid ingredient with the liquors in the drink. For the Sazerac, you crunch up a sugar cube in the herbal bitters. For the Mojito, you mash the mint, releasing the flavor in the drink. The whole process looks fancy and that grinding those ingredients down in the bottom of a bar glass can be quite the stress reliever after a long work week.

But beware! There’s a couple tricks to getting good muddler.

First of all is size. The rule isn’t quite ‘the bigger, the better’ but it’s close. You want something that you’ll be able to fit in your hand comfortably over a pint sized bar glass. I’d stay away from anything shorter than ten inches or so.

The second rule only applies to wooden muddlers. Don’t buy a finished muddler! If you use one of those you’ll end up with varnish in your Sazerac. And no one likes varnish in their Sazerac. So stick to muddlers with unfinished wood. I recommend this muddler from Vic Firth or this muddler from Kegworks.

There are also a lot of stainless steal/plastic muddlers on the market that certainly meet both of the rules above. I’m a bit of a purist. I stick to the classics. But maybe y’all will know. Any good recommendations on synthetic muddlers?