If you’re reading this, you’re either a bartender, or the proud friend or family member of one. Either way, you may be wondering what to give (or request) for the upcoming holidays. While gift guides abound this time of year, we decided to skip the method of arbitrarily assembling a list of thematic goods (like that “World’s Best Bartender” mug or “Cocktail” DVD you don’t actually want) and go straight to the source. We asked bartenders what they really want for Christmas this year: the actual tools, gadgets, gizmos and reading material that they’ll love and use regularly. Interested in what they had to say? See below for a few of the goods, from stocking stuffer-worthy to totally extravagant, that our friends behind the stick say they actually hope to find beneath the tree this year:
1. Perlini system
It looks like a cocktail shaker, but this gadget does so much more: namely, it adds sparkle to drinks by carbonating any ingredients you place inside the shaker-esque pressurized vessel. You can also use it to preserve and revive sparkling wines and Champagne.
2. The Spinzall
First things first: if you love someone enough to give them a $699 centrifuge, they’re going to have to be patient — the product itself isn’t shipping until summer of 2017. But for a bartender who wants to experiment with modernist culinary techniques, this thing will be worth the wait. (And, judging by how many people mentioned it, this thing will be in high demand.) Designed by Dave Arnold, the Spinzall is billed as “the first centrifuge designed from the ground up for culinary use,” and aims to give restaurants and bars a more affordable, less clunky option from massive (and massively expensive) laboratory centrifuges used to clarify, fat-wash and blend.
Beyond beef jerky, this unassuming kitchen contraption has quite a few interesting applications for the bar, from the simple (like a dehydrated lemon peel garnish) to the less conventional (see Camper English’s Campari liqueur or “Chartreuse pixie dust”). Options run the gamut from $30 to well into the hundreds of dollars for commercial kitchen dehydrators.
4. Travel kit
For bartenders, ambassadors and consultants who regularly take their bartending on the road, having your own travel kit on-hand ensures that you have everything you need to do your job (and prevents you from being at the mercy of potentially lower-quality tools elsewhere). If you can’t spring for a handsome Meehan roll-up from Jim Meehan and Moore & Giles, fear not: more affordable options can be found, and DIY enthusiasts can even assemble their own. We like Naren Young’s exhaustive list of suggestions for the ultimate kit, which includes everything from a standard bar spoon to Sharpies, Band-Aids and batteries.
5. Tobin Ellis Cocktail Station
Have you been very, very, very good this year? If so, you may want to consider asking Santa (or upper management) for a Tobin Ellis Cocktail Station — the underbar setup was designed for speed, comfort and efficiency, with refrigerated drawers and a “cockpit”-style speed rail, among other enviable design specs. One station will run you Santa about $5,600, so here’s hoping you’re on the “nice” list.
6. “Liquid Intelligence” by Dave Arnold
There are cocktail nerds. And then, there are cocktail chemists. Take Dave Arnold, whose bar made its name on clever use of centrifuges, rotary evaporators, and 1,500-degree pokers. (Oh, and lots of liquid nitrogen.) In “Liquid Intelligence,” Arnold covers the full spectrum: practical, science-based guidance on drink-making basics, zany methods pulled straight from a chemistry textbook, and endless amounts of inspiration.
7. A Konga Shaker (or equally weird vintage find)
The Monkey Shoulder Konga Shaker, which features rotating handles that allow the drink to be “rolled,” is an update on a vintage shaker design, which apparently fell by the wayside when modern cocktail shakers became the standard-bearers. But there’s a catch: these things aren’t available to the public for retail, and unless you’re pals with the Monkey Shoulder folks, they’re not easy to get ahold of. Try searching eBay, Etsy, or online vintage glassware shops for an equally kooky vintage shaker.
8. “The Canon Cocktail Book” by Jamie Boudreau
Veteran bartender and owner Jamie Boudreau dispenses business advice and insights on running a bar (in addition to exquisite cocktail recipes) in his much-awaited new book. Rather than just a compendium of drink recipes, the book is meant to give an inside peek at what exactly it takes to operate a world-class bar.
9. Icebirg Press
For bartenders who want to up their bar’s ice game and drink presentation, but can’t quite spring for a Clinebell, this little gadget makes a great gift: it spits out perfect, dense, 2.5″-diameter ice balls in short order, no hand-carving requires. (It’s also great for home bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts who like their whiskey served just right).
10. A sous vide machine (“and two weeks off to play with it”)
It’s no secret that some of the best bartending hacks are often hiding in the kitchen — and the sous vide technique is definitely one of them. Bartenders use it to create faster, more flavorful infusions, syrups, cordials, oleo-saccharums, extractions, and more.
11. “A $5,000 gift certificate to Cocktail Kingdom”
While we can’t vouch for whether Santa’s pockets run quite that deep, we’d imagine just about any bartender would be thrilled to unwrap a Cocktail Kingdom gift card in any amount. Put it toward a starter kit of barware, fancy mixing glass, Beachbum-approved tiki vessel or any one of the many essential cocktail tomes the company stocks. The sky’s the limit with this one, elves.