35 Best Gifts for Cocktail Lovers, According to a Spirits Expert

From essential home bar tools to some of our favorite spirits and non-alcoholic alternatives, these ideas will delight the cocktail (or mocktail) lover in your life.

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November 13, 2023

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Close up male bartender hands making Baileys cocktail with ice and pouring to glass from bar shaker

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Close up male bartender hands making Baileys cocktail with ice and pouring to glass from bar shaker

Photo by: serts/Getty Images

serts/Getty Images

Gifting is one of life’s great joys. As a longtime hospitality and drinks professional, the spirit of generosity that guides my work is deeply aligned with the practice of gift exchange between loved ones. Both require an empathic understanding of another person’s perspective and desires and seek to deepen a relationship by anticipating another person’s needs and wants. Here are my top gift picks for any cocktail lover, whether they’re a seasoned pro or just starting out.

$9.99
Amazon

This has been my go-to strainer for over a decade. The compact form factor makes it easy to handle, and the spring has the right amount of tension to help strain out the medium-to-large ice bits that you don’t want floating in your finished drink.

$31.99
Amazon

If you’re going to mix drinks, a good shaking set is an absolute must. A set with two metal pieces, as opposed to one side being a heavy pint glass, makes the vigorous agitation required for a proper cocktail easy for novices and pros alike. This set is durable, attractive and accessibly priced.

$19.99
Amazon

I wasn’t a fan of all-in-one jiggers until I used this one, which has easy-to-see graduation lines for smaller measures like quarter and half ounces. Plus, the curvy shape looks great in any home bar kit.

$24.99
Amazon

Over the course of my 15-plus-year career, I’ve used more citrus juicers than I can count, and this one is my absolute favorite. It looks nice, has easy-to-grip handles and the unique design provides maximum leverage for a better juice yield with less effort.

$29
MTC Kitchen

Yukiwa is a well-regarded producer of Japanese barware. Many bartenders who aspire to the ideals of precise Japanese-style bartending swear by their products. This stainless steel bar spoon is slender but sturdy, plus the trident fork — there for handling garnishes hands-free — adds a little bit of stylish edge.

$19.99
Amazon

A muddler is an essential tool in any bartender’s kit, required for drinks like the mojito that calls for muddled mint, or even old fashioneds made with a sugar cube (as opposed to with syrup). This rather intimidating-looking muddler was designed by legendary bar icon Don Lee and is made from food-grade plastic and is virtually indestructible.

$48
Food52

These borosilicate glass straws are made from the same material as Pyrex measuring cups. They’re super durable, endlessly reusable and come in a nice array of cute colors.

$12.99 (Pack of 2)
Amazon

Ice is an essential ingredient in 95% of cocktails, and these molds make it easy to make your own aesthetically pleasing ice spheres to go in your Old Fashioneds or on-the-rocks Margaritas. I find that large ice trays are inconvenient in tight freezer spaces, so the individual nature of these molds is a huge plus.

$12
Amazon

You might not think that an ice scoop is a critical component of a home bar, but trust me, having the right scoop is essential. This one has a comfortable handle and large drains, so you’re only picking up ice and not the excess water at the bottom of your ice bucket.

$5.99
IKEA

These are some of the most versatile glasses for serving "up" drinks. They are large enough to hold bigger drinks such as those made with egg white or topped with bubbles, plus, they’re accessibly priced which makes them great "everyday" items and are durable enough to survive multiple journeys through a dishwasher.

$85
Strata Portland

If you want to splurge on impossibly elegant cocktail glasses, Kimura Glass is the way to go. These glasses resemble a more distinctive "Nick and Nora" style of coupe that is perfect for compact drinks like a Martini or Manhattan.

$11.95
Crate & Barrel

Part of what makes drinking fancy cocktails and spirits so satisfying is drinking them out of fancy glasses, particularly rocks glasses with substantial weight to them. These hand-blown — but dishwasher-safe — rocks glasses are affordable enough to be gifted as a set of two — or four. Drinks are best shared, after all!

$115
Goldbelly

It’s pretty difficult to send someone a regular cocktail through the mail, but these intricate and stylish gelatin-based cocktails (don’t call them Jell-O shots) are the next best thing (if not better). Devised by a Brooklyn-based pastry chef and mixologist duo, these cocktail-inspired cakes are a spectacular choice for the cocktail lover who’s seen it all.

$21.99
Modernist Pantry

It’s become a trend in recent years among high-end bars to "acid adjust" various ingredients to tweak the balance of a given cocktail. It sounds more intimidating than it is. Much like you would add salt to a dish to dial up the flavor, you can add these powders to juices or syrups to augment the acidity and bring your drinks to a whole new level of balance.

$42.99
Total Wine & More

Easily one of the best gins on the market. This exceptionally unique spirit is made in the Black Forest of Germany from — you guessed it — 47 different botanicals including lingonberry, juniper, lime and jasmine. Priced a bit steep compared to conventional gins, this is a great special occasion bottle that works marvelously in pretty much any gin cocktail you can devise.

$46.99
Total Wine & More

You’d be forgiven for associating the name “Jose Cuervo” with regrettable college nights and brutal hangovers, but their high-end expressions, made under the “Reserva de la Familia” mark, offer exceptional sipping tequilas for any budding connoisseur. Reposado tequilas are, by law, aged for at least two months and up to one year, and this bottle supplies an abundance of citrus and baking spices on the palate that's perfect for the holidays.

$45
AMASS

Non-alcoholic spirits as a category still have a long way to go before they truly match the interestingness and depth of flavor of conventional, ethanol-based spirits, but this is one of the closest I’ve tasted so far. It resembles a gin in overall profile and can be used as a 1:1 replacement with minimal tweaks.

$75 (Pack of 2)
Amazon

When it comes to non-alcoholic spirits, the most exciting sub-categories for me are the ones that do not seek to replace or mimic an existing spirit. Ghia is a perfect example of a non-alcoholic spirit forging its own path. Inspired by south-of-France aperitif culture with flavors of ginger, rosemary and citrus. Works great as a simple spritz with sparkling water or incorporated into all manner of cocktails, non-alcoholic or otherwise.

$74.99
Drizly

Mezcal is a huge category with a lot of diversity based on raw ingredients and production styles. This certified organic mezcal is prized by bartenders for its complex assortment of flavors, making it a high-end mixing choice or a perfect neat pour.

$102.99
Drizly

Japanese whisky’s popularity has skyrocketed in the past decade, and it’s now regarded as one of the best whisky-making regions in the world. The flipside of this is that once-easy-to-find bottles are now heavily allocated. Hibiki’s Japanese Harmony expression is one of their most accessible bottles that’s a great gift for someone just starting out on their Japanese whisky adventure.

$49.96
Astor Wines & Spirits

In recent years, French herbal liqueurs Green Chartreuse and Yellow Chartreuse have been tricky to track down. This is because the Carthusian monks who make the stuff have declined to increase production in the face of increased demand. Fortunately for us, Brooklyn-based Faccia Brutto has come in with a great substitute for Green Chartreuse that will be a welcome respite to those missing their Chartreuse-based cocktails like Last Words and Bijous.

$37.99
Total Wine & More

Another favorite Brooklyn-based producer of mine is Forthave Spirits, who make a respectable range of spirits including gin and coffee liqueur. I like their "Red" as a replacement for the ubiquitous bitter liqueur, Campari, when I want to add a bit more dimension to bitter, aperitif-style cocktails like a Negroni or Americano.

$53.99
Total Wine & More

Cult-favorite whisky blender Compass Box has been pumping out world-class whisky blends for nearly a quarter-century, with each new release being more sought after than the next. This latest offering is a demonstration of Scotch’s uncanny ability to be remarkably fresh and fruity. An amazing aperitif whisky.

$23.99
Total Wine & More

A nice array of bitters is an essential element of any home bar. A couple of dashes of these intensely flavored cocktail seasonings can bring otherwise uninspiring cocktails to vivid life. This set includes one of my all-time favorite but criminally underrated bitters flavors — celery, which adds an unexpected vegetal dimension to cocktails like a Dirty Martini or even a Daiquiri.

$32
American Vinegar Works

Vinegar can be polarizing as a drink ingredient, but many expert drink-makers swear by it to add a touch of vibrant acidity and beguiling complexity to their drinks. They can be good alternatives to traditional citrus in cocktails or work alongside them. This sampler pack from New Hampshire-based artisanal producer features four small batch and barrel-aged flavors including beer malt and chardonnay and is a great way to get anyone going on their vinegar journey.

$20
Wood Stove Kitchen

The challenge of making bar-quality cocktails at home is replicating all of the bespoke syrups and infusions that bartenders, with the help of trusty barbacks and kitchen staff, are able to make consistently, night after night. The amateur home mixologist might not have the same capacity, so access to high-quality and distinctive mixers like these from Wood Stove Kitchen will set them up for success.

$43
Cheeky Cocktails

Cheeky Cocktails takes all that work and stress out of do-it-yourself cocktailing. The company offers an array of shelf-stable (meaning they do not need to be refrigerated before opening) juices and syrups and their four-pack makes it easy to swiftly build out your ingredient roster.

$39.95
Amazon

What good are fancy bar tools and glassware if you have no idea what to put in them? Veteran drinks journalist Amanda Schuster’s epic tome is one of the most comprehensive surveys of cocktail recipes you can find. It contains all manner of classics from the centuries-old Atholl Brose, a concoction of Scotch, honey and cream, to the cutting-edge Crystal Ramos Gin Fizz, a clarified version of the classic Ramos Gin Fizz.

$22.99
Amazon

Books are some of my favorite items to give as gifts, and this one, from author Julia Bainbridge is one of my all-time favorites. To build this book, Bainbridge traversed the country sourcing non-alcoholic cocktail recipes from top-level bartenders. The result is a book that is somewhat challenging for the novice but is wildly inspirational and a great proof point for the validity of non-alcoholic cocktails. And if you’re not not drinking much of the ideas in this book can be applied to any style of drink you desire.

$32.50
Amazon

I worked at PDT for more than five years and contributed a handful of recipes that appear in this book, which are all drinks that made an appearance on the bar’s menu in the years prior to this book’s publication. Although some recipes call for very specific and sometimes hard-to-find ingredients, they can be well worth the effort.

$25.60
Amazon

Dave Arnold is known for being one of the foremost innovators in the craft cocktail world, and this book is his magnum opus where he generously shares his deep knowledge and playfully iconoclastic personality. Some techniques might be out of reach for casual cocktail enthusiasts, but the information contained in this book is supremely useful regardless.

$19.39
Amazon

I would be remiss if I did not mention my own books in a list of great gifts, wouldn’t I? This book came out in 2020 and is meant to be a sassy yet informative "cocktail 101" book that gently guides beginners through the process of understanding the nuts and bolts of cocktails and how to confidently determine the contours of their own preferences.

$11.89
Amazon

My second book is a left turn from the general cocktail overview that Drink What You Want offered. Saved by the Bellini is a pun-filled romp through the 1990s as told via drinks that are inspired by some of my favorite pop culture moments from that pivotal decade like the Tamagochi, Jurassic Park and Dunkaroos.

$120
MasterClass

For those of us who are more visual learners, this cocktail class taught by drink masters Ryan Chetiyawaranda and Lynnette Marrero is a thorough introduction to cocktail creation from beginner techniques to more advanced tricks and hacks.

$12
Love & Victory

Love & Victory is a design firm that produces all manner of giftable items, including tree ornaments, socks, cufflinks and this pride-themed enamel pin that supports the LGBTQ+ community. A portion of the sale price goes to the Ali Forney Center, an organization striving to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness.

John deBary is the author of Drink What You Want: The Subjective Guide to Making Objectively Delicious Cocktails; CEO and Founder of Proteau, a zero-proof drinks company; and is also the Co-Founder and Board President of Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation.

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