What to call a man who obsesses over alcohol? A connoisseur? A fanatic? A drunk? We call him The Mixologist, and you know him well. He’s the man whose cupboards are stocked with more bitters than spices, whose basement is reeking of homebrew, whose glass is always half-full — at least. And yours too, for the Mixologist prides himself in the cocktails he makes and the beer he serves. He’s an enabler of fun, an anti-Scrooge, a Holiday MVP. He’s every character in Billy Joel’s Piano Man — in fact, he does a mean Billy Joel if the night goes late enough. So cheers to The Mixologist. Here are a few gifts he’ll cheers to.
Field Notes Drink Local Packs
Drinking beer can change the world. We believe that. How many late night conversations in how many darkened bars have yielded mind-blowing, game-changing, money-making ideas — only to be forgotten as soon as the next brew hits the coaster. Field Notes, the company that makes sturdy notebooks right here in the USA, has taken their 20th anniversary to celebrate that very spirit. These notebook three-packs come in two color sets: Ales (brown Stout, red Amber and rusty orange India Pale Ale) and Lagers (gold Pilsner, brown Bock, yellow Pale Lager). They’re perfect for jotting down fuzzy moments of brilliance, or just for making a note of a great local brew you’ve never had before.
Eva Trio Martini Glass
The Eva Trio glass is an inebriated trompe-l’oeil: the slanted glass makes it look like you’re sloshing gin all over the place, when in fact it’s just a severe angle. The theory is…well, we’re not sure we buy the theory that the 14-degree slant improves martini consumption in any perceptible way. But we do buy the theory that it looks cool, and when you’re hosting an elegant, martini-centric cocktail party, that really is what matters most. Plus, the glasses are designed and made in Denmark; since they’re mouth blown, they’re extremely thin yet sturdy enough to be tossed in the dishwasher
New and Interesting Spirits
If we’ve learned one thing from our friend The Mixologist, it’s that any drink is only as good as the booze that goes in it. Oh, and that a bottle with a bow on top is the surest way to see him smile. This year we’ve been spoiled with choices for new and exciting spirits, but we’re particularly fond of these three. Jefferson’s Reserve Very Old Straight Bourbon is released in small (dare we say downright tiny) batches, an ingenious blend of three different whiskeys that makes for a medium-weight and slightly sweet affair. Beefeater’s Burrough’s Reserve gin is distilled in a small 19th century copper still and aged in Jean de Lillet oak barrels. It’s only available in limited quantities, and so sought after it’s already sold out in many stores. Chopin’s Polish Potato Vodka uses upwards of 40 potatoes for one 750 ml bottle — which is just a fun, mostly useless fact tacked onto a vodka that took home double gold medals at the San Fransisco World Spirits Competition, and might be one of the purest, cleanest vodkas you’ve ever tasted.
Boozy Books: History and Memoirs
Reading and drinking don’t often go hand-in-hand. But reading about drinking? That’s something we can get behind. The Wet and the Dry by Lawrence Osborne is part travelogue — mostly Osborne goes through the Islamic states of the Middle East, where alcohol is as scarce as clean water — and part memoir of a life growing up in wet, wet England. Davai! The Russians and their Vodka is a narrative about that famous clear drink. Edwin Trommelin takes a historical approach, peering through literature and public record for a full accounting of the spirit and its inextricable ties to Russian culture. The Drunken Botanist, meanwhile, is a scientific look at the plants that make alcohol. Part science textbook and part recipe book, it’s a valuable resource for anyone who likes to know just what, exactly, they’re shooting.
Coach + Billy Reid Whiskey Flask
Every good boozehound should have a good flask. It’s the quintessential American drinking accessory, a vessel that lends a bit of class (and just the right amount of whiskey) to any otherwise boring situation. Alabama Designer Billy Reid has collaborated with leather goods mega-retailer Coach to create a flask that’s understated, luxurious and just the right amount of rebellious. If you’re worried about the exorbitant price tag, there’s also a less expensive saddle leather version available through Billy Reid’s own website.
Portland Growler Company Growler
Beer was never meant to be bottled or canned: those are harsh, flavor-reductive processes that lace the good stuff with preservatives and other nasty additives. No, the best beer is fresh, which means if there’s a good brewpub nearby (and no doubt The Mixologist took this into account before throwing down first and last month’s rent) a good growler is essential for carting that just-tapped nectar home. These ones are hand cast in Portland, designed to keep beer as cold and fresh as possible. Like the best craft beer, they’re made in small batches, so order one well ahead if you can.
Pretentious Beer Glasses
Just as there’s a proper glass for whiskey and a proper glass for martinis, there is a proper glass for beer. But not all beer is created equal, and each variety deserves its own specially designed piece of stemware: a tulip-shaped decanter for hoppy beers, un upside-down DQ cone for malty beers, an hourglass for ales. Each shape accentuates the properties of the different brews, and what’s more, each glass (the set comes with five) is handmade and mouth blown in Louisville.
Chicago Candle Co. Candles
Coming home smelling like booze is bad. Making your home smell like booze on purpose? Kinda awesome. Chicago Candle Company takes that theory to heart, producing soy wax candles that smell truly intoxicating; we’re talking delectable scents like Kentucky Bourbon or Irish Coffee Stout. All the candles are housed in recycled wine and beer bottles (the bottoms of them, at least), which are sourced directly from local Chicago bars and pubs.
Boozy Books: How Tos and Guides
The Mixologist is a pro. But even pros need some assistance now and then, which is why he might be interested in a few books to help bone up on the finer points of being an alcohol aficionado. The Complete Beer Course is a book for diehard beer lovers. It’s designed as a college class — not a 101 bird course, but rather that upper level phenomenology seminar you took because you thought it would be such a good idea at the time — that tells you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about beer, and then some. The Cocktail Guide by Tony Conigliary is a bartender’s-view guide to mixing drinks; it’s not just old fashioneds, but revolutionary concoctions you’ve never even heard of. And, if The Mixologist wants to take his home brewing up a notch, there’s The King’s County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining, the ultimate tome on the subject of bathtub distilling (which, if you haven’t heard, is pretty popular right now, and not just in Brooklyn).
Northern Brewer 1 Gallon Small Batch Starter Kit
Store-bought beer is for amateurs, says The Mixologist, turning up his nose. Home brew is the only small batch that matters. Sure, you probably shouldn’t enable his snobbery, but come on — it’ll make him happy. The process takes time, passion and a little sweat, and the rewards can be incredibly gratifying. That is, if one has the right equipment. Northern Brewer is the Ferrari of home brew kits, pined over by beer geeks the world over (seriously, there are entire Internet threads inquiring about the company’s sometimes devastating international shipping policies). Their starter kit comes with everything you need to start a craft brewery in your garage, including your choice of hoppy recipes. We suggest the Caribou Slobber Brown Ale.
Restoration Hardware Vintage French Factory Bar Cart
Where a man keeps his liquor is far more telling than the liquor he keeps. A kitchen cupboard suggests prudishness, a tray suggests licentiousness, a 2-4 on the floor suggests a whole host of problems we don’t have time to get into. A bar cart, however, is a symbol of cautious revelry, an indication that the owner knows what he’s doing with a mixing spoon but does so responsibly, even tastefully. This cast iron number isn’t technically vintage, but is inspired by steel desks used in 20th-century French factories. It’s great for displaying your collection of vintage Scotches but, as a subtle piece of living room furniture, doesn’t call attention to them.
Wine Research/Info Subscriptions
Wine snobbery is not easy. There’s just so much to know — and as bottles age and new wineries emerge, that knowledge changes all the time. But you can’t just pin your hopes on beer and hope for the best. The Mixologist wouldn’t dream of it. After all, what’s a dinner party without a proper wine? To help him keep abreast of current oenological trends, give a subscription to a top-tier wine guide. We’re particularly fond of Burghound.com, an obsessive quarterly journal dedicated to that most complex strain—it’s all Burgundy, all the time. Jamessuckling.com is a bit broader in scope but no less extensive, and the videos are pretty fun. Then, of course, there’s Decanter magazine, the ultimate subscription for wine lovers. It’s a monthly publication known worldwide as the “wine bible”. Can’t argue with that.