12BB Holiday Buying Guide

As we’re in the midst of our 12 Drinks of Christmas, we decided not to do an extensive “What to Buy” guide this year, especially as some of our friends have already done very good jobs of assembling such lists.  Instead, we’re going to make a couple of recommendations and turn the rest over to a few of the kind and learned people who comprise our blogroll.

First, our recommendations:

Must-Have: If there’s a must-have cocktail item this holiday season, we’re saying it’s David Wondrich’s newly released Punch.

You can see our full write up on the book here, but in short, punch (the drink) is both the ancestor of the cocktail as well as the “next big thing” you’ll be seeing at bars.  “Punch” (the book) not only chronicles the history and rise of the “flowing bowl”, it provides more than forty recipes with anecdotal tales as well as practical steps towards crafting your own world-class punch.

Coffee Table Book: If you’re looking for that perfect cocktail gift that’s gorgeous, inspiring, and contains a myriad of tasty recipes (both classics and modern classics), look no further than Dale DeGroff’s The Essential Cocktail.

We’re be spending some proper time with Mr. DeGroff in the near future, but we can’t let editorial timing stand in the way of recommending this exquisite volume.  DeGroff is a pioneer in the field of bartending (he gave us the breathtaking Fitzgerald) and promotion of the cocktail, and his “Essential Cocktail” is the kind of book that will please neophyte and nerd alike.

These books, as well as the ones we’ve featured in From the 12BB Library, can all be found on 12BB Supply, our Amazon storefront.  Everything there has been selected specifically by us and would make a wonderful holiday gift.

Now, our friends:

Glassware and Gadgets: While we have our own glassware and tools recommendations, friend Randy over at Summit Sips has just posted an extensive guide to buying quality glassware at Target.  Randy is a vintage stemware fiend, but he, like us, wanted to see if less can actually be more and if the glassware needs of a proper home bar could be met by a trip to a chain department store.  His efforts were quite successful.

Need more than glassware?  Summit Sips also has some great recommendations for more esoteric but very cool items for both you and your cocktail-themed gift-giving needs.  We’d like some of the glass straws.

Feeling Bitter?: Although we only prescribe two styles of bitters here at 12BB, there is something of a bitters renaissance going on right now, and we’d be doing you a great disservice if we didn’t say that bitters make a perfect Christmas present.  Not only are they relatively inexpensive, they can change a drink unlike any other ingredient.

Our friend Adam Elmegirab is one of the leaders of the bitters revolution, and if you’re looking for a holiday gift like no other, pick up a bottle of his original Boker’s Bitters, Dandelion & Burdock Bitters, which takes its profile from a traditional British drink dating back to the 1300s, or his Limited Edition Spanish Bitters.  Adam hand-makes everything in Scotland, and the bitters can be found at high end stockists and suppliers worldwide.

Essential Oils and, yes, Vomit: Our friend Deana at LostPastRemembered can’t say enough glowing things about Mandy Aftel’s Chef’s Essential Oils.  With flavors like Blood Cedar Wood, Ylang Ylang, and Grand Fir, these little bottles of absolute, well, essence are making their way into the finest kitchens and bars around the country.  A quarter ounce of any oil runs about $12-$17 dollars and, with the exception of the citrus, will last forever.  Which is a long time, since you’ll only be using them a drop at a time.

Ambergris is — unless you want to get scientific about it — solidified whale vomit.  And there’s nothing like it on earth.  Before you turn your nose up at this idea, know that you’ve probably already turned your nose up at ambergris, since it is a component of many fine perfumes.  Use of it in mixed drinks goes all the way back to Jerry Thomas himself, so if you really want to spoil yourself or a cocktailian friend, splurge $25 on a gram of this “truffle of the ocean” from Ambergris Co., New Zealand.  Then, make Deana’s Negus Punch (about half way down the page).

Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!


2 responses to “12BB Holiday Buying Guide

  1. I have been working with Ambergris CO, NZ (http://www.ambergris.co.nz/) for a few months now and am in love with their product. When you order make sure to tell them it is for food as there are many different grades of ambergris from white to dark.

    The scent is magical in so many things… I still think my favorite is with the vintage port although I am experimenting with it in an old tokay and 100 year old madeira because I think it will be revelatory. The magic of ambergris, aside from its own smell, is that it makes everything it touches more of what it is. There is no taste to it really… all scent. It melts very quickly to wax so that would be the taste. Smelling the warm fumes is the secret!

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