Category Archives: gifts

Hydro Flask Rocks Cup

hydroflask old fashioned cup

Recently, Hydro Flask has added some cool beer-and-spirits accessories to their already-popular line of water bottles. One such product is the 10-oz Hydro Flask “Rocks” cup. Built similarly to their water bottles and growlers, the Rocks is a 10-oz insulated stainless container with a drink-through lid for whiskey-sipping on the move.

I would imagine those who enjoy camping and hiking would throw this cup in their backpacks for sipping during downtime, and low-volume coffee drinkers (espresso, in particular) will likely consider this a godsend.

hydroflask old fashioned cup

While I appreciate all sorts of drinkware with the quality Hydro Flask design and quality, I’m left feeling like the design of the Rocks is lacking, though. It keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hours, so why not provide it with a leak-proof lid design so you can have your whiskey in the cup as you hit the trails? It’s current design requires an additional flask or bottle to transport your booze to its destination before pouring into the cup. Also, even for Hydro Flask lovers, the cost of these cups is a bit prohibitive from building a whole serving set of them at $25 each.

As a non-outdoorsy-person, I’ve found my best use for the Hydro Flask Rocks cup is on the nightstand for bourbon on the rocks. The non-sweat design prevents glassware rings and avoids the need for a coaster.

Peugeot Whisky Tasting Set

peugeot whisky set There is a wide variety of glassware in the world of spirits, beer and wine. Many of these have unique features and claims, and in the past, I’ve spent some time using a few of these glasses, from the Neat Glass to tulip-shaped stemmed glasses that whiskey is sometimes served in.

Recently, I had an opportunity to try another uniquely-featured tasting glass: the Peugeot Whisky Tasting Set, which is not only a glass, but a 3-piece set with the glassware, a coaster, and a metal plate that fits between the two to cool the liquid in the glass.

Much like the Whiskey Wedge, using the Peugeot set takes a little pre-planning because of the metal plate, which, depending on how cold you want your whiskey, you can refrigerate or freeze, or just leave it someplace cool (more on that in a moment).

peugeot whisky set

At $40, this set is a gift-level item, and its usefulness depends on the way whiskey is sipped by the user. If you (or your recipient) like your whiskey chilled, with little to no water added, this is a beautiful and elegant glass. I tend to drink my scotch this way, and find the Peugeot set is pleasant to use, from the etched glass to the leather stitched coaster. I froze the plate and I like the way it cooled the whiskey through the glass, and not in it. Pitting this set against its biggest rival, whiskey stones, this allows you to sip without fear of an eventual boop in the nose from a stone, but the Peugeot is 2-4 times the cost of a set of stones. I did feel like this set chilled my whiskey more than a set of stones do, probably because metal gets colder than soapstone in the freezer.

The Peugeot Whisky Tasting Set is not particularly easy to find, though specialty glassware and kitchenware stores tend to be the best places to find it, and it is available at Amazon, too.

Kuhn Rikon Paring Knives

kuhn rikon paring knives

I’m made mention in the past my love for Kuhn Rikon paring knives in my home bar. We have several of these in the kitchen and use them all day for everything, from butter, to everyday chopping, to cocktail citrus prep. For about $10 per knife, we use these until we wear them out and feel like they’re a great value for their quality and functionality. See photo #3 below for a true representation of my Colori addiction.

These knives are not only extremely sharp, they are also coated with a nonstick coating (which makes them extra-useful for cutting butter and softer cheeses), and they each come with a plastic sleeve for storage.

kuhn rikon paring knives

Kuhn Rikon has now released a brand-new version of their popular Colori series of knives, the Colori+ and I reached out to the company to try some. The differences between Colori and Colori+ are shown above, with the original knives on the left and the newer model on the right. The new Coloris have:

  • a slightly different blade shape
  • an improved handle with an upgraded shape, textured material and a stamped “+” logo
  • a thinner, less rigid blade sleeve (see the photo below to compare)
  • darker knife colors, at least for now, which seem to be less pastel overall

kuhn rikon paring knives

The Colori line is widely available at many retailers nationally, including Amazon. Because the Colori+ knives are relatively new, I’ve only seen them sold on Kuhn Rikon’s website so far. At the same retail price of the previous iteration ($10 a knife), I prefer the improved + line, primarily because of the improved handle, which feels much better in my hand.

 

Keurig Kold Cocktails

keurig kold for cocktails

Keurig has gone from unknown coffee-maker company to household name in just a few short years. Their K-Cup system has become the industry standard for one-cup coffee and you can see it reflected in the many varieties of K-Cups your grocery store’s shelves.

Now, Keurig’s trying something familiar, yet new: the Keurig Kold, a drinkmaking system that (you guessed it) makes cold drinks. Every drink you make with the Kold is chilled by the machine (no ice required) and some of the pods also add carbonation (with fizz beads of some kind, no CO2 container required).

Keurig sent me a Kold and several of their cocktail pods. I got to try:

  • Rita’s and Tina’s Skinny Margarita  (non-carbonated)
  • Rita’s and Tina’s Skinny Strawberry Margarita (non-carbonated)
  • Union St. Lounge Mojito (carbonated)
  • Seraphine Seltzer, Persian Lime (carbonated)
  • Coke Zero (carbonated)

The Kold pods, which are about $5 for a 4-pack (a similar cost to Keurig’s coffee pods) are the equivalent of drink mixes for cocktails: they have the appropriate flavorings, you just need to add your own liquor to make them a full-blown “cocktail.” I found Rita’s and Tina’s Margaritas were appropriately tart and tasty, with the slightly chalky flavor of bar-bought frozen margaritas. Because they come out chilled, you can pour them straight into a salt-rimmed Margarita glass and you’re good to go.

Union St.’s Mojitos are especially nice when mint is out of season (mine’s yet to grow out this year), and it’s a quick way to get a Mojito, carbonation and all. I also tried the Coke Zero and found the taste to be shockingly good for a quick rum and Coke. I think it’s the best Coke Zero I’ve ever tasted (I drink Coke Zero regularly).

I can tell you so far my favorite pods, though, are the Seraphine Seltzer. Fizzy water is something my home bar is always running out of, and the lime seltzer is perfect with gin and a half-lime (for a Gin Rickey).

Keurig envisions the Kold being useful hardware at home cocktail parties: imagine a bowl full of pods and you can “make your own cocktail” by adding a shot of tequila, rum or gin to the mix. I found it to be a good virgin drink-maker, too. While the Kold is certainly a cool device to use at a party, especially (for me) as a seltzer-machine, you won’t hear Simple Cocktails recommend you completely replace yourself as home bartender with the Kold. Someone’s got to add the booze, right?

The Keurig Kold is an interesting piece of bleeding-edge technology that can help make a few cocktails quickly, and I’m curious to see the new and creative ways users and brands get behind the product.*

*Editor’s update: Keurig announced June 7, 2016 that it is shuttering the Keurig Kold line and laying off the 130 employees associated with it. Pods will be available for a discounted rate on the Kold website until they are gone and Keurig is giving Kold drinkmaker refunds at this site

Whiskey Wedge and Chillsner

whiskey wedge

Corkcicle has several fun products available for drinkers, from the original Corkcicle product (to keep wine sealed and chilled) to stainless travel coffee mugs and water bottles. Two of their products stand out the most for readers of this blog are the Whiskey Wedge and Chillsner.

The Whiskey Wedge is a drinking glass that you insert a rubber lid into, then fill with water through the lid. You freeze the whole thing, then when you’re ready for a glass of whiskey, remove the lid and you have a 1/2 glass of ice in a wedge. This allows for cooling of your whiskey with slower dilution.

I find the whiskey wedge to be handy (I like ice in my bourbons and ryes) with a few stipulations. If you’re lazy and don’t keep up with wishing, filling and freezing the glass, you may not use it much. For solo sipping every couple of days at home, the Whiskey Wedge is a nice way to cool and slowly dilute your whiskey. Get one from Amazon here.

chillsner

The Chillsner is a stainless steel icicle that you freeze, then insert into a bottled beer to keep it cool as you drink. These are pretty readily available in 2-packs for about $17, though Corckcicle lists the 2-pack on their site for $27.

chillsner closeup

First, let me say that I usually drink beer in a frozen pint glass or mug, so this device has me reverting to drinking out of the bottle. The Chillsner most definitely keeps your beer colder as you drink, plus it adds a larger, smooth lip to your bottle. Once I took an initial sip out of the bottle (so it didn’t overflow) and seated the Chillsner, I found that sometimes I couldn’t seat it right on the bottle, so it would leak a little underneath my lip as I drank. Because these are made from steel, it also ends up making the cost pretty prohibitive, too…you could buy a couple of six packs instead of a couple of Chillsners.

The best fit for this is someone who drinks bottled beer often, but finds their beers getting warm before they finish them. If that describes you, you’ll like the Chillsner!

 

Father’s Day Gift Ideas

I’ll confess that Father’s Day and Christmas give me fun excuses to venture out into pseudo-cocktail dude gift ideas, which I really have fun exploring. As always, I have a handful of fun and creative gift ideas for you to consider for your own father or husband this year.

Alberta Dark Batch Rye. I love rye and at $30, this is a really fun alternative to the usual liquor store bottles of rye. Canadian, and therefore sweeter, yet still spicy in your chest, this is an awesome gift choice. It’s interchangeably usable as a sipper or as a backbone for Dad’s Manhattan or Old Fashioned. Find out more at Alberta Rye’s site.

Jelly Belly Cocktail Classics and Draft Beer. This is a good gift for a beer- and cocktail-loving dad. Depending on the size, for $4-10, these are great for a laugh or if you’ve always wanted to try a beer jelly bean…here’s your chance! Use these Amazon links to get Draft Beer or Cocktail Classics Jelly Belly beans.

The 100 Greatest Console Video Games 1977-1987, by Brett Weiss. Does dad speak fondly of “the good old days” of video games, or hanker for his Colecovision, Atari 2600, or NES? This is an awesomely fun, full-color, hardcover book with the top 100 home video games from the early days of console gaming, A-Z. I checked immediately for my favorite, Yar’s Revenge, and it’s in there! Buy it from Amazon or directly from the publisher.

Usquaebach 15 Year Old Blended Malt Scotch. Pronounced oos-ke-bah, the name of this scotch is based on the Gaelic phrase water of life which ultimately is how we ended up with the word whisky. That’s a good thing. This award-winning scotch is finished in oak and sherry casks, and it’s heavenly. For $80 a bottle, you’ll get a warm, sweet, rich, and filling scotch that’s sure to make dad grin. Explore Usquaebach here.

 

Christmas Gifts For Guys

christmas gifts for guys

I’ve made it a habit to assemble Christmas gift ideas every year to make you aware of some nice cocktail-related products that are out there. Last year, I included other items into one big gifts for guys segment. The gifts you see in the list below get progressively more expensive as you scroll down, or you can pick some of each for your favorite man (or yourself). Here are my ideas for 2014.

stanley camping flasks

Stanley cocktail flasks.

With some of the best made thermoses and camping gear you can buy anywhere, Stanley has a pretty awesome collection of cocktail-on-the-go accessories, including flasks from 5-12 oz and a cool set of travel shot glasses. Each of these will run you right around $20 from your favorite sporting goods store or from Stanley direct. Make sure you check Drink Spirits’ list of best spirits to sneak in a flask if you need some sneaky ideas.

beardbrand explorers kit

Beard stuff.

Now that No Shave November is over, some guys have put their face blankets away until next year. I usually grow my soup-saver from November through the holidays, though, so I’m needing to wrangle my facial hair now. BeardBrand has a whole line of beard oils, mustache waxes, and beard combs/brushes. Oils range from $15-30, or you can spring for a whole assortment of products the Explorers Kit ($115), which is pictured above.

mancrate zombie suppression

ManCrates.

When I showed off my new ManCrate to a friend, he said “I love opening crates!”

Me too, bro.

ManCrates has a whole line of dude-specific products that come ready-to-open with a crowbar. With crate categories like meat, sports, and zombies, just pick the interest your man has and buy a crate. I chose the $140 Zombie Suppression Crate, which includes weapons, a flashlight, a first aid kit, Gorilla tape, Spam, and Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide. Crates range from $25 to $200-plus.

View my unboxing video here.

cogito classic smartwatch

A smart watch.

Smart watches are a relatively new thing, both in their style and usefulness. I’ve become really fond of the Cogito Classic smart watch, which connects with bluetooth to your iOS or Android phone. It’s available in several colors, and they’re distinguished from other smart watches I’ve seen because Cogito had made a sexy high-end analog watch….which includes a few bluetooth notification features. It’s style first, then function, and that’s an important distinction for some people. There’s a free app to manage your notifications and software updates, and battery life is stellar, too: my Cogito runs over a month on a standard watch battery. You can buy the Cogito Classic from Amazon for $180.

 

Home Bartender Christmas Gifts 2013

20131128-160022.jpg

Last year, I offered you a few Christmas gift ideas for home bartenders. I have some more ideas this year and you get the chance to win a great home bartending gift set, valued at $60 (see below for details)! Here are the gifts, pictured left to right above:

Ice molds. Tovolo offers the Colossal Cube and the Sphere ice molds. Each set comes with 2 molds. They’re a cool gift for a whiskey lover as they cool your drink without too much watering-down. Colossal Cube molds are available from Amazon here for $15, and the Spheres for $10 here.

Citrus Squeezer. I joked about this recently on Instagram: for us home bartenders, our squeezers will wear out, so make sure you get a good one. This is a high-quality squeezer by Dalla Piazza that will cover all your squeezing needs: limes, lemons, or oranges, and it’s available from Amazon here for $22.

Muddler. Epicurean has this awesome “wood fiber” muddler that dishwasher safe and really sexy. Muddlers are either wood (so not dishwasher safe), or something much less elegant like aluminum. This is a great mix of style and functionality that’s available direct from Epicurean for $25 here.

Bar Set*. This is a 7-piece set by Swissmar that includes a full-size shaker, strainer, bar knife,  jigger, stirrer, bottle opener – all in a nice stand. It’s a perfect collection of necessities to start you home bar, available for $60 from Amazon here or win a set from Simple Cocktails (see below)!

Bar Knives. This is a 2-knife set by Joseph Joseph – 1 straight edge, 1 serrated – that magnetically sticks together to protect the blades and your fingers. I think it’s actually designed as a cheese knife set, but it’s also perfect for a traveling bartender. The set retails for about $12 at local cooking shop, from Amazon here, or or direct from Joseph Joseph here.

Measuring Jug. Also by Joseph Joseph, this jug measures any fluid from 1 oz to 1 liter, with a cool double-reservoir design. Much like the knife set, this is a good gift for both foodies and home bartenders. This runs about $15 at your local cooking shop, from Amazon here, or direct from the company here.

Zester. This zester by Kitchen IQ has a removable reservoir on the back to catch and measure your citrus zest (which you’ll see occasionally in a cocktail recipe). It’s $15 at your local cooking shop, or get it from Amazon here.

*For a chance to win your own Swissmar cocktail set, pictured above, shipped direct to you from the manufacturer, post a comment below listing your favorite Christmastime cocktail. 1 entry per person, U.S. residents only. I’ll draw a name randomly on December 16th. Good luck!

Back to School Gift Ideas

back to school cocktail accessories

Well, that sad time of the year has returned: back to school time. Here are some booze-related gift ideas for the favorite professors in your life:

Buy a Community College ProfessorPorcelain Party Cup – $10. This is not New England. You do things humbly around here and you’re proud to say your favorite cocktail ingredient is Mountain Dew. Amazon link.

Buy a Seminary ProfessorFlask Disguised as a Book – $17. While Jesus was a wine man, some of your colleges haven’t developed the taste for fine Bourbon that you have. It’s best to keep this tipple on the bookshelf, particularly for sharing with likeminded individuals. Amazon link.

Buy an Ivy League ProfessorFlask Tie – $25. You spend your time in important meetings and talking about important things. You’re a bestselling author and known for your academic prowess. You drink expensive Scotch, so it’s helpful to have some on you at all times. The flask tie holds a good volume of liquor (8 oz) in the front while concealing a Camelbak-style sip nozzle in the back for drinks on the run. Amazon link.

Father’s Day Gift Ideas

father's day gift ideas

Father’s Day is coming up! As a father myself, I think the best rules of thumb are: know what dad likes, and get something creative and interesting. How about Scotch, cigars, coffee, and sweets for a start? If you caught my segment about this on The Morning Brew, welcome!

scotch

Scotch. A bottle of booze for dad! If he’s not a Scotch guy, try a rye or Tennessee whiskey. Suggestions: Dewar’s Highlander Honey, Speyburn, or Balblair.

  • How much: starting at about $20 for blended Scotch. Single malts will be more like $70.
  • Where: your favorite local liquor store.
  • Buy for: the dad who loves a tasty glass of whisky.
  • Buy because: dad will appreciate the addition to his home bar.

cigars for father's day

Cigars. If dad’s a smoker, you can’t go wrong at your local cigar shop. In fact, there are so many options you may have a tough time deciding what to get him. Consider things like: a multi-pack of cigars, a torch lighter, a cutter, a leather case, a beefy ashtray, or a classy humidor. And these will go well with the bottle of Scotch you buy him, too.

  • How much: $15 and up. A quality humidor will run $125+.
  • Where: your favorite local cigar joint. I got everything above from Monte’s in Albuquerque.
  • Buy for: the guy who loves a good Summer smoke on the porch.
  • Buy because: cigars send a nice message: relax and enjoy yourself, dad.

le creuset coffee set

Le Creuset Coffee Set. If dad loves coffee, get him a set like this one, which includes ceramic mugs, a French press, and a coffee storage container. Available in manly gray (pictured), red, blue, or Le Creuset orange.

  • How much: $125.
  • Where: entire set online at Le Creuset or buy individual pieces from Amazon.
  • Buy for: the dad who loves good, strong coffee in the morning.
  • Buy because: your dad is picky about his coffee.

bourbon marshmallows

Bourbon Marshmallows. If dad’s favorite vice is sugar, order a few boxes of 1″x1″ snacking marshmallows from Wondermade, who’s Father’s Day gift set includes boxes of bourbon (made with Maker’s Mark), coffee, Guinness, and maple bacon ‘mallows. These’ll pair great with the coffee he makes in that French press!

  • How much: $7.50 per box.
  • Where: online.
  • Buy for: the dad with a sweet tooth.
  • Buy because: the thought of eating Guinness marshmallows will put a huge smile on your dad’s face. If you’re looking for creative and interesting, this is the gift to buy.