1. Bitters sampler pack @ Collins & Coupe
When I asked Gary McIntire, the owner of the North Park bartending supply store, what he’d recommend for a holiday gift, his first pick was a bitters sampler pack. Collins & Coupe sells several in the $20 to $30 range. As McIntire pointed out, bitters never go bad; they’re to cocktails what vanilla is to baking—an often subtle, but necessary, ingredient.
2. Cutwater Spirits’ Bali Hai Tiki Holiday Spirit @ Valley Farm Market
Cutwater describes this cocktail-in-a-bottle as similar to eggnog, "but with a tropical twist." It combines their Bali Hai Rum with cream, cinnamon, and Allspice. You can find it at a bunch of places, but Valley Farm, which has locations in La Jolla and Spring Valley has a well-curated selection of spirits that I always enjoy perusing.
3. Mod Cocktails: Modern Takes on Classic Recipes from the '40s, '50s and '60s @ The Library Shop
The shop on the ground floor of the Central Library always has a great selection of cocktail books. This one, published last month, jumped out at me with its retro Palm Springs color palette. Written by New York City bartender Natalie Jacob, author of the cocktail blog Arsenic Lace, it features popular mid-century cocktails, like Trader Vic’s Scorpion Bowl, plus Jacob’s variations on cocktails from and inspired by that era.
4. Cocktail Kingdom Ice Tapper @ Collins & Coupe
Before the invention of crushed-ice machines, folks used this tool to hand-break ice. Just give a square cube a good thwack — it’s pretty satisfying. It’s a great stocking stuffer for the home cocktailer who’s obsessed with perfect ice.
5. Isaac Bowman Straight Bourbon Whiskey @ Raised by Wolves
The UTC bottle shop excels at bourbons; I’ve picked up some outstanding, reasonably priced bottles here. Co-owner Chris Patino says this is his current everyday favorite. It’s a steal at $38.
6. Cocktail picks @ Collins & Coupe
Narwhals. Mermaids. Stainless steel picks with a minimalist design. There are dozens to choose from here, starting at $3 for the Narwhals and $12 to $22 for the fancier stuff.
7. Old Harbor Vodka @ Valley Farms
Vodka and bartending had a bit of a falling out awhile ago, but they’ve since made up largely due to distilleries really stepping up their vodka game. Skips the Tito’s this year and pick up a bottle of locally made Old Harbor Vodka. Distilled seven times, it’s super smooth. Pair it with…
8. The Bloody Mary: The Lore and Legend of a Cocktail Classic, with Recipes for Brunch and Beyond @ The Library Shop
Brian Bartels’ book about everyone’s favorite brunch cocktail was a finalist for the 2018 International Association of Culinary Professionals Book Awards. The book includes recipes for originals, modern takes (like the Bloody Ramen), and regional favorites, plus how-tos ranging from infusing vodka with bacon to making sangrita.
9. Susie Ghahremani enamel pins @ Collins & Coupe
Ghahremani, creator of BoyGirlParty, is a San Diego treasure. I was thrilled to see her collab with Collins & Coupe to create two adorable enamel pins. One features a pink elephant with his trunk in a Collins glass and the other is an adorbs tipsy owl taking a dip in a coupe. (And if you’re looking for a gift for a little one, pick up one of Ghahremani’s books, like Little Muir’s Song or, my personal favorite, Stack the Cats. (Hit up The Library Shop or South Park’s Book Catapult.)
10. Knob Creek Straight Bourbon 12-Year Whiskey @ Raised by Wolves
When I asked Patino for a higher-end recommendation, he described this one—priced at $78—as "out of this world." Is it better than the $20,450 bottle of Buffalo Trace’s Eagle Rare Double Eagle? If you find out, let me know.