Eat & Drink

These 10 ideas will stir cocktail lovers on your holiday gift list

The “alcohol wall” at Season + Square in Brookside is packed with all kinds of cocktail mixers, syrups and bitters.
The “alcohol wall” at Season + Square in Brookside is packed with all kinds of cocktail mixers, syrups and bitters. The Kansas City Star

Whether you’re shopping for a cocktail enthusiast, geek or pro, we’ve got you covered with this selection of holiday gifts and stocking stuffers.

1. Cocktail kits

The alchemist on your list will enjoy the Homemade Gin Kit ($50) from W&P Design. It includes two 375-milliliter glass bottles, a stainless steel strainer, a stainless steel funnel, juniper berries and botanicals — everything required to turn a bottle of vodka into gin. Add a Barrel Aged Gin Kit ($20) to quickly age gin (or vodka or rum).

The Mason Shaker Kit ($50) includes a Mason jar-inspired four-piece shaker, muddler and double jigger for turning it all into cocktails.

All are available at Season + Square at 6205 Oak St. in Brookside, as are cocktail mixers, syrups and bitters from Royal Rose, Bittermilk Cocktail Compounds, Dram Apothecary, Liber & Co., E. Smith Mercantile, White Whale and others. Go to SeasonAndSquare.com or call 816-326-3148 for details.

2. Wood + Salt

Ben and Jess Anthony, brother and sister and bartenders both, created Wood + Salt, and their salts and sugars are just as delicious in cocktails as in food.

Use their Winter Smoked Sea Salt (salt smoked with cinnamon, brown sugar, tea and orange peel) to rim a blood orange-mezcal margarita, or turn the Grey Gardens sugar (organic raw sugar infused with Earl Grey tea, roses and lavender) into simple syrup for gin drinks (recipe follows).

Wood + Salt is sold at the City Market farmers market on Saturday mornings, at Season + Square and other area retailers (WoodAndSalt.com) and online. The salts are $15 for 3 ounces; the Grey Gardens sugar is $8 for 4 ounces.

3. Whiskey Club

Whiskey always fits, especially when it comes via Underdog Wine Co.’s “Man’s Best Friend” whiskey club. Members get one bottle of either Scotch or American whiskey every other month. Owner Ryan Sciara promises the price tag (not including tax) won’t top $70 a bottle.

That makes trying lesser-known spirits like a New Zealand single malt from Journeyman Distillery’s Around the World collection or Bib & Tucker Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey all the easier.

Underdog (UnderdogWineKC.com) also offers wine clubs and bean-to-bar chocolate options. For details, call 816-286-4139 or visit the store at 319 E. 55th St.

4. Paddywax Mixology Collection candles

Paddywax’s Mixology line of candles smells of the classics. It includes Mint Julep (more bourbony than minty), Old Fashioned (whiskey and orange), Dark and Stormy (gingery), Negroni (pleasantly bitter citrus), Sazerac (whiskey-lemon) and French Gimlet (elderflower and grapefruit). Each hand-poured soy candle includes a recipe for its namesake cocktail.

They’re available at area Whole Foods ($15) and other retailers and online at Paddywax.com.

5. Jude’s Kansas City Rum Cake

On the outside, Craig Adcock’s rum cakes are studded with Missouri pecans and soaked with an Old New Orleans Amber Rum syrup, giving them a slightly crystalline crunch. Inside, they’re all buttery, tender sweetness. And if there are leftovers? Then try Adcock’s recipe for rum cake French toast (recipe follows).

Cakes are priced from $12 for a package of five two-bite teaser cakes to $50 for a party-size large cake. Order online at JudesRumCake.com or call 913-526-6708.

6. Cocktail books

This was a good year for cocktail books.

My favorites include “The Bar Book” ($30), by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the Portland DIY master at Portland’s Clyde Common responsible for trends like barrel-aged and bottled cocktails. Morgenthaler’s straightforward explanations focus on technique and include step-by-step photos and plenty of detail on how make a punch bowl’s worth of oleo-saccharum or perfect your swizzling technique.

If scientific precision is what you need, then “Liquid Intelligence” ($35) is the book to buy. Food science writer and educator Dave Arnold routinely experiments with cocktail physics at New York’s Booker & Dax, and he explains everything from thermodynamics to clarifying citrus juice while providing the exact alcohol, sugar and acid content of each cocktail recipe.

For sheer inspiration, reach for “Death & Co.: Modern Classic Cocktails” ($40). The New York bar has helped shape the craft renaissance since opening in 2006, and its book includes cocktail philosophy, history and hundreds of recipes for new classics and Death & Co. signatures alike.

7. J. Rieger Distillery tour

J. Rieger & Co. calls this a tour, and you indeed tour the distillery at 2700 Guinotte Ave. But you also learn company and East Bottoms history; discover its approach to blending Kansas City whiskey and distilling rye and bourbon; and get hands-on bottling and labeling experience. All that’s followed by lunch at Local Pig and a treat from Urban Provisions.

Details and reservations are online at JRiegerCo.com. Tours are $20 per person, which includes food and a J. Rieger & Co. T-shirt.

8. Bitters & syrups

Bitters and syrups have come a long way in recent years, and the Better Cheddar’s selection includes offerings from Bittered Sling, Bittercube, Dr. Adam Elmegirab, Scrappy’s Bitters, Dutch’s Spirits, Hella Bitter and Bob’s Bitters.

The sweet side includes Villa de Patos’ Maguey Sweet Sap (an unrefined sweetener made from the sap of the agave plant), Raft Smoked Tea Vanilla Syrup, Morris Kitchen syrups and Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.’s line of syrups, aromatic bitters and bourbon-soaked cherries.

Prices vary. For details, contact the Better Cheddar (TheBetterCheddar.com) on the Country Club Plaza, 816-561-8204, and in Prairie Village, 913-362-7575.

9. A bottle beyond

Sometimes it takes only a single bottle to expand someone’s cocktail horizons.

Luxardo Maraschino liqueur ($33) enables Hemingway daiquiris and aviations, while an orange liqueur such as Pierre Ferrand’s Dry Curacao ($25) adds new depth to margaritas and sidecars.

Trading Carpano Antica Formula ($38) for ho-hum sweet vermouths creates an entirely new and weightier Manhattan or Negroni experience. It’s also complex enough to sip with nothing more than ice. Availability and prices vary among local retailers.

10. Icy fun

Ice is essential, but it doesn’t have to be boring. The Neptune Ice Ball Tray ($8) produces two large spheres, while the Colossal Ice Cube Tray ($8) makes six 2-inch cubes for minimum dilution of stirred drinks and straight spirits.

For those who prefer a chill with no dilution at all, there are Finnish-made Glacier Rocks ($17 for a set of nine) crafted from soapstone the manufacturer says won’t scratch your glassware.

All three are available at Rimann Liquors (RimannLiquors.com) in Prairie Village, 913-236-5311.

Craig Adcock, owner of Jude’s Kansas City Rum Cakes, created this recipe on one of his cooking trips to California. It’s now a staff breakfast staple at several of his favorite wineries.

Rum Cake French Toast

Makes 1 slice

1 egg

1/2 ounce Chenin Blanc or Vouvray wine

1 (1-inch) slice of Jude’s Kansas City Rum Cake

Heat griddle to medium high. In a small bowl, whisk egg and white wine. When the griddle is ready, quickly dip one side of the rum cake in the egg wash. Place egg-side down on the griddle. As the cake cooks, lightly brush the other side with egg wash. Cook for about 11/2 minutes. When the bottom side is golden brown, flip the cake over. Cook another 2 minutes. Then stand cake vertically to create a crust on the bottom. Serve.

Jess Anthony, co-owner of Wood + Salt, uses her Grey Garden infused sugar in this play on a Bee’s Knees. Be sure to use a botanical gin such as Plymouth, Leopold Bros. or Hendrick’s.

Grey Gardens Martini

Makes 1 cocktail

2 ounces botanical gin

3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 ounce Grey Gardens simple syrup (see note)

Lemon twist, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker partway, add first three ingredients. Shake, strain into a coupe or on the rocks. Garnish with the lemon twist.

Note: To make simple syrup, combine 1/4 cup Wood + Salt Grey Gardens infused sugar with 1/4 cup boiling water. Stir until sugar dissolves; let cool and refrigerate until use.

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