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21st Birthday Gifts

From Whiskey Stones to Kraken Rum, Home Brewing Kits & Espresso


Tradition has it that new 21-year-olds should be given a fine vintage from the year they were born – or perhaps I’ve been reading too many British novels from the last century because for most 21st century families, such a gift has all sorts of problems, not the least of which is the lack of a temperature controlled wine cellar, and a butler to decant the Chateauneuf de Whatever. And most young adults have not yet developed the palate for Port, Sauternes and the kinds of high end red wines that age well over two decades. So here are 10 other gift ideas for saluting that landmark birthday.

1. Kraken Rum, Hendricks Gin or Another Artisanal Spirit

Courtesy Kraken Rum
The artisanal cocktail and celebrity mixologist trends have fueled an intense interest in recreating amazing libations at home. So why not get that newly legal tippler a bottle of something very nice - single cask rum, a gin rich with botanicals or an imported Caribbean rum with a fabulous label.

2. Cocktail R-evolution Molecular Mixology Kit

Courtesy Molecule-R Flavors
If your favorite 20-something is fascinated by artisanal cocktails and passionate about "Top Chef," then this cocktail-centric molecular gastronomy kit may be just the thing. It's a DIY kit with all the strange food additives needed to turn a martini into a layered, bite-able affair, for example, or top that tequila with lime foam. Weird and awesome at the same time.
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3. Whiskey Stones

Courtesy Teroforma
These small whiskey "rocks" are incredibly trendy right now. They're exactly what they look like, small soapstone cubes that you chill in the freezer for four hours, then drop (gently) into your libation to chill it without diluting it. Pair these with a bottle of Scotch or rye, a book on the topic, or a visit - or the promise of a visit - to a whiskey lounge.
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4. 'The Perfect Drink' & 'The Hungover Cookbook'

Courtesy Clarkson Potter

These hilarious, but practical books would make a great, relatively inexpensive gift for any brand new 21-year-old. Duane Swierczynski's "The Perfect Drink for Every Occasion: 151 Cocktails That Will Freshen Your Breath, Impress a Hot Date, Cure a Hangover and More" (compare prices) is both funny and chock-full of cocktail recipes for everything from a Pisco Punch to a Buffalo Sweat (don't ask). And Milton Crawford's "The Hungover Cookbook" (which is spelled "The Hungoevr Coobkook" on the bright yellow cover) ranks hangovers on a P.G. Wodehouse scale, i.e., hilariously, then offers all sorts of breakfast recipes. They're a nicely matched pair! And the hungover tome (compare prices) is especially perfect for English majors.

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5. A Vintage Flask or Martini Shaker

Courtesy Uncommon Goods
A small, hip flask in plaid or a retro camera design makes a great gift for a 20something - so does a good quality cocktail shaker. Find one that includes cocktail recipes or add a cocktail recipe book.
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6. A Home Brewing Class

Photo courtesy of Gianni Testore, Stock.Xchng Photos
Not a wine drinker? Some 20-somethings will thrill to the idea of learning to make their own beer. And an increasing number of boutiques are popping up to cater to the home-brewing market with classes and supplies. Opt for a gift certificate for a beer making class or home brewing kit. Cost: $20-$200.

7. Decent Glassware

Photo courtesy of Vivek Chugh, Stock.Xchng Photos
Chances are your new 21-year-old has an oddball collection of glassware. Give him an upgrade - 8 or 12 new wineglasses or highball glasses to replace the beer pong collection. Cost: $24 and up.

8. A Wine Appreciation Class

Photo courtesy of Nat Arnett, Stock.Xchng
Turning 21 doesn't just confer legal permission to guzzle booze, it also opens the door to new, aesthetic delights. Help your new 21-year-old learn to appreciate Chardonnays and Zinfandels with a gift certificate for a wine appreciation course at a community college or wine boutique. Or, opt for a food-and-wine pairing class at a local gourmet store. Cost: $50-$200.

9. An Espresso Machine

Photo courtesy of Andreas Just, Stock.Xchng Photos
That new 21-year-old's more adult tastes probably include non-alcoholic beverages too. As long as his post-college job description does not include the word "barista," he'd probably love an espresso machine of his very own. If he prefers flavored, latte-like concoctions, consider a Flavia, a single-serve brewing machine that makes Milky Way-flavored cappuccinos. Cost: $60-$400 for an espresso machine, $100-$200 for a Flavia.

10. Champagne & Diapers

Photo courtesy of Craig Toron, Stock.Xchng Photos
A bottle of fine champagne – a Veuve Cliquot, for example, a Perrier-Jouet or a Dom Perignon – is a very special, always-appropriate gift. For 21st birthdays, some people get a kick out of wrapping the bottle in a white linen napkin or cloth diaper, and fastening it with a large diaper pin. (Using disposable Pampers doesn’t have quite the same aesthetic effect, but it gets a laugh too.) Cost: $45-$200.
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