Having beer on tap at home is a killer move, but kegerators are enormous, costly, and frankly, a bit frat-house juvenile. Draftmark has an answer: A mini keg that fits in your fridge.
The Draftmark system includes a battery-powered base and replaceable, one-gallon growlers that fit inside it. Just charge up the battery, install a plastic jug of one of the half-dozen beer varieties available (I chose Goose Island IPA), and you’ve got enough fresh draft for about ten 12 oz. servings. When it’s dry, pop it out, recharge the battery (which powers an air compressor that keeps the mini-keg pressurized), and you’re ready to go again.
The Draftmark system is a pretty cool idea, but I had one major issue with it: It was too big for my ’80s-era fridge. The only way I could get the door to shut was to put it in diagonally on the shelf, which pretty much ate up the entire thing. I expect more modern kitchens won’t have this problem, but for me it’s a deal killer that means I can’t use it regularly… at least until I commit to a second fridge for the garage. Also: Refills are cheap, but the selection is limited and — more importantly — tough to find, for now. (Pro tip: Look for free shipping deals.)
Otherwise, it’s a pretty cool idea, and the beer it pours (albeit slowly) does come out fresh and pub-worthy. (Make sure you give it plenty of time to chill down or you’ll end up with a ton of foam.) Those of you with those enormous Sub-Zeros and lots of space for novelties might clear out that Chinese takeout and give it a try.
B+ / $70 (1 gallon refills about $15) / draftmark.com [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]
The best bar tools aren’t just functional. They’re nice to look at, too. Such is the case with the Jackson Cannon Bar Knife, produced in conjunction with R. Murphy Knives.
Cannon is a longtime Boston barman who set out to create the perfect knife for the unique work often required behind the bar. The result is this well-crafted blade, a high-carbon steel knife with a squared tip and featuring a nicely contoured handle made of polished tropical cocobolo wood.
In my hands, the knife — heavier than you’d expect based on its size — felt great, its squared-off tip making short work of fruits and garnishes. Peels and twists are easy to carve out thanks to its short blade and good balance, and, as mentioned, this is a knife that looks just perfect on any bartop. My only issue, and it’s a minor one, is that the knife could use a bit more sharpening to really slice easily through thick citrus rinds. But that’s something that can easily be done at home — and will need to happen periodically to keep the blade sharp and honed.
It isn’t cheap, but a quality knife never is!
A- / $79 / rmurphyknives.com
Wine aerators — little gizmos which suck in air and mix with wine or spirits that you pour through them — aren’t a new idea. But Domestik is trying to teach this aging dog some new tricks by letting you adjust the amount air the liquid gets.
Just twist the dial on the Domestik and you can set the amount of aeration to your specifications. It’s an analog system with seven basic settings. The idea is to use less aeration with white wines and lighter reds and more with heavier reds and spirits. The mechanics are all visible since the whole thing is largely transparent, but in numerous tests it was difficult to actually see any variation in the amount of air that came through at the lowest setting of 0 vs. the highest setting of 6.
Vinturi, the market leader, sells three different primary aeration systems, one for red wine, one for whites, and one for spirits. I didn’t notice a bit of difference in testing the Vinturi’s red vs. white systems (the spirit aerator has a built-in shot measuring system, so it’s a bit of an outlier), and I didn’t find any noticeable change in drinking wine or spirits aerated with the 0 setting vs. a 6.
That said, aeration does have noticeable effects, namely in hastening the dissipation of heavy alcohol vapors and the stimulation of fruitier elements on the nose. Basically, these gadgets shortcut the natural and often time-consuming process of getting air into your drink of choice, and as with the Vinturi line, the Domestik Aerator can be handy in a pinch.
Bonus! For the next two weeks, use the promo code HACKER25 on the domestikgoods.com website below to get 25% off the purchase price of an aerator.
B+ / $30 / domestikgoods.com [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]
That foam canister is boring. Next time you need to keep a beer (or other beverage) cold on a hot day, check out a Freaker.
Freaker Koozies are knit like socks and are emblazoned with everything from sports logos to drinking-centric memes. “Forget Me Not” makes your beer look like a prescription pill bottle. My personal favorite, “Shark Tube,” has a shark emerging from a Super Mario style green pipe. The koozies are designed to work on bottles but also work with cans if you tuck the neck in.
Freakers work well enough, but probably not as well as a traditional foam koozie — though note I didn’t do any scientific testing — and also do double duty at making it easy to figure out which bottle on the table belongs to whom. Great for grown-ups and kids alike!
$10 to $15 each / freakerusa.com [BUY ONE NOW]
Austria’s MarkThomas is bringing its ultra-luxe line of hand-blown stemware to the U.S. If you’ve got a taste for quirky designs and exceptionally high prices, well, maybe it’s for you.
The Double Bend collection is defined by, well, the double bend in the bowl of each glass. Rather than curve inward gradually, the glasses just out then back in sharply, making for a sort of double trapezoidal design. (The picture will explain this much better than I can.) Whether this is to your liking or not is going to be a matter of individual taste, but the idea is that the point of the bend is where you are supposed to fill the glass to. I found the glasses a bit homely, but others thought they were modern and stylish.
Either way, they perform admirably. They’re light as a feather but feature big bowls and razor-thin walls. The larger red wine glass worked beautifully with numerous wines, really concentrating the aromas in the center while remaining easy enough to drink out of. I also worked with the beer glass, but found I preferred a little more heft in my beer glassware, particularly given that beer glasses are filled much fuller.
The glasses feel as fragile as could be, and I consider it a minor miracle that I didn’t break one during my week of testing. I’d happily sip from them again… provided I could scrape together a grand to set up a 12-piece collection.
A- / $65 to $85 per glass / markthomas.at
So here’s a wacky idea: Take pure, anodized aluminum and machine it into the shape of the muzzle of an M-16 automatic rifle. And then drink out of it. You’re a man now, Toby.
The Muzzleshot shot glass is a bold experiment in both industrial design and cooling technology. The glass design is pretty genius, and it does really look exactly like the end of machine gun. If you’re the kind of guy that buys those novelty tequilas in glass decanters that look like pistols, this is really what you should be drinking out of.
Then there’s the choice of aluminum for the glass material. Aluminum is a famous heat sink, so a cold Muzzleshot glass will cool down a warm liquid that’s poured into it. I gave it a spin and it worked reasonably well. A room-temperature shot of vodka isn’t going to become crackling cold in the Muzzleshot, even if the glass is straight from the freezer, but it’s more effective than using chilled glassware on its own. That said, an ice cold Muzzleshot isn’t exactly comfortable to hold on to for an extended period of time — nor is particularly fun to drink out of. The cold, chalky metal is a bit rough on the lips, and the very large lip of the glass makes it feel a bit like you’re drinking out of a sippy cup.
Bottom line: It’s the perfect gift for the hunter or military enthusiast in your family, but don’t be surprised if it turns out to be more of a conversation piece than something they use every day.
$30 / muzzleshot.com [BUY IT HERE]
Riedel’s latest high-end glass looks like a stretched-out white wine glass, but it’s designed for Champagne. Towering at nearly 9 1/2 inches tall, this monster doesn’t resemble any vessel I’ve consumed Champagne from, but let’s try anyway. A traditional flute is designed to minimize bubble production while you’re drinking, and most of the time it takes real effort to get your nose down into the glass. With the new Riedel Veritas, that’s not the case. The wider mouth easily envelops your entire nose, which can lead to a bit of the pummeling of the senses when you’re dealing with a particularly bubbly bubbly. I’m not a big fan of the noseful of yeast effect and prefer a flute from this standpoint, but your mileage may vary.
From a flavor perspective, the glass works very well. Flavor notes are rich and the palate carries through with brightness and intensity. Compared to my day-to-day flutes, I found it easier to get just the right amount of wine in my mouth for a proper experience — and the wine stayed surprisingly well-chilled throughout the experience.
That said, this glass is so delicate and the stem so wafer thin I can’t imagine a pair of these making it through a year of even casual use without being destroyed.
B+ / $60 per pair / riedelusa.net [BUY IT FROM AMAZON]