Fall means the chance to enjoy a well-built cocktail, mug of small-batch beer or cup of hard cider in front of a welcoming fire.
But it's not enough to just take a sip these days. Whether it's beer, wine or spirits, more and more folks want to learn how to make these libations themselves, from scratch. Here's a list of kits and other products to get you started, along with some gadgets and gear that will enhance your drinking experiences.
The Homemade Gin Kit ($49.95 list price). Manufactured by The HomeMade Gin Kit LLC, available at: homemadegin.com, www.amazon.com .
The rising popularity of craft cocktails has led to renewed interest in artisanal spirits and creating ingredients from scratch. Here's a way to create gin at home without needing to convert the garage into a distillery. This kit transforms a bottle of vodka into gin with the help of juniper berries, spices and a couple of tools. After a 36-hour infusion, you'll be ready to pour a martini or French 75, DIY style.
Mr. Beer Premium Edition Beer Kit ($54.99). Manufactured by Mr. Beer, available at: BevMo! stores, www.mrbeer.com .
So, you've got dreams of creating your own version of Pliny the Younger or Brother Thelonious. Every budding brewmaster has to start somewhere, and this kit from Mr. Beer contains all the tools and instruction needed. The kit can be reused for making additional batches, which in this case means eight bottles at a time. More hops, yeast strains and other ingredients can be ordered from www.mrbeer.com to create various styles.
Hudson Valley Farmhouse Hard Cider Kit ($49.95). Manufactured byBreezy Hill Orchard, available at Williams-Sonoma stores, brewhardcider.com .
Why should home beer brewers get all the fun? Apple harvest has arrived, which means a wide availability of ingredients for making hard cider. This kit contains a fermentation jug, yeast and other tools for making five 1-gallon batches of hard cider. Follow the step-by-step instructions and you'll be sipping on cider within five to 10 days.
Riedel Vivant Wheat Beer Glasses ($39.99 for a set of four). Manufactured byRiedel, available at Target stores.
Don't even think about pouring that pricy craft beer into a red party cup. For those who care about the quality of libations, proper glassware remains a key concern. Riedel remains the go-to glassware company for fans of fine wine, and it also produces excellent glasses for enjoying beer. These crystal glasses will aptly show off the color of your ale, with a tall, tapered shape that allows yeasts to settle at the bottom and plenty of space at the top for capturing the beer's foam.
Tovolo sphere ice molds ($10.95 for set of two). Manufactured by Tovolo, available at Sur la Table locations.
A proper dilution rate can make or break a cocktail. Nobody wants a drink that turns watery too fast. Use these molds to make ice in a spherical shape for a slow and evenly melting ice ball that's perfect for a glass of fine Scotch or bourbon. These ice orbs are also apt for a whiskey old-fashioned cocktail and other drinks served in a stout old-fashioned glass.
Wine Wipes ($6.95 for pack of 12). Manufactured by Borracha, available at craftedbyborracha.com .
After a wine tasting, especially when reds are involved, it's pretty much guaranteed that you're going to have a purple-stained mouth. Use a Wine Wipe to lift away the grunge -- kind of like Stridex pads for the teeth. Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda are the key ingredients.