First of all, inquire after the basics. Chances are your friend already has a cobbler shaker and a hawthorne strainer (for those who prefer their drinks stirred, not shaken). Other must-haves to keep an eye out for include a good bar spoon and jigger. Assess the gaps in their toolkit and buy accordingly.
If you're looking for a big gift for the true beginner, pick up a set of basic barware tools, or start a tradition, and get them one or two pieces at a time over the next several gift-giving occasions.
Chances are, however, if they've expressed interest in cocktail-mixing, you're looking for something that goes a little deeper. Here are 10 picks that will get their creative juices flowing.