Nothing draws the attention of a party like a bartender, swinging open the doors of a bar cabinet and taking their place among the glistening bottles of brown and clear liquors, colorful spirits with foreign names, and sparkling cut glassware. Beer is a fine drink, as is wine, but they don’t match the spectacle of mixing a cocktail.
I’ve had more bad cocktails in my life than I care to remember, and it often comes down to the maker splashing in too much liquor or not straining their solid ingredients. You need a measure of knowledge, a splash of experience, and the right tools, which we’ve collected below. As we head into the holiday gathering season, the right cocktail tools and some basic bartending skills can make you popular with friends and family.
Be sure to check out our other buying guides and gift guides, like our Boozy Gift Ideas and Gifts for Coffee Lovers roundups.
Updated October 2023: We’ve added new books, glassware, a knife, ice crushers, and mixers.
Sam Bankman-Fried will take the stand at his own trial, his legal counsel has confirmed. The founder of stricken crypto exchange FTX has endured three weeks of bruising testimony in federal court from ex-colleagues, peers, and other witnesses. But Bankman-Fried will now take the opportunity to relay his own version of events to the jury.
The US government has accused Bankman-Fried of masterminding a multibillion-dollar fraud, whereby funds belonging to FTX customers were swept into a sibling company, Alameda Research, and either used to back up risky crypto bets or spent on debt repayments, personal loans, political donations, and luxuries of various sorts. At trial, he is facing seven charges in connection with the alleged fraud.
In deciding whether to testify, the stakes for Bankman-Fried are high. “The upside,” says Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School and former federal prosecutor, “is that you really get to have an opportunity to persuasively give your side of the story.” But testifying will also expose Bankman-Fried to variables outside his control, including cross-examination by the prosecution.
The default advice to any criminal defendant, says Christopher LaVigne, a partner at law firm Withers, is not to take the stand. In a court setting, no matter how well prepared the testimony, it is “virtually impossible to predict what’s going to happen, particularly in cross-examination.” Bankman-Fried may be “caught flat-footed,” says LaVigne, by a piece of evidence that undermines his telling of events—and if the government can demonstrate he has lied on the stand, it can be used as ammunition in the final stages of the trial. In the event he is convicted, meanwhile, the judge would take into account any perjury in sentencing.
To an extent, however, Bankman-Fried was left with little choice but to defy conventional wisdom and take the stand. The weight of the evidence laid out by cooperating witnesses, each of whom spoke to their own guilt, means a Hail Mary approach is the only option the defense has left, says Daniel Silva, a former prosecutor and attorney at law firm Buchalter. “It doesn’t seem like he has any other cards to play. It’s high-risk, and possibly very minimal reward,” says Silva. “It seems like there’s really nothing else for him to do at this point than testify and try to explain it away.”
In direct examination, the defense is likely to ask Bankman-Fried to offer alternative explanations for the behaviors outlined in the testimony of his former colleagues, and perhaps address questions around his intentions and state of mind. “He’s going to have to present himself as the most misunderstood man in America,” says Richman.
On the morning of October 26, the prosecution will call its final witness, then rest its case. The defense will then call four witnesses of its own, one of them Bankman-Fried. But until he takes the stand, there is always the possibility of an about-turn. Despite having stated his intention to testify, says Rachel Maimin, partner at law firm Lowenstein Sandler, Bankman-Fried is still within his rights to withdraw, should he get cold feet. The decision to testify, says Maimin, can “turn on a dime.”
In 2019, Instagram’s top executive, Adam Mosseri, went on TV to describe how the Meta-owned social media app was “rethinking the whole experience” to prioritize the “well-being” of users above all else. Today, a bipartisan group of attorneys general representing 42 US states alleged in a series of lawsuits that Mosseri’s remarks were part of a decade-long pattern of deceit by Meta that claimed Instagram and Facebook were safe, while they in fact did young people harm.
The suits claim Meta put user engagement ahead of user safety. “Despite overwhelming internal research, independent expert analysis, and publicly available data that its social media platforms harm young users, Meta still refuses to abandon its use of known harmful features—and has instead redoubled its efforts to misrepresent, conceal, and downplay the impact of those features on young users’ mental and physical health,” alleges the main lawsuit, led by Colorado and Tennessee. About 22 million US teenagers use Instagram each day, it says.
Meta spokesperson Liza Crenshaw says the company has introduced over 30 tools, such as parental controls and usage limiters, to support young users who, she notes, also suffer from growing academic pressure, rising income inequality, and limited mental healthcare services. “We share the attorneys general’s commitment to providing teens with safe, positive experiences online,” Crenshaw says. “We’re disappointed that instead of working productively with companies across the industry to create clear, age-appropriate standards for the many apps teens use, the attorneys general have chosen this path.”
Filed in federal court in Oakland, California, where a judge is already hearing a similar lawsuit by consumers against several social media companies, the states’ case seeks to bar Meta from continuing the allegedly deceptive practices and force it to pay unspecified fines. The complaint lays out five features claimed to be “harmful and psychologically manipulative” because they “induce young users’ compulsive and extended” use of Instagram.
The states say Meta designed Instagram’s algorithms, which determine what content users see in their feeds, to expressly keep them hooked. By presenting posts in order of expected interest rather than chronologically, Meta is able to benefit from what psychologists describe as “variable reward schedules,” according to the lawsuit, that turn feeds into something like a slot machine. Users are conditioned to keep coming back and scrolling endlessly in hopes of receiving hits of the neurotransmitter dopamine when they come across content that brings them pleasure, the lawsuit claims.
According to the lawsuit, researchers working for Instagram found at one point that the way the app encourages teens to compare themselves with peers and question themselves was “more damaging to mental health” than cyberbullying. That finding became public in 2021 when former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked thousands of company documents and helped accelerate the states’ investigation.
The Like count visible on Instagram posts provides a ready way for people to compare themselves to others. Instagram has offered the option of hiding that tally, but has left it visible by default. “Meta could have, at a minimum, hidden Like counts for young users of Instagram and Facebook, but it declined to do so,” the lawsuit states.
California attorney general Rob Bonta told reporters today that the states know Meta had internal discussions about the negative impact of the Like button, but decided to keep it anyway. “Today we draw the line,” he says. “We must protect our children online and we will not back down from this fight.”
Ahmed alleges that the companies are failing to implement systems that automatically detect violent extremist content as effectively as they detect some other kinds of content. “If you have a snatch of copyrighted music in your video, their systems will detect it within a microsecond and take it down,” Ahmed says, adding that “the fundamental human rights of the victims of terrorist attacks” should carry as much urgency as the “property rights of music artists and entertainers.”
The lack of details about how social platforms plan to curb the use of livestreams is, in part, because they are concerned about giving away too much information, which may allow Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and other militant groups or their supporters to circumvent the measures that are in place, an employee of a major platform who was granted anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly claimed in a communication with WIRED.
Adam Hadley, founder and executive director of Tech Against Terrorism, a United Nations-affiliated nonprofit that tracks extremist activity online, tells WIRED that while maintaining secrecy around content moderation methods is important during a sensitive and volatile conflict, tech companies should be more transparent about how they work.
“There has to be some degree of caution in terms of sharing the details of how this material is discovered and analyzed,” Hadley says. “But I would hope there are ways of communicating this ethically that don’t tip off terrorists to detection methods, and we would always encourage platforms to be transparent about what they’re doing.”
The social media companies say their dedicated teams are working around the clock right now as they await the launch of Israel’s expected ground assault in Gaza, which Hadley believes could trigger a spate of hostage executions.
And yet, for all of the time, money, and resources these multibillion-dollar companies appear to be putting into tackling this potential crisis, they are still reliant on Tech Against Terrorism, a tiny nonprofit, to alert them when new content from Hamas or PIJ, another paramilitary group based in Gaza, is posted online.
Hadley says his team of 20 typically knows about new terrorist content before any of the big platforms. So far, while tracking verified content from Hamas’ military wing or the PIJ, Hadey says the volume of content on the major social platforms is “very low.”
Genshin Impact, somewhat uniquely, supports cross-saving as well. So if you decide to play on your phone for a little while, you can keep all your progress when you go back to your console. It’s a nice addition that makes this title one of those rare games where you can play anywhere with anyone and feel like you’re jumping into the same game.
Rocket League (Free)
Psyonix’s Rocket League has proved that its concept of “What if soccer, but with cars?” is an enduring one. And thanks to using Epic’s Online Services platform, players on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, or PC can all play together. Interestingly, PC players that play the game via Epic Game Store or Steam can participate in the cross-platform action, despite Steam being a rival game store to Epic. Who says we can’t all get along?
Fall Guys (Free)
When Fall Guys came on the scene, it was overshadowed by Among Us, but it has still maintained a healthy player base. This game is a battle royale—though the most adorable one you’ve ever seen—where 60 players compete in game-show-style obstacle courses and arenas to be the last person (er, jelly bean) standing. Best of all, it’s recently gone free-to-play, so you don’t have to spend a dime to try it out.
Overcooked! All You Can Eat ($40)
If you enjoy the chaos of working in a professional kitchen … well, then you’ve probably never done it in real life. Fortunately, Overcooked! All You Can Eat is a lot more fun than a real job. This game requires players to cooperate to prepare, cook, and plate food for customers in a rapid-fire environment. This version has added crossplay across a wide variety of platforms, so you can recruit chefs from just about anywhere.
No Man’s Sky ($60)
For a game that began life starring an isolated spacefarer exploring a vast and unfathomably lonely universe, any kind of crossplay is already a significant change. But as Hello Games has continued iterating on No Man’s Sky, it has added online multiplayer features where you can bump into other travelers. You can interact with players across Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4 and 5. It’s not a huge amount of platforms compared to most other titles on this list, but given how unique this game’s development is, it’s a worthy addition. No Man’s Sky even overhauled its entire capital ship system and added new types of multiplayer missions you can take on with friends or strangers.
Baldur’s Gate 3 (Eventually)
Larian Studios’ Baldur’s Gate 3 has been one of the biggest smash hits of 2023, hailed for its rich storytelling that allows players to feel their consequences have real weight. Just like the tabletop D&D it’s based on, friends can play together in the same campaign. Up to four players can form a party and run through the story in tandem online.