Starting a home bar can seem like an overwhelming task but it doesn't have to be a headache. If you enjoy entertaining, a properly stocked bar is a must. A well-mixed drink can help romance a date, impress friends and schmooze a boss or potential client. Becoming a home mixologist should be fun! Invest in basic equipment, stock up on essential liquors, and you can have a spread that will impress amateurs and professionals. Following are a couple of essential rules that will show you how stocking a home bar can be affordable and easy.
Stock your home bar with liquors that will cover classic drink recipes. To make fantastic, creative cocktails, there's no need to stock your bar with 12 brands of expensive vodka and a rainbow's worth of brightly colored liqueurs. A half-dozen base spirits and a few mixers will do the trick.
Vodka, gin, rum, bourbon and tequila are the staples.
- Cointreau: A bar essential -- clean, full of natural orange flavor, and not too sweet.
- Vermouth: Include a high-quality dry vermouth such as Dolin and sweet vermouth such as Carpano Antica.
- Wine Aperitif: If you want to take it up a notch, a wine aperitif such as Lillac Blanc is also a brilliant cocktail ingredient. Low-proof and nicely balanced, not too sweet and not too bitter, it blends seamlessly with many spirits without overwhelming them, much like vermouth.
- St. Germaine: If you want to splurge then go for a bottle of St. Germaine. The liqueur is made from elderflower, a small, white starry flower that blooms through the spring and summer and we love it mixed with gin based cocktails.
- Fresh squeezed juice: Trust us, fresh squeezed is the way you win.
- Simple Syrups: Here’s a tip, citrus and sugar go hand in hand. If a drink is too tart, just add a touch of simple syrup. Try making your own and get creative with it by infusing your own herbs and spices. Check this link to get started: Homemade Simple Syrup Recipe
- Bitters: Bitters is an alcoholic ingredient flavored with herbal essences used to add depth and flavors to your cocktails. Angostura are still the most recognizable today, but there are now a variety of crafted classic brands who are putting a new twist on an old ingredient. Try this Hella Bitters handcrafted set available at Magnolia Emporium here in Charlotte.
The Garnishes: Get creative with it.
- Lemons, limes, oranges
- Bourbon soaked cherries (Check out how Brian “The Hammer” Larusso from Dogwood Southern Table makes his own)
- Smoked Salt
The equipment needed to mix a cocktail is simple to master, and you don't need a lot of it.
- Ice bucket
- Bar spoon
- Cocktail shaker
- Ice cube trays
- Lemon zestor
- Sharp knife
For everyday use in your home bar, you only need six or eight of each of three basic types: a short glass, a tall glass, and a stem.
Ice Cubes: Do not overlook the importance of the proper ice cubes for your cocktail. The truth is that the quality of your ice plays greatly into the way your drink tastes. This is especially pertinent when it comes to serving plain ol’ liquor – like whiskey – on the rocks. When it comes to whiskey on ice, there are no mixers or liqueurs to divert your attention – what you see is what you taste. So in what way does ice affect the taste of your whiskey, and what determines how good said ice is? Let’s count the ways.
Now that you have the tools and ingredients and you're ready to start shaking your cocktail maker, pick up Handcrafted Cocktails: The Mixologist's Guide to Classic Drinks for Morning, Noon & Night. Included are 100 classic cocktail recipes designed to go along with any party you may throw—from brunch and happy hour cocktails to dinner and post-dinner nightcaps.
And we’ll be eagerly awaiting our invitation to your next soiree.