How To Stock Your Home Bar
Want to offer guests or a lady something other than milk, beer, or water? Here are some basics you need to mix a cocktail at home.
With all the different types of liquors out there, and all the different drinks that can be made, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You feel that you need to stock up on $500 worth of alcohol in order to mix a drink, but that’s not the case.
Before we get to liquor, let’s start with the basic cocktail equipment.
The Cocktail Recipes
While you all might want to be like your local bartender and just pour alcohol with one hand and shoot soda from the gun in the other, that’s really not the way to mix a proper drink. Like anything else you consume, the balance of ingredients is important for the optimal experience. Therefore, recipes are just as important for drinks as they are for food. Get yourself a good cocktail book, or at the very least consult the internet before mixing a drink.
Here are a few good books on cocktails to get you started.
- This one is your basic guide to the standard drinks: The Little Black Book of Cocktails
- As is this one, just a bit larger: The Ultimate Bar Book
- If you want something a bit fancier, this one is written by cocktail legend, Dale Degroff: The Craft of the Cocktail
The Cocktail Tools
While the books above describe the many different types of glasses, shakers, etc.
You really need two things: a shaker and a jigger.
Cocktail shakers come in a few different styles, but for all around home use I like ones like this that have a strainer built into the top. It’s called a Cobbler Shaker. You can even use the cap as a jigger for measuring as long as you check how much it holds (usually an oz.)
The other type is called a Boston shaker which is just a stainless steel cup and a glass. You put one on top of the other and shake. Then you would need a strainer to strain the drink but let’s avoid that for now.
You should also have a proper jigger to measure your alcohol. I suggest one that has 1oz on one end and 2 oz on the other, like this.
The Essential Booze
Now to the good part: what alcohol should you have on hand?
I think the first question is, what do you like to drink?
- Most drinks start with gin, vodka, or whiskey. Pick either gin or vodka, whichever one you like best, so you can make Martinis, Cosmos, Gimlets, etc. If you don’t like or don’t plan to make any of these drinks, skip them.
- Get yourself a bottle of whiskey so you can make Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Sidecars, Sazeracs, etc. While some of these drinks stipulate, rye, or bourbon (both a type of whiskey) something like Maker’s Mark would be fine in any of these drinks to start.
- After that, I would add a tequila, and a rum for Mojitos, Margaritas, Daiquiris, etc., again keep in mind what drinks you like or plan to make.
If you stocked up on all four suggestions above, you would probably be in for $100-$120. Not a bad start.
A few additional selections for specific drinks:
- Cointreau (a brand of triple sec, an orange liqueur) is needed to make Cosmos, Sidecars, Margaritas and others. Get a small bottle of this or any triple sec to keep on hand for those drinks.
- Sweet Vermouth is used in Manhattans, and Dry Vermouth in Martinis. Get one or both, depending on what you plan on making. Again, buy small bottles of these.
- Get yourself a bottle of Angostura Bitters; you put a dash or two of this in many drinks.
Despite popular belief, nothing should be stored in the freezer or fridge except vermouth. “But I like my Martinis cooooolddddd!!” I’m sure you do, but all alcohol benefits from the addition of water that comes from mixing it with ice, and drink recipes take this into account. You won’t get the proper amount of water in your drink if the starting spirit is already chilled. Do bars store their bottles of liquor in the fridge? No, they store them on the shelf behind the bar. Also, anything that is 40% alcohol (80 Proof) will last indefinitely.
Stay tuned for an article on how to make some classic cocktails. Happy Mixing!!