Essential Spirits For Home Bar

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Essential Spirits For Home Bar

A well-rounded home bar isn’t just a reflection of the spirits you personally enjoy; it’s a functional toolbox from which you can build a variety of cocktails you might encounter while entertaining guests. That said, it’s easy to go overboard and over budget. When starting a home bar, try to get the most for you buck by selecting spirits you can use across multiple recipes. That bottle of crème de violette might be nifty, but unless you’re mixing up Aviations on the reg, maybe spend your money elsewhere. Here are some essential bottles that will add depth to your home cocktail bench. Vodka This is an easy one. Vodka is a popular and versatile mixer. From a basic vodka soda to whatever ’tini du jour that one friend calls out, you need a bottle of vodka in your arsenal. When picking your poison, avoid the flavored stuff — it will only limit how you can use it — and go for quality. Ketel One is my go-to; it’s clean, smooth, and mixes well. Gin As indispensable as vodka, gin is always fashionable (and delicious). A good bottle of dry gin is a must for Martinis, Tom Collinses, and the summer-time favorite gin and tonic. I like Bombay Sapphire, which is a little smoother than most dry gins. Another option if you can find it is the subtle, raw honey-tinged Barr Hill. Whiskey There are a lot of options here so let’s break it down. It’s good to start with a workhorse whiskey. For example, I always have a bottle of Crown Royal on hand. It’s a well-balanced blend that makes a solid Manhattan, and is enjoyable straight or on ice. A good rye like Bulleit or Dickle is what you want for an Old Fashioned or Sazerac. If you prefer something a little softer, you’ll want bourbon; Maker’s Mark and Basil Hayden’s are good bets. Finally, you’ll need scotch. Specifically, two of them: a quality blend like Johnny Walker for your Rob Roys or Rusty Nails, and, if you’re a real scotch drinker, a good single malt. Rum Of all the spirits in my home bar, rum is the one I reach for the least. Still, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Unless you’re a big rum head, a decent mid-range bottle like Captain Morgan or Bacardi will cover you the next time someone asks for a rum and coke. Vermouth While not much on their own, vermouth opens the door to a world of cocktails, including Martinis, Manhattans, Rob Roys, and Negronis to name a few. Get yourself a bottle of sweet (used in Manhattans and Negronis) and a bottle of dry (used in Martinis), and you’re good to go. Apéritif An apéritif is a spirit typically served before a meal to stimulate appetite. If you entertain often, having something on hand for pre-meal socializing adds a nice touch of sophistication to the evening. Champagne and sparkling wine are common choices. Campari, however, is my pick. Add some soda and sweet vermouth, and you’ve got an Americano. Swap the soda for gin and it’s a Negroni, the perfect high-octane appetizer. Digestif Meant to aid in digestion after a meal, the digestif is perhaps a more common ritual than it’s pre-meal twin. An after-dinner drink should always follow a good meal. You have a lot of options here. Cognac or a good brandy is a staple, as is port, anisette, and Grand Marnier. Add some Mediterranean flare with a bottle of amaro, limoncello or ouzo. Or do like your granddad and pick up a bottle of Drambuie for Rusty Nails. Showcase bottles It’s always nice to have a bottle or two of the “good stuff” for special occasions or important guests — something you can break out that is both a reflection of your taste and generosity. It can be whatever you like that you’re willing to spend a little (or a lot) more on, like a bottle of Whistle Pig Boss Hog or a well-aged Macallan. Jim Sabataso is a writer, part-time bartender, and full-time cocktail enthusiast living in Vermont. Follow him on Twitter @JimSabataso.

Essential Spirits For Home Bar

A well-rounded home bar isn’t just a reflection of the spirits you personally enjoy; it’s a functional toolbox from which you can build a variety of cocktails you might encounter while entertaining guests. That said, it’s easy to go overboard and over budget. When starting a home bar, try to get the most for you buck by selecting spirits you can use across multiple recipes. That bottle of crème de violette might be nifty, but unless you’re mixing up Aviations on the reg, maybe spend your money elsewhere. Here are some essential bottles that will add depth to your home cocktail bench.

Essential Spirits For Home Bar

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Home Bar Rule #1: Pick alcohol you actually enjoy imbibing. When I first started my own home bar, I only picked spirits that I thought would impress guests when I had them over. I ended up spending a fortune for alcohol that I hardly ever used. While you’ll use your home bar for entertaining, don’t forget that a home bar’s main customer is you. When you mix yourself a cocktail to sip on the weekends while you sit on the patio with your dog, you want to enjoy it. The dog doesn’t care what your favorite gin is. That is of course if this pooch isn’t your dog. He’s so smug.

Essential Spirits For Home Bar

Now, stocking a great home bar is really not that hard to do. It is just based on how much you can afford to spend, and how large you want your arsenal to be. If you have a lot of money to blow and want a top notch bar with the finest curated liquors, then by all means, go forth (also, let’s be friends). However, you can also achieve a successful bar at home filled with the components that you’ll need to make a wonderful selection of drinks without costing you an inordinate sum of cash. However much money you have to spend on creating the perfect home bar, you’ll need to start with the basics. We’ve come up with a grocery list of essentials you’ll need to stock your home bar depending on your budget.

Essential Spirits For Home Bar

Remember Home Bar Rule #2: Start small. If you don’t have room or any place to store your home bar, keep your home bar small. Pick two or three different liquors and stick with those. When I was in an apartment, I kept my small bar in a cabinet above the fridge, and I kept my mixers and garnishes in the fridge.

Essential Spirits For Home Bar

LS: Starting with the light spirits, you have gin, which is the king of the cocktail spirits. It was the original spirit that everybody used in drinks and was incredibly popular — it still is. We use that for the botanicals. Nothing else has botanicals like gin.

Essential Spirits For Home Bar

See? A not too shabby price tag for a pretty sweet (and very well-stocked!) home bar. We’d call that a win-win situation in our book. And, once you’ve got all your glassware and bar tools together, the cost of stocking your bar only gets cheaper from there on out. Now all you need to do is get shopping, learn some bar terms and signature cocktail recipes (Google can seriously be your best friend here), and invite over all your friends to show off your inner bartender.

Essential Spirits For Home Bar

If you do move into a bigger place and you’ve really enjoyed being a home mixologist, then I can’t recommend installing a permanent home bar in your home enough. Many homes today come with wet bars and storage space for a home bar. If you don’t have that, with a little initiative and sweat, you can install your own bar in an unused room in the house.

If you’d like something a bit more distinguished than your kitchen cabinet to serve as the home for your home bar, consider getting a cocktail cabinet or mini bar. They’re small pieces of handsome furniture that you can usually put up against the wall. They’re nice because they can serve as a gathering point without having a huge bar installed in your home. Cocktail cabinets take up very little space, but can hold quite a bit of alcohol and glassware. I have friend who picked up a vintage cocktail cabinet at the antique store. It was a bit rough, but with a bit of elbow grease he was able to spruce it up. Here’s a nice example of a retro cocktail cabinet from the 50s:

There are few things more enjoyable than having a properly stocked bar in the comfort of your own home. We’re not talking about having one go-to bottle stashed away in the back of your freezer and a 6-pack of beer that you picked up on your way home from work. What you need, friends, is a solid bar stocked with the basics so you can entertain (and impress) guests, as well as treat yourself to the gift of a properly mixed drink. Starting a home bar may seem daunting or superfluous, but when your lady friend (or your boss or anyone else that needs to be impressed) comes over and you can artfully craft for her a cocktail of her choosing, you’ll surely be glad you took our advice. We’re not saying that procuring the perfect Moscow Mule or Gimlet for your lady or your boss is guaranteed to help you score that second date or that promotion… but we’re not not saying that, either.

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