Before you get out the cocktail book, here are the tools, glasses, drinks and mixers every modern home bar or bar cart should have.
The home bar is back. Brought on by a booming cocktail culture and increased entertaining at home, that little corner that used to be found in many homes is making a long overdue return. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. We’ve been updating kitchens with the latest whitegoods and stocking up on exotic ingredients from around the world, so it is about time that we got our drinks cabinet in order, too. Here’s what you need for the best home bar on the street.
There are some white spirits that no home bar should be without. Start with a neutral vodka (try Belvedere), the perfect base for a range of classic cocktails such as a bloody Mary or Moscow mule. The slightly more pronounced flavours of white rum (Bacardi Superior is a classic) make it ideal for a daiquiri or piña colada. Then track down a juniper scented London dry gin for gin and tonics, martinis and negronis. Mayfair has clean crisp citrus notes with earthy undertones and a smooth juniper led finish. A quality tequila (try Patron Silver Tequila) is also highly desirable, especially for fans of a margarita or tequila sunrise.
Darker spirits can be magic cocktail ingredients that are worth splashing out on. For your Scotch whisky of choice, premium blends or delicately flavoured single malts are ideal. Avoid anything with strong smoky peat characters. The sherried, dark fruit components of The Macallan 12YO are beautiful in an Old Fashioned. The sweetness and vanilla flavours of Bourbon (try Woodford Bourbon Reserve) and the bold flavours of rye whiskey make them useful for classics such as a highball or a mint julep. A nice final addition is a dark rum (try Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva Rum) to create cocktails with serious flavour, such as a mai tai.
Mixers have become hot property, so while you might have had a couple of tonic waters to choose from five years ago, now there is a whole range of boutique premium options. To get the most from your bar, it’s worth investing in mixers with character and personality. Here are a few to stock up on:
Juice — fresh fruit and juices are vital ingredients for a whole bunch of cocktails, so stock up on what you might need from lemon, lime and orange juice through to cranberry, peach, tomato and pineapple juices.
Sugar syrup — an absolute essential for every bar, sugar syrup (aka simple syrup) helps to add a little balancing sweetness for any cocktail that needs a lift. Mix equal parts water with sugar until it dissolves, with a little heat if necessary. And hey presto, you’ve gone from a home bar to the real deal.
Every bartender needs a simple kit to measure, mix and blend fancy cocktails. Start with a cocktail shaker and strainer. Then add a jigger, or measure, and mixing spoon plus a muddler.
You also have permission to go crazy on cocktail glasses. But for the average home bar where there is not the space to fit in every glass under the sun, here are the must-haves:
Lowball — the classic whisky glass is also good for cocktail classics such as a negroni or a white Russian.
Highball — Perfect for cocktails with lots of ingredients or mixers such as a mojito, Long Island iced tea or a dark and stormy.
Martini — no home bar is complete without the classic martini glass, a must for gin martini or vodka martini, and also ideal for a cosmopolitan or a grasshopper.
Champagne flute — looking for a spot of elegance? Flutes are perfect for a round of Bellinis.
Have a selection of garnishes available to match your favourite cocktails whether for aromas, flavours or simply to add a little colour. Some good options include fresh herbs such as mint and thyme; citrus fruit slices and spirals; spices such as cinnamon sticks and salt; plus olives and cocktail onions.