Hello, cocktail enthusiasts! It’s your friendly neighborhood foodie, Mike, back with another deep dive into the world of spirits and mixers. Today, we’re going to talk about the essentials you need to stock a full bar at home.
When it comes to setting up a home bar, the choices can be overwhelming. You could go all out and mimic a professional establishment, stocking all the essential liquors and mixers needed for the most popular cocktails. But remember, your home bar should reflect your personal preferences. If you’re a whiskey aficionado, focus on diversifying your whiskey selection. If you’re not a fan of a certain spirit, there’s no need to stock it.
Let’s start with the foundation of most cocktails: the base liquors. A well-rounded bar should include at least one bottle of each of the six base liquors: vodka, gin, tequila, rum, whiskey, and brandy. Vodka is a versatile spirit with a clean, transparent flavor, used in more cocktails than any other distilled spirit. Gin, while not everyone’s favorite, is nice to have for its unique flavor profile. Tequila is key for margaritas and other fascinating cocktails, while rum is essential for tropical drinks. Whiskey can be a bit complicated due to the variety of styles, but a good bourbon and Canadian whisky are a great start. Lastly, a bottle of brandy rounds off a well-stocked bar, especially if you want to explore classic cocktails.
Next, let’s talk about liqueurs. These are often used as flavoring agents that define a cocktail. Some of the most commonly used include amaretto, coffee liqueur, dry and sweet vermouth, Irish cream liqueur, and orange liqueur. Depending on your drinking style and favorite cocktails, you might also consider stocking Bénédictine D.O.M., Chambord, crème de cacao, crème de menthe, ginger liqueur, Drambuie, Frangelico, Galliano L’Autentico, maraschino liqueur, melon liqueur, and St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur.
Now, onto the nonalcoholic mixers. These are the liquids that add flavor and volume to cocktails. The essentials include club soda, tonic water, ginger ale, cola, diet cola, and lemon-lime soda. When it comes to juices, lemon, lime, and orange juice are the most common, but cranberry, grapefruit, pineapple, and tomato juice can also be useful. Other essential mixers include bitters, simple syrup, sour mix, grenadine, milk, half-and-half, cream, coffee, tea, Tabasco sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.
Finally, let’s not forget about garnishes. These are the finishing touch that adds visual appeal and a splash of flavor to cocktails. The three citrus fruits—lemons, limes, and oranges—are the most common garnishes. Other useful garnishes include maraschino cherries, olives, cocktail onions, mint, coarse salt, granulated sugar, cinnamon, grated nutmeg, celery or pickles, and whipped cream.
Remember, the key to a great home bar is to stock it according to your personal style, taste, and budget. You can always add more as you discover new cocktail recipes or find a new distilled spirit to try. So, here’s to creating your perfect home bar and mixing up some fantastic cocktails. Cheers!