What are the necessary components of a well-stocked home bar?
I blame cheap beer commercials, wine coolers, and “Sex in the City.” Somewhere along the way, Americans got away from the home bar and mixing complex and grown-up cocktails and started drinking fruity, watered-down, syrupy sweet concoctions and light beer. I believe it was a slow process that began with the rise of “lite” beer, the invention and propagation of wine coolers, and the Cosmo swilling that took place on “Sex and the City.”
Whatever the cause of the downfall of classic cocktail making, that’s all in the past. There is a new era of mixology and craft cocktails afoot as more people are eschewing the ubiquitous Cosmos, Margaritas, and anything made with Red Bull.
While you could go out to any number of trendy mixology-minded bars and spend upwards of $15 for a carefully crafted cocktail, you can also learn to make them at home. The key is to pick a few basic cocktails and keep the ingredients needed for those on hand. Don’t feel like you need to have components for every possible cocktail. Instead, you can add liquors and mixers as you want to try something new. You can work your way up to a well-stocked home bar.
The Mixologist’s Home Bar Mixer Must Haves
1. Vermouth – Sweet and Dry
Vermouth is a fortified wine, but not one that you would want to drink alone. It works as a partner with other flavors. Dry vermouth is essential in a gin martini, and sweet vermouth is used in a Manhattan.
Cointreau is an orange liqueur. There are other types of orange liqueurs, but Cointreau is the best if you are serious about crafted cocktails. It’s used in a plethora of cocktails, but some of the classics include the Sidecar, Singapore Sling, and the Kamikaze. It’s also the key ingredient in Cosmo and Margaritas.
3. Maraschino Liqueur
Luxardo’s Maraschino Cherry Liqueur is a delightful mixer. One ingenious use for Luxardo is to make homemade drunken Maraschino cherries using fresh cherries. That’s a real crowd-pleaser, let me tell you. It can also be to concoct the Hemingway Daiquiri and the Aviation cocktail.
Bitters are not used to make cocktails bitter but are a way to impart a lot of flavor in a little punch. There are many kinds of bitters out there, but there are two must-haves for your home bar. The first is Angostura Bitters, which are necessary for making the Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, Rob Roy, and the Pisco Sour. The second is Peychaud’s Bitters, which is a key component to the Sazerac and the Mint Julep. You will find Angostura bitters to be more herbaceous in flavor while Peychaud’s bitters are more floral.
Campari is an apéritif, a liqueur served before a meal, which also serves as a cocktail mixer. Made from fruits and herbs infused in alcohol, it imparts a sweet, spicy and somewhat bitter flavor. It is an essential ingredient in the Negroni and the Americano cocktails.
6. St. Germain
St Germain is a French liqueur that takes its flavor from elderflowers. While relatively new on the scene, it is a wonderful specialty liqueur. It has a delicate flavor that lends itself to lighter cocktails. Mix it with Champagne (or other sparkling wine) for a lovely bubbly cocktail.
Galliano has flavors of anise, vanilla, juniper, citrus, and herbs. It has a complicated flavor profile, and that makes it the perfect mixer. It is a necessary ingredient in the Harvey Wallbanger and can even be served as a digestif, or a liqueur that is served after a meal.
What are your favorite home bar ingredients?
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Image: Old Fashioned Cocktail via Shutterstock