Archive for July, 2011

Raising the Bar: Part 2

When I wrote about stocking your own at-home bar, I listed some of the basics that form the foundation of any good personal watering hole. Crazy thing is, I actually don’t have a bar to keep all my stuff…it’s in random places throughout my apartment (sad, but true). I store my liquor in my TV stand, my barware in the kitchen, and I have half a case of wine under the dining room table! My goal is to have a legit bar by the end of the year.

Living in New York, space is obviously a premium and I don’t have the room for some ridiculously remarkable home bar like this:

However, there are a ton of options for space saving bars that have both form and function. Here are a few that I like:

Storage will be key since I tend to accumulate various spirits and hold on to things for a while (I have a bottle of Haitian Rum I can’t drink but won’t get rid of…actually it makes a good rum cake). The good thing is liquor has a great shelf life – no need to worry about Tequila going bad the way white wine does. I’m like a kid at Disney World when I go to a well stocked Liquor Store or visit the barware section of Crate & Barrel.

My mom and I literally go into supermarket sweep mode when we visit Total Wine in River Edge! As I mentioned before, I like to try to recreate cocktails I’ve had out at home and so I end up buying random bottles of liquor to “recipe test.” I probably have more flavored brandy than anyone should.

This weekend, I will be buying a bottle of St. Germaine because I love it and it keeps popping up in all these amazingly mouth-watering cocktails around the city! I’m also coveting a few other bar goodies–so if I have any friends out there who are wondering what to buy me for my b-day or Christmas please refer back to this post in November.

My Top 5 Most Wanted Bar Items

1. King Cube Ice Tray. I love giant ice cubes!!! They look amazing, cool your drink fast, and don’t melt as quickly as smaller cubes do. If you’ve never experienced these remarkable hexahedrons pay attention the next time you are out at a good bar.

2. Whiskey Stones. I know, I just said I love ice but sometimes you need to keep a drink cool for an extended period of time- like when sipping cognac or whiskey and you don’t want it watered down. Just pop these babies in the freezer and you are all set for a slow-sipping-strong-scotch (say that three times fast).

3. Wine Decanter. Some argue that they don’t really enhance the flavor of wine, but they look cool and I want one. Nough’ said!

4. Small Bar. It’s about all I have room for.

5. Vintage Cocktail Books. I envision my living room having a lovely little bar in the corner and above it I will have a bookshelf filled with vintage cocktail books. Books, which I will reference as I lounge around said living room wearing a long caftan and a turban sipping a fine crafted vodka gimlet that doesn’t melt because I have really large ice cubes in it.

And of course, here are the recipes for the cocktails I will be trying this weekend. I will do a full post on St. Germain soon. Cheers!

ST Rita

2 oz. Tequila Blanco

1 oz St Germain

¾ oz Fresh Lime Juice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and mix. Strain into a salt- rimmed rocks glass (I’ll be skipping the salt) and garnish with a lime wedge.

French Gimlet

2 oz Gin

1 oz St Germain

½ oz Fresh Lime Juice

Splash Simple Syrup

Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled shaker and shake well. Strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a lime twist.


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Raising the Bar – Part 1

I always keep at least one bottle of Vodka on hand- you never know when family will stop by (and my family is big on the Vodka drinking!). As of late, I have also started expanding my existing liquor collection to include other basic spirits as well as some auxiliary tipples. As I experiment more and more with recreating cocktails at home, it has given me cause to add to this collection and so I thought, why not just work on fully stocking my home bar…nevermind the fact that I don’t truly have an actual bar yet (more on that later). Below is my list of all the necessities (and some non-essential, but enjoyable extras) to pick up and build your at home bar.

Liquor: the first thing any bar needs is liquor (duh). Build your collection based on your drinking preferences and those of your friends/family. I recommend five main spirits to start- they are all the basis of most cocktails and can also be enjoyed on their own, either straight up or on the rocks:

1. Vodka
2. Gin
3. Tequila
4. Rum (Dark & Light)
5. Cognac

You may also want to consider Bourbon, Whiskey or Scotch in addition to the above. Personally, I stay away from the “brown juice” so I don’t have any of these yet, but I have been curious to try the new Honey Whiskeys so I will be picking that up soon. It is also good to have a few bottles of wine on hand (red, white and possibly sparkling or champagne) and some beer for the non-liquor drinkers…or just don’t invite those people over; they’re probably boring anyway!

Mixers: Now that you have your basics, it’s time to get your mixers in order. Again depending on personal preferences you may just need tonic, club soda, and juice. I recommend keeping at least a few of the more traditional mixers stocked for constructing classic cocktails such as Martinis and Manhattans.

1. Vermouth (Sweet & Dry)
2. Bitters (Angostura is great, but also check out some of the new blends out there)
3. Triple Sec (I actually prefer Cointreau)
4. Olives
5. Lemon/Lime Juice (Fresh is best!!!)
6. Simple Syrup (click here for a recipe)

Bar Tools: Finally, let’s not forget the tools of the trade…you wouldn’t bake without a measuring cup or mixing bowl, so don’t try to mix drinks without the proper accoutrements.

1. A Cocktail Shaker (A Cobbler shaker is a good standard, and easy to use for the at home bartender)

2. Jigger (or shot glass with measurements)

3. Glassware (again, this may seem Captain Obvious, but a nice selection of glasses does make a difference) At the very least you should have wine glasses, martini glasses, highballs, and rocks glasses)

4. A corkscrew (for the aforementioned lame oenophiles… j/k)

5. A muddler (yes, there are various ways to improvise your muddling utensils, but I find an actual muddler is so much easier- and cooler looking)

6. Bar Spoon/Stirrer (Not a true necessity, but nice to have…a chopstick, or other long thin utensil will do the trick as well)

7. Juicer

8. Strainer (I use a Hawthorne strainer)

9. Ice Cube Trays/Ice Bucket

10. The most important thing…some good company to imbibe with!


Feel free to add to this list as you go along, and by no means do you have to get everything at once. I would also add a pitcher of some sort to this list, which is great for large batch drinks like Rum Punch or Sangria.

Finally, you need somewhere to store all your stuff…the beauty of a personal bar is it can be whatever you want, whether it’s an actual bar or just a baker’s rack that holds all of your supplies. Use your imagination and let the existing décor of your space be inspiration (Ha! I think that rhymes).

Now for the fun part, getting to play with your new toys

Here are a few good cocktail recipes to get started. They are easy enough to memorize or you can keep a recipe book at your bar. Cheers!!!

(one of the most argued about recipes in cocktail history! below is the recipe for a Dry Martini, click here for the dirty version)
1 1/4 oz Vodka (or Gin)
¼ oz Dry Vermouth
Twist of Lemon
Add Vodka and Vermouth to a shaker filled with Ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Serve with a Lemon Twist.

2 oz Vodka (or Gin)
½ oz Fresh Lime Juice
¼ oz Simple Syrup
Lime for Garnish
Add Vodka to a glass with ice, top with Lime Juice and syrup and stir to combine. Garnish with a lime wedge. This drink can also be served straight up, in which case you would combine all ingredients with ice in a shaker and pour into a chilled Martini glass. I prefer my gimlet on the rocks.

Side Car
1.3 oz Cognac (brandy will do, but Cognac is best)
.6 oz Cointreau (or other triple sec)
.3 oz Fresh lemon juice
Shake over ice and pour into Martini Glass (try rimming the glass with sugar). Garnish with lemon twist.

Tom Collins
2 oz Gin
2 oz lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
1 dash bitters
Club soda (about ¼ c)
Combine Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and a dash of bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a highball glass full of ice. Top off with club soda and garnish with a lemon slice and maraschino cherry.

1 ½ oz Tequila (Blanco is my preference)
½ oz Fresh Lime Juice
½ oz simple syrup (or try Agave)
Mix Tequila, lime juice and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour into rocks glass with ice (or Martini glass straight up) and garnish with a lime wedge)

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Our forefathers want us to go forth…and drink?

Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

As Americans gather across the country to celebrate our nation’s independence (read: Fireworks, BBQ’s and drinking), I thought it would be interesting to post some fun trivia on alcohol in this great land of ours.

1. Our National Anthem is “The Star Spangled Banner” written by Frances Scott Key to the English drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven”.

2. Bourbon is the official spirit of the United States, by act of Congress.
3. Martha Washington enjoyed daily toddies.

4. In the 1790’s, “happy hour” began at 3:00 p.m. and cocktails continued until dinner.

5. The bill for a celebration party for the 55 drafters of the US Constitution was for 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of port, 8 bottles of hard cider, 12 beers and seven bowls of alcohol punch large enough that “ducks could swim in them.”

6. Liquor stores in the US are called “package stores” and sell “package goods” because of laws requiring that alcohol containers be concealed in public by being placed in paper bags or “packages.”

7. The term “brand name” originated among American distillers, who branded their names and emblems on their kegs before shipment.

8. President Thomas Jefferson was the new U.S nation’s first wine expert.

9. The U.S. Marines’ first recruiting station was in a bar.

10. Sixty-two percent of Americans report that they have used the service of a designated driver. (Don’t Drink and Drive!)

Now you can impress your friends and family with useless American liquor facts at your next BBQ.

Also, check out my recipe for a patriotic “Red, White, and Blue Sangria” which is a perfect addition to the weekend’s festivities.

Red, White and Blue Sangria

1 large btl (or 2 regular btls) of dry/semi-dry White Wine (I like Pinot Grigio, but Chardonnay would work as well)
1 cup White Rum
1 btl Champagne or Sparkling Wine
1 liter seltzer (You can also try a flavor like Lemon-Lime or Orange)
1 pint blueberries
1 pint strawberries (hulled, and diced)

Mix Wine, Fruit, and Rum in a large bowl and let stand for at least one hour (the longer this sits, the better the flavors will combine). When ready to serve add champagne and seltzer- I do not use the whole bottle of seltzer, pour some in and taste as you go. For stronger Sangria add less seltzer.
Serve over ice.


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