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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