Home Bar 101

June 1st, 2009  |  Published in bars, barware, books, mixers  |  16 Comments

Home Bar 101In 2006, I ran a post entitled “The Setup,” meant to be a primer on developing a home bar. I’ve been thinking about that post recently as I contemplate our ever-increasing stable of bottles. There has been a pretty hefty spike in home bartending lately, and I field more questions about liquor, equipment, books and bitters than I used to. It seems the increased profile of classic cocktails, the availability of better quality products and the questionable economy have all conspired to bring the home bar into clear focus for many people who hadn’t considered it before.

As such, I think it’s time to revisit the home bar setup and give you the SLOSHED!-approved basic bar, 2009 edition. In my original post, I wrote:

You should spend money on your bar.

This doesn’t mean you should spend a lot of money on your bar, but think of it as an investment. If you are going to go so far as to develop an actual entity you are going to refer to as your bar, take some pride in it. This is an endeavor for you, by you, and you should work at making it worth your time.

You can set up a small, reasonable bar for a reasonable investment. I have heard before, and would agree, that a fair expectation for a “good” home bar will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $200-300, depending on your tastes. A bar on a smaller scale will, naturally, result in a smaller bill.

As to stocking your bar, the bargain basement selection I am willing to entertain in liquor is whiskey and gin. Most people will include vodka in this—and I won’t necessarily disagree—but you can’t call it a bar unless you at least have whiskey and gin.

I still agree with most of this, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that you must have whiskey and gin to call it a bar. The best advice that I can give on starting up a home bar is this: buy quality products and start with what you like to drink.

If your favorite drink is a vodka Martini, start by purchasing good (not necessarily the most expensive, but good quality) vodka, vermouth and olives and work on learning how to make the absolute best vodka Martini that you can. Once you have mastered that, you should branch out into other, similar drinks—a Gimlet, Vesper, gin Martini, Gibson, or Aviation. This approach means you won’t be stuck with a bunch of bottles of liquor you don’t use very often, as well as building up your liquor cabinet gradually. The ingredients for a single cocktail like a Martini will usually be in the neighborhood of $30-40.

If you keep the focus on a drink or two that you especially like and gradually branch out into new cocktails and spirits, you will find it easier to develop an appreciation for spirits that are not in your repertoire and it will allow you to slowly build up your bar without damaging your bank account or overwhelming your palate. Most cocktailians that I know all have some deep, dark secret drink we don’t like to discuss that started us on this path, so there’s no shame in being a novice. It just means there are lots of surprises waiting for you.

This, of course, is the reasonable and measured way to approach a home bar. If, on the other hand, you prefer to jump straight into the pool rather than dipping a toe in first, here are my overall recommendations for building yourself a classic cocktail bar, updated and improved. My original thoughts are included for comparison, with revised notes below each quoted passage.

WHISKEY

Our general-purpose bourbon is Maker’s Mark. Reasonably priced, good quality and flexible, it will work for most cocktails that call for bourbon. I’ll spare you the lecture on Tennessee versus Kentucky, but if you are more the whiskey-and-Coke type than the Old-Fashioned type, you can get away with Jack Daniels or Jim Beam—but if cheap is the important qualification, try a bottle of George Dickel instead. It’ll only set you back $20 and it tastes pretty good, all things considered. If you’re feeling feisty—and you have $50 or so to spare—treat yourself with a bottle of Woodford Reserve or Booker’s.

On the rye front, we keep a bottle of Old Overholt for our Manhattans. If you like whiskey and you haven’t tried rye, you should definitely pick up a bottle. There are quite a few brands available (though Old Overholt and Jim Beam are the two easiest to find) and it’s generally priced quite affordably.

In blended whiskies, Famous Grouse or Johnny Walker Black should set you up; as for Canadian, I can’t say I use it often, so a bottle of Seagram’s VO does me just fine.

We keep a bottle of Bushmill’s for the odd occasion that calls for Irish whisky. I’m not much of an Irish whisky fan, but more than one Boilermaker has met its fate in my kitchen and for that you need the Irish.

I am a scotch lover. In the cooler months, scotch on the rocks is my drink of choice. I will give some of my favorites here, but you really need to get out and sample a variety of scotches to find the kinds you like. They vary in smoothness, smokiness, peatiness and depth, so those that I love may not be nearly so well liked by you and those who will be partaking of your bar. Geographically, my tastes tend toward Speyside and the Northern and Central Highlands of Scotland: Macallan, Glenmorangie, Balvenie, Dalmore, Dalwhinnie, Aberlour a’bunadh—all of which are low on the “peat” scale.

Bourbon is an absolute necessity. Our house bourbon is Evan Williams black label, which is both inexpensive and excellent. If you prefer a bourbon that is a little less sweet, Bulleit is reasonably priced and a very good place to start. Beyond that, we also love Buffalo Trace, Four Roses yellow label and Woodford Reserve; the rest of our bourbon is reserved for sipping rather than mixing.

Rye is also an absolute necessity. We keep Russell’s Reserve 6-year as well as Sazerac 6-year. They run about the same price at most stores, but I must say that I really love the Russell’s. If you can’t find either of these in your area, I still stand by the Old Overholt. It is a great workhorse rye.

Blended scotch is another necessity for mixing. We keep one and only one: Famous Grouse. It works in pretty much every recipe that calls for blended whiskey and makes a killer Blood and Sand.

Canadian whiskey pops up from time to time, though our tastes generally don’t run to drinks that call for it. When we do need it, we still use Seagram’s VO.

As for single malt scotch, I love it dearly but don’t have any call for it in cocktails. Like Irish whisky, it mostly gets sipped neat at our house.

GIN

On the flip side of the cool months are the warm ones, which is the time when my tastes run from scotch to gin. I keep three kinds of gin on hand at all times; usually Tanqueray, Plymouth and Damrak. Tanqueray and Plymouth are both London Dry gins, while Damrak is Dutch. At the moment, Hendrick’s has replaced Tanqueray.

You really only need one type to keep your bar functional. For those who like the botanical flavors of gin, I recommend Tanqueray; it’s flavorful, reasonably priced and easy to find. For those who aren’t quite able to stomach a full-flavored gin, or if, like me, you prefer a milder flavor in some drinks, I recommend Plymouth. Bombay Sapphire is also a good mild gin if you can’t find Plymouth near you, and Beefeater is another good moderately priced choice, though I’d place it’s flavor somewhere between Plymouth and Tanqueray.

I still stand by my gin recommendations, though there is an ever-expanding variety of new gins hitting the market all the time. Tanqueray and Beefeater are both excellent all-around London dry gins, though we usually keep Beefeater for all-purpose cocktailing and Tanqueray No. 10, which has more floral notes than the original, for drinks like the Richmond Gimlet. In London dry, we also love Martin Miller’s, particularly the Westbourne Strength. It’s high proof, but it makes a killer gin and tonic. Plymouth is another excellent, milder gin that we keep around at all times.

If you’re already a gin fan, you may want to put out the money for Bols genever—the grandfather of the gin we know today with a strong malty flavor that makes a superb Tom Collins.

VODKA

I admit it: I own fair amount of vodka. Most of it was acquired through gifting (I certainly didn’t buy myself that bottle of Stoli Vanil), and the others picked up for specific recipes or experiments somewhere along the way. Nearly none of those bottles ever leave the bar; for regular use I keep a single bottle of Ketel One for my Bloody Marys and Moscow Mules.

I happen to like Ketel One—it doesn’t give me that strange, blank-yet-metallic aftertaste that I get with most vodkas—so that’s what I keep. I am also fine with Absolut, but at nearly the same price I grab the Ketel. I have heard, repeatedly, that Belvedere or Grey Goose are far superior, but I have tasted both and can’t find any foundation for that claim.

On the more economical side, I don’t think there is anything wrong with Stoli (unless you are, for some reason, drinking it straight), but if you are a Trader Joe’s shopper, we found a great, California-made bargain vodka called Prism. You can pick up a bottle for about $10 and, honestly, it’s indistinguishable from Ketel in a Bloody Mary.

This is one area where things have changed fairly dramatically. I have barely one bottle of vodka in the house at any given time, and if I do have a yen for a Bloody Mary I usually run out and buy a bottle of Tito’s. It’s awesome, it’s made in Texas and it’s reasonably priced. If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, the house-brand Vodka of the Gods is perfect for Bloody Marys at a great price.

RUM

We keep a bottle of gold and a bottle of white rum at all times. If we’re feeling some tiki coming on, we’ll pick up dark and/or overproof, but that doesn’t tend to happen often—especially because we live within close proximity to some outstanding tiki-style bars.

I happen to be quite fond of Mount Gay rum; it is very reasonably priced and tastes great in just about everything I’ve ever put it in. I was not quite as impressed with Appleton, though I have been assured by those who know more than I do that you can occasionally find a truly outstanding bottle. I quite liked Bacardi 8-year, which would be a perfectly fine addition to your home bar if Mount Gay or Appleton are unavailable.

As for the white rum, I still haven’t found one I am especially fond of, but I have been moderately happy with the white Pyrat that is currently gracing our shelves.

While we do still keep white and gold rum at all times, rum is such a pleasant spirit to drink that we have anywhere from ten to fifteen bottles of it at any given time. Our well white rum is Cruzan, which is easy to find and perfectly good for mixing. If you can find it near you, Old New Orleans Crystal is our preferred white rum—all the ONO rum I have tasted is excellent. For daiquiris, you need a Cuban-style white, in which case we use the Puerto Rican Brugal white or our recently gifted bottles of Ron Matusalem or Oronoco. In gold rum, I still think Mount Gay Eclipse is a great rum to start your bar with. Appleton V/X is also a good mixing rum. In dark rum, people who like sweeter rums will like Zaya Trinidad, which has a strong vanilla component, and we keep Coruba for recipes that call for dark Jamaican. If you like Painkillers, you’ll need a bottle of Pusser’s; if you enjoy a Dark & Stormy, a bottle of Cruzan Blackstrap. For those interested in tiki cocktails, you’ll also want demerara rum. It has a particular, rather funky flavor, but is called for in many recipes. I recommend Lemon Hart 80° and 151°, both of which we always have on hand.

If you really like rum or just enjoy a Caipirinha from time to time, you’ll probably also want to pick up a bottle of cachaça. Leblon is easy to find but mild, though perfectly good especially if you haven’t had cachaça before. If you’re interested in something a bit more traditional and can find Sagatiba I’d suggest starting there.

Of course, I am not in any way a rum expert, so you should go visit RumDood’s Rum 101 post because he knows what he’s talking about.

TEQUILA

The other beloved liquor of summer! I could wax about tequila for hours. I won’t, but I could. Here’s what you need to know: there are three types of tequila (blanco, reposado and añejo) distinguishable by color (clear/white/silver, medium gold and dark gold). Much like any other aged spirit, the longer it’s in the barrel, the richer the flavor becomes. Blanco tequilas are perfectly fine for margaritas or other cocktails, though I tend to prefer reposado for a little more agave goodness. Añejo tequilas are meant to be sipped—not shot, not mixed, not blended. Much like a fine whiskey, you savor a good tequila, and you’d better not let me catch you doing otherwise.

Patron is a perfectly good, reasonably priced and easy to find tequila. This is what we generally specify when ordering margaritas at a restaurant; silver or reposado will do you just fine in your home bar. Cabo Wabo used to make a decent reposado, but the quality has fallen off some in recent years; Cabo Wabo añejo is still a fair—if sadly overpriced—tequila. If you find it on sale (under $45), I’d consider picking some up. Milagro reposado and añejos are both excellent mid-range bottles, though Milagro’s Tequila Romance will really do a number on you if you have the money to spend on it (and can find a bottle). Also in that league is Paradiso, which, honestly, is the best tequila I’ve ever sampled. (At $120 a bottle, it certainly should be.) The Cuervo Reserva de la Familia is above average, but still not nearly as good as Paradiso, though it falls in the same price range.

Tequila is still one of my major liquor loves. Being from Southern California means I have been fortunate to have the access to tequila for years that other parts of the country are just starting to enjoy, so it’s nice to see more people being able to pick up brands other than Cuervo and Sauza. For mixing, we keep Milagro Silver and Corralejo Reposado in the house; they are both reasonably priced and excellent at their price points. The entire Partida line is uniformly excellent, though a little pricey for every day use. Tequila Ocho Plata is also a great option if you can find it, though I’d suggest using it in cocktails that will really allow the flavor of the tequila to shine. If you’re already a tequila fan, I’d suggest trying the new Centenario Rosangel, an aged and hibiscus-infused reposado that has a lovely flavor.

Mescal is also gaining in popularity and availability, though there aren’t as many cocktails with mescal as a base. If you’re curious and don’t mind a heavy smoke component in your liquors, try a bottle of Del Maguey or Los Danzantes.

ABSINTHE

Absinthe wasn’t yet legal when the last bar setup post went live, so this is a whole new category this time around. There are a ton of great options out there, but you may need to do a little hunting to find them in your area. If you haven’t tried absinthe before, I’d suggest you start with a Swiss style, as they are milder than others. Kübler is reasonably priced and easy to find; Mansinthe is another Swiss style, made by Marilyn Manson, which is nice. In more traditional styles, we enjoy quite a few for different reasons, though all of them are great choices: La Fée, Marteau, Siréne, Vieux Carré and Vieux Pontarlier. We also love St. George, though because of its heavily herbaceous character people tend to love it or hate it. It probably isn’t the best bottle to start with if you’re new to absinthe.

BRANDY

You will need a standard brandy—I’m afraid I can’t be much help here, as the only bottle currently in my bar was a gift. I won’t mention any names, because that bottle really isn’t even worth discussing. You can also benefit from a bottle of calvados, an apple brandy, which used in quite a few drinks. If you can’t find calvados, pick up a bottle of applejack (the American version).

To paraphrase Dr. Cocktail, whenever someone says brandy, I think cognac. Cognac is brandy, after all, and in general it just makes recipes that call for brandy that much better. As such, we keep Prunier VS as our house cognac. It mixes well and it’s reasonably priced. In my experience, brandies are one of the areas where price is usually an indicator of quality—I haven’t found a cognac under $35 a bottle that didn’t turn me off for one reason or another.

In apple brandy, I really love Clear Creek Apple Brandy. It is produced in Oregon and has a fantastic flavor—though I do sub this for calvados on occasion, it is not the same thing so you should certainly seek out a bottle of calvados if you want to make recipes that call for it. Also in American apple brandy, Laird’s Bonded is a great product, though use caution as it is significantly higher proof than regular applejack.

Pisco, from South America, is a grape-based brandy that is necessary for making Pisco Sours, as well as Pisco Punch and other classic recipes. Bar Sol is a good, easy-to-find pisco, but the Peruvian brand Ocucaje is our favorite.

LIQUEURS, CORDIALS AND THE LIKE

Anisette

A botanical; you will need a bottle of pastis (or Pernod) if you plan to make classic cocktails. Presently, I have a bottle of La Muse Verte, which works just fine. If you plan to stick with more contemporary drinks, you can probably skip this. You can also use ouzo if it’s what you have handy, but it won’t be a cool green color…and it will still taste like ouzo.

Anisette and absinthe are different things, though you can sub one for the other. Pernod and Herbsaint are both important ingredients to have on hand, though strictly speaking you can get by with one when you’re first starting out.

Benedictine

B&B will do if you can’t get Benedictine, but you’ll find this useful in a wide array of drinks.

B&B is Benedictine with brandy pre-mixed in. While tasty on its own, it is significantly sweeter than Benedictine and I would not recommend subbing them interchangeably. I use Benedictine far more than B&B and so will you if you’re mixing classics.

Chartreuse
I somehow managed to miss this on the first go-round, but I can’t imagine my life without Chartreuse. At the minimum you’ll want a bottle of green, but we keep both green and yellow—though they look similar, they taste quite different and are different proofs.

Cointreau & Orange Liqueurs

Cointreau: This is a very lovely orange liqueur that you will find useful in many drinks. Pick it up on sale if you can find it, but you can substitute with generic triple sec or curaçao if the budget won’t allow it. It won’t taste quite as good, but it will give you a nice citrus flavor.

Grand Marnier: I keep a small bottle of this though, honestly, I use it more often in baking than behind the bar.

We keep a pretty nice selection of orange liqueurs in the bar, but to get started you really only need two: Cointreau (which is a triple sec) and curaçao. Good curaçao can be hard to find, but we go the extra mile to buy Marie Brizard. It’s the best we’ve found. If you can spare the money, Grand Marnier is a nice addition, especially as a float in margaritas, and I quite like Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb as well.

Créme de Cassis
I don’t know why I left this off the list last time, but cassis appears in many classic recipes. Probably best known in the Kir Royle, cassis is a sweet, dark liqueur made from black currants.

Creme de Cacao: Chocolate liqueur, available in white and brown. I only keep white, as I don’t have much call for this most of the time. There are a number of brands available, the most common being Bols, Hiram Walker, DeKuyper and Potter’s. Potter’s is the cheapest and completely decent, though I would go with one of the first two if you can.

Creme de Menthe: I keep a bottle of green as well as white because I have a weakness for Grasshoppers. In most instances, you will be fine with just a bottle of white. If things are really tight you can make do with a bottle of peppermint schnapps, but I’d rather sub white creme de menthe for peppermint than the other way around.

There are a number of brands available, the most common being Bols, Hiram Walker, DeKuyper and Potter’s. Potter’s is the cheapest and completely decent, though I would go with one of the first two if you can.

I haven’t used either créme de cacao or créme de menthe in so long I think my bottles have gone bad. I’d only recommend picking these up if you have a drink or two you really like that calls for them.

Heering & Cherry Brandy

Heering: You’ll need cherry liqueur. This is what I use, and I recommend it. Schanapps (again, Bols, Hiram Walker or DeKuyper) or kirschwasser (cherry brandy) will do in a pinch.

While you will need cherry liqueurs, Heering is a very different animal than kirschwasser. Heering is dark red and sweet, while kirsch is clear and dry. They each have a specific place in cocktails, so you’ll want a bottle of each. Clear Creek makes a nice kirsh, as does Westford Hill if you can find it.

Maraschino

Absolutely necessary for quite a few classics. It has a very particular flavor, so don’t expect to sub for it. The easiest brand to find locally is Luxardo.

Though I will advise you to use sparingly, as maraschino is dry with a very particular flavor that can easily overwhelm a cocktail, it is a necessity for classic cocktails. I prefer Luxardo, though Maraska will also do.

Pimm’s

Another like Campari. Sort of bitter with a very particular flavor. Necessary for the Pimm’s Cup, and generally excellent on its own with 7-Up.

I love Pimm’s dearly, but it doesn’t have many applications beyond use in a Pimm’s Cup. While delightful, I wouldn’t call this a necessity unless you already know you like it.

Sloe Gin

Relatively easy to find, necessary for a Sloe Gin Fizz (among other things). There are a number of brands available, the most common being Bols, Hiram Walker, DeKuyper and Potter’s. Potter’s is the cheapest and completely decent, though I would go with one of the first two if you can.

Plymouth Sloe Gin is on the expensive side, but if you like sloe gin it’s the best one I’ve had thus far. We treat ourselves to a bottle so we can have Sloe Gin Fizzes all summer.

VERMOUTHS & FORTIFIED WINES

Yes, I know, everyone hates vermouth. You need it anyway. You will learn to love it once you get a real, honest, well-crafted cocktail made with it. You need a sweet and a dry; at your average liquor store or market, you will find Martini & Rossi (Italian) and/or Cinzano (Italian), and perhaps, if you’re lucky, Noilly Prat (French). They usually run about the same price ($10 per bottle), and if given the choice I pick Noilly Prat, followed by Cinzano, followed by Martini & Rossi. (If I really get to be particular, I like Noilly Prat dry and Cinzano sweet.)

Lillet: A bottle of Lillet Blanc will do you well when making quite a few drinks. You’ll like it, I promise.

Most people are suspicious of vermouth, but hallelujah! there are some truly transcendent vermouths out there now, which makes a huge difference in the quality of the cocktails you mix with them. Martini & Rossi recently reformulated their products, which makes them an affordable and easy-to-find option. If you have access to more choices, I frequently sing the praises of Carpano Antica Formula for sweet vermouth and Dolin Blanc (sweeter) and Dry (drier) for whites. All three are delicious.

Lillet Blanc is an aperitif similar to vermouth; it appears in many recipes and makes an excellent sub in many recipes that call for dry/white vermouth.

BITTERS & AMAROS

For the love of all that is holy, don’t call it a bar unless you have a bottle of Angostura bitters in there. If you’re feeling really adventurous, pick up some orange bitters, too. Fee Brothers makes a very nice, very easy to find variety.

To start, you’ll want Angostura, Peychaud’s and a good bottle of orange bitters: Reagan’s, Angostura or Fee’s. But bitters are sort of like shoes: you can never have too many.

Campari

Bitter, orange, excellent with club soda. Mostly imbibed on its own in our house but very, very good.

You need it to make a Negroni and a variety of other delightful cocktails. A must. If you like Campari, you may also want to try some other amaros, like Torani Amer (an absolute necessity to make a Picon Punch), Ramazzotti, Aperol, Cynar, Averna or Fernet Branca.

SYRUPS

Grenadine, Rose’s lime cordial, simple, orgeat. Raspberry too, if you’re ambitious.

Grenadine, simple, orgeat and raspberry are important for creating the classics. Though orgeat and grenadine are easy to buy, all of these can be made at home with relative ease and are vastly better than anything on the market. If you like tiki-style drinks, you may also want to consider making your own passion fruit and cinnamon syrups.

BOOKS & EQUIPMENT
No one starts out knowing everything. I, for one, learn something every time I pick up a cocktail book or go to a bar. To get you started, here are some recommendations for books that will get you off to a strong start:

The Essential Bartender’s Guide — Robert Hess
A fantastic beginner’s guide to ingredients, equipment, drinks and recipes, it is a wonderful resource to have at hand.

The Craft of the Cocktail — Dale DeGroff
Whenever I need to know how to make a garnish or how to flame an orange peel. DeGroff is the number one source on my list.

Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails — Ted Haigh
If you’re interested in the essence of classic cocktails and the history behind them, this is the only book. A new, expanded and updated edition comes out this summer.

In equipment, you are going to need some key things to get started:

  • Shaker — This can be the three-part cobbler or the two-part Boston-style, but you will need a metal or metal-and-glass container in which to shake and/or stir your drinks before they go in a glass.
  • Jiggers — These are the small, double-sided tins that measure ounces of spirit or other ingredients that will go into your shaker. I would recommend you start with at least two; they come in different measurements, so you’ll want a half- and full-ounce, three-quarter and one-and-a-half ounce and/or a one- and two-ounce.
  • Strainer — Once you get your drink measured and shaken, you’ll need to get it in the glass, usually without the ice you shook it with. This is where strainers come in. For drinks that are shaken, such as a Whiskey Sour, you will want a spring-lined Hawthorn strainer to fit inside your Boston shaker (cobbler-style shakers have the strainer built in). For drinks that are stirred, such as a Manhattan, you’ll want a Julep strainer to snuggle into your Boston shaker.
  • Bar spoon — A long-handled spoon, often with a twist in the handle, used for stirring clear spiritous drinks to preserve the texture and appearance of the cocktail. You will also use this for bar measurements, as some recipes call for a “bar spoon” of ingredients.
  • Citrus juicer, reamer or squeezer — You’ll be using lots of citrus, so you’ll need a method by which to extract the juice. Whichever you are most comfortable with is the best one to go with.
  • Muddler — For mashing up peels, herbs or sugar, you just can’t beat a muddler. There are many varieties available; I prefer the wooden variety, but silicone and metal versions are also available. Again, just a matter of preference.
  • Zester/Channel knife — You will need to remove long swathes of peel from citrus fruit for garnish and muddling, so you’ll need a channel knife to make those cuts. I use a combined zester/channel knife, as some drinks call for smaller peels called zest.
  • Ice crusher — This isn’t an absolute necessity in the beginning, but you will encounter drinks that call for crushed ice from time-to-time. I picked up a vintage ice crusher on eBay for less than twenty dollars and you can frequently find them at flea markets, as well as brand new ones on Amazon or places like Crate & Barrel.
  • Glassware — As much as I would love to say that we have the space and disposable income to keep every kind of cocktail glass on hand, it just isn’t true. To get started, you really need three kinds of glasses: short ones, tall ones and cocktail glasses.
    Short ones are double old-fashioned glasses, which usually hold between twelve and sixteen ounces of liquid. Tall ones are highball glasses, which usually hold between ten and fourteen ounces of liquid. Cocktail glasses are more commonly known as “Martini glasses,” but resist the temptation to call them such. They are usually conical with a stem like a wine glass and hold between eight and twelve ounces. If you can find a cocktail glass that holds between six and eight ounces, these are perfect for classic cocktail applications.
    If you’re feeling feisty and want some more glassware, I recommend the tall, thin, cylindrical Collins or cooler glasses that make great presentation for highballs, coolers and tiki-style drinks. Small coupes are an excellent investment if you’re into very classic cocktails (I like to pick up vintage champagne saucers at thrift stores), and champagne flutes and wine glasses find a surprising number of applications in the bar. If you’re a tiki fan, ceramic tiki mugs are a fun investment and brandy snifters fit in to the repertoire quite well.

Home Bar 101 – Cocktails

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Responses

  1. Things You Should Know « A Jigger of Blog says:

    June 2nd, 2009at 8:26 am(#)

    [...] at Sloshed! has an incredibly comprehensive run-down of the essentials for setting up a home bar. Actually [...]

  2. Beginner says:

    June 2nd, 2009at 2:38 pm(#)

    THANK YOU SOOO MUCH!! I’m a fan of RumDood, but not a fan of rum so much. Which means that I really did need a more general list. I am always so overwhelmed with the choices out there and never know what I’ll actually end up using and what’ll end up sitting on my shelf for years at a time.
    I’ve been trying to slowly build up my bar for years now and due to funding issues can only buy a few essentials at a time with the hope that I’ll slowly build it up to a respectable level…unfortunately I end up drinking it all by the time I can afford more and therefore have been stuck with vodka, gin, bourbon and tequila only for the last 7-8 years.
    Maybe 2009 will be the year that all ends.
    Thanks again…I really enjoyed your post!

  3. Marleigh says:

    June 2nd, 2009at 3:33 pm(#)

    Glad to be of help! I will say that, if possible, you should try to find some room in your heart for rum. It is a fan of you, I can guarantee it.

  4. Kriegs says:

    June 2nd, 2009at 4:06 pm(#)

    Thanks for the note! Your initial post above was very helpful in getting me started a while back. Nice additions in this round.

  5. Basement Bar Design Elsewhere in the Cocktailosphere #2 | The Pegu Blog says:

    June 3rd, 2009at 4:07 am(#)

    [...] Marleigh has actually tackled the subject of bar provisioning twice. Her latest post, entitled Home Bar 101, is a followup/update of a post from 2006, entitled The Setup. I found the new one particularly [...]

  6. Tiare says:

    June 3rd, 2009at 4:45 am(#)

    Fantastic post Marleigh! really well written.Great pictures too!

  7. Dr. Bamboo says:

    June 3rd, 2009at 11:01 am(#)

    Really great post Marleigh! This is absolutely one of the best articles on bar essentials I’ve ever seen.

    And am I the only one who can’t really warm up to Old Overholt? I like just about every rye I’ve tasted, but that stuff underwhelms me.

  8. Marleigh says:

    June 3rd, 2009at 11:08 am(#)

    Thanks Kriegs and Tiare! Glad you both enjoyed it.

    C, I don’t think it’s a flaw to be a bit underwhelmed by the Old Overholt. It isn’t the best rye out there, but sadly rye distribution isn’t at a point yet where everyone can be picky about their brand. The Overholt and Jim Beam Rye are both perfectly good places to start, and make you appreciate the bottles of Saz, Russell’s and Rittenhouse that much more when you find them.

  9. Tony Harion says:

    June 3rd, 2009at 8:48 pm(#)

    Great post Marleigh!
    I´ll keep it on my bookmark to recommend to a few friend that have recently asked me for hint on how to start their home bar.

  10. Frank says:

    June 10th, 2009at 5:20 pm(#)

    Hi Marleigh, this is Frank, we met at Bill and Crystal’s last week. I told you I would be in touch! I’ve been reading quite a bit of your blog and found this to be a great help and a great reminder of all the things you told me the other night. All this information is wonderful. Maybe a bit overwhelming but still wonderful. I can’t wait to drink some of the new cocktails I’ve been reading about! Thanks so much again.
    -Frank

  11. Marleigh says:

    June 11th, 2009at 10:22 am(#)

    Hi Frank! Glad you’re enjoying the site! Be sure and let me know how you enjoy the cocktails you try. I like feedback—good or bad. :)

  12. Rick says:

    June 29th, 2009at 4:40 pm(#)

    Marleigh,

    This is simply insane. Great post! Only quick change I’d make would be to dump the Lemon Hart 80 and add in some El Dorados.

  13. Lavel says:

    July 27th, 2009at 8:50 pm(#)

    Thanks Dude

  14. Jeff Stowell says:

    August 3rd, 2009at 10:32 am(#)

    Good post! It does seem to be that home bartending is on the rise, though I must admit, it got me to thinking: Once the economy picks up, will the interest tail off, or continue to climb?

    *shakes Magic 8-Ball* …”Reply hazy, try again”…

    Well, that was no help…

  15. Marleigh says:

    August 7th, 2009at 12:38 pm(#)

    Thanks Jeff! I think it could go either way. There will always be people who prefer going out to staying home, so I don’t think the bar business is in danger of being shut down by this trend. I do think, though, that it may stymie some bars—after all, once you learn how to make a proper Martini/Sazerac/Margarita, why pay someone $12 for one when you can do it yourself, at home, without driving or dealing with drunk people?

  16. Rum 101: How To Get Started With Rum says:

    October 16th, 2009at 10:04 am(#)

    [...] of some sort for over a year now.  Finally Marleigh over at Sloshed! informed me of her work on a post about starting a home bar, and asked me if I might want to write a similar piece, but focusing entirely on [...]


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