Making cocktails for your friends and family doesn’t need to be intimidating or complicated. You are all set in the kitchen with your ingredients and cookware, but what about your home bar? Do you have everything you need? Or is the question, do you know what you need? Having the basic components and equipment available is a really good start. Knowing how often we like to entertain this time of year, it seems appropriate to showcase how simple it is to build a home bar.
I recently had the privilege of speaking with Mixologist Extraordinaire, Lynn House. Lynn shared her recommendations on what you might want to consider for your home bar. You will be glad to know that you don’t need to travel the world looking for some of her suggestions but will instead find them at your local liquor store, online at Amazon or barware site, Cocktail Kingdom. And since the goal of Inspiring Kitchen is to share trends in the industry, you will also find some fun surprises for your home entertaining.
A bit about Lynn House: Lynn’s knowledge and expertise came from a passion for the food and wine industry. She discovered that she had a “real knack for creating great cocktails” after years in the restaurant and bar space holding many roles along the way. Her perseverance and desire to “control her destiny” is evident as Lynn is now the National Brand Educator for Heaven Hill Distilleries.
During our conversation and in response to some of my questions, Lynn shared a bit of history on the cocktail world. Here are some statements that I found interesting:
- The West Coast tends to enjoy lighter and fresher drinks – no real surprise, right?!
- Midwest/East Coast prefers heavier spirits. They have a true whiskey season.
- Desire for healthier options when it comes to cocktails resulted in choices that include low alcohol, no chemical sours, fresh lemon and lime juices and an interest in pure sugars.
- The 70-80’s: preferences for sweet cocktails
- The 90’s: mixology came to light
- 2000’s: simple but good drinks with just 3 or 4 ingredients
- Seasonality plays a part in the cocktails we drink
- Mixology follows the culinary trends with better ingredients and more adventure in the glass
Now, let’s build our home bar. There are a number of categories that we will want for our bar that include the following
To start with, we need the spirits themselves. These do not need to be expensive but should instead be of good quality.
- Vodka – 80 proof
- Gin – 80-86 proof
- Whiskey – 86+
Tip: The higher the proof for whiskey and brandy, the more you will taste it through a mixer.
- White Rum – especially in warmer months
- Vermouth – should be refrigerated or buy smaller bottles as it will begin oxidizing within a few days of being opened
Tip: Use leftover vermouth when cooking to deglaze the pan instead of using wine
- Aquavit – Scandinavian warming cocktail (good for winter)
- Fruit Liqueurs — choose a few based on your personal preference
- St. Germain
- Regan’s Orange
- Club soda
- Choose what you love
- Somrus — Indian cream made with cardamom, almond, rose, pistachios, cream, Caribbean rum
- Luxardo Cherries
- Cocktail onions
- Frozen fruit
- Fresh herbs
- Agave nectar
- Cane sugar
Tip: Make a simple syrup out of equal parts water and sugar to sweeten cocktails. This will avoid any sugar granules at the bottom of your glass. It will all blend together.
Shaker – Lynn likes the tin on tin shakers to allow you the space to chill, emulsify and bring in air known as “spirit, air and ice”
Stirring vessel – Yarai Mixing Glass – known as the workhorse in the industry
Wood cutting board – just for bar
Bar multi use tool — The Original BarBack — 11 functions, 1 tool. Easy to use and store. For more information and to order, visit here.
Bar spoon – Look for one with some weight to it and has a flat edge for muddling
Blender – strong blades and motor for crushing ice.
Hawthorne strainer – has a spring to make it easy to pour
Julep strainer – for use with the mixing glass
Jiggers– for measuringJapanese potato peelers – for zest
Mandoline – slicing fruit and cucumbers for garnish
Muddlers – metal or wood
Brands to consider:
Tip: Make sure wood is naturally treated not chemically treated. No plastic muddlers because alcohol leaches from the plastic.
Silicone ice trays or ice molds
Lewis BagBlowtorch for making brulee for punches and meringues
Ice bucket and tongs
Straws – creative option from Straw Envy. Sparkly crystals make even the simplest cocktails standout.
Porthole — unique infuser for cocktails, lemonade, tea and other beverages created for The Aviary in Chicago
While having beautiful stemware is lovely for entertaining, save it for a dinner party rather than a cocktail party with 20 people. Glasses tend to break more frequently and replacing them won’t be as painful to your pocketbook if you choose inexpensive barware.
Rocks and Collins – Look for heavy bottom glasses that won’t tip over.
Tip: Crate and Barrel is a good place to look for these glasses.
Coupe Glasses – for martinis, manhattans or any cocktails made straight up.
Trivia: this was the original shape of a champagne glass
Wine Glasses — Red, White
- Stemless wine glasses now offer a thumbprint on the glasses to make it easier to hold. Good for wine, punch and cocktails.
Tip: Search estate sales and antique shops
Punch Bowl – great for serving more than 10 people
Molds – use a Bundt pan for making ice molds for punch bowl; different shapes and designs available
This post includes many items that are staples on a home bar as well as fun additions to allow you to see what is available in the marketplace. Be creative in customizing your entertaining space. The options are endless! Please continue to follow Inspiring Kitchen so that we can share the trends in the industry with you as we discover them. Thank you!