I am always saddened when I enter someone’s home and realize they have their liquor hidden away in a kitchen cabinet. A prominent, well-appointed bar is one of the pleasures of adult life (yes, even with kids). Making a drink for yourself and/or a guest should be something you do regularly as far as I am concerned, so making it easy and pleasurable should be a priority.
In order to accommodate this, a home bar should include these elements:
– The right booze. You’d be surprised by how often I see a home stocked only by whatever was left over from a party. For shame. At minimum, a home bar should have gin, bourbon, sweet and dry vermouth, and Angostura bitters. And that is minimum. My next tier would be: absinthe, Campari, tequila, cognac, and Peychaud’s bitters for Sazeracs.
– Sugar cubes. How else are you going to make old-fashioneds?
– Citrus. Lemons, limes, and oranges. This is for both garnish and for getting the juice for citrus drinks.
– A Parisian cocktail shaker. At bars, they put a pint glass over a metal mixing glass and create something called a Boston shaker. That is unneccesary for home use. Google Parisian shaker and get a style that suits you.
– A mixing glass. You’ve heard James Bond say “shaken not stirred,” yeah? This is for your stirred drinks. I use a Pyrex 750ml beaker. It has a spout and can stand up to way more abuse than you can give it.
– A bar spoon. A long spoon for stirring stuff in your mixing glass. And for those rare times when you are making a recipe from an old-timey book that calls for a ‘bar spoon’ of something.
– A julep strainer. This is for straining cocktails after you have stirred them in your mixing glass. Don’t worry about getting one of those strainers that look like a small ping pong paddle with the spring thing. That’s for a Boston shaker, which we’ve already established you don’t need.
– A basic vegetable peeler. This is for peeling off a strip of citrus peel for garnish. Don’t get tricked by the term “twist”. It doesn’t matter if your peel twists. What matters is that you add the oils from the peel to your drink. So a simple vegetable peeler is all you need.
– A muddler. Yes, you may need to muddle mint one day for Mint Juleps, but mostly you will need to crush sugar cubes for old-fashioneds and sazeracs.
– The right glassware. You don’t need to go insane here, but you do need at least three types of glasses: coupes, collins glasses, rocks glasses. Look ’em up.
– Big ice cube trays. I don’t advocate getting too insane about ice, but getting the King big ice cube trays will up your game significantly. And if you do want to get nerdy about ice—i.e. you like your shit clear—you will be delighted by the Neat Ice Kit.