"First things first: where are you going to put the darn thing? From standard built-ins in the basement to swanky glass and chrome carts in the living room, home bars reflect the image you want to project, says Kristen Voisey, owner of BYOB Cocktail Emporium in Toronto.
How much you spend on the bar is up to you – a beautiful, contemporary bar cart will run you $500 and up or you can re-purpose an old piece of furniture – just add hardware and a glass rack. One thing I love about home bars is that they become an important part of your decor aesthetic – they’re functional and pretty to look at.
If you’re just starting out, there’s no need to go crazy. Voisey advises sticking with a few, top quality, essentials, If you’re going to take the trouble to set up a beautiful home bar, you might as well make the best drinks that you can, she says.Voisey recommends gin, vodka, light and dark rum, rye, (silver) tequila, bourbon and a few aperitifs and mixers like Cointreau, Vermouth (dry and sweet), Campari and St. Germain or Chartreuse to get you started and offer loads of cocktail flexibility.
Clearly, fresh fruits like limes, lemons, berries as well as fresh herbs can not be stocked far in advance. However, stocking jars of maraschino cherries, olives, onions and pickled beans can be done anytime – just make sure to refrigerate opened containers.
We talked about this not long ago, but having a few quality bitters on hand can elevate your drink from standard to sublime.We carry over 100 kinds of bitters, so choosing what you need can be overwhelming, says Voisey. Start with the basics, decide what you like and want to try, and go from there. You can also pick up the Bitters Book to guide you along.
For the uninitiated, Voisey recommends Angostura, Peychauds, and Regan’s Orange.
Nearly as important as the hooch itself, the right glassware offers sleek sophistication to cocktails.You’ll want classic shapes for your glassware, though, counsels Voisey. The coupe, the old fashioned and the Collins glasses are a must. Punch bowls are also fun to have on-hand for parties. It’s back in a big way and there are so many delicious recipes you can throw together.
To make a good cocktail, you are going to need tools. You can go absolutely crazy here if you really want, but Voisey suggests a starter kit of utilitarian pieces with one or two unexpected elements thrown in.
A Boston Shaker, a hawthorne strainer, a sharp knife, citrus zester, a muddler, a barspoon and jiggers of various measures. I also stress the importance of a citrus juice press – ALWAYS use fresh juice. It makes all the difference in the world to your cocktails. I’d also recommend picking up some King Cubes – if you’re making something that needs to be served on-ice, you will want a bigger cube otherwise you’ll be drinking watery cocktails. Gross.
Make mine a double
So now you've got the bar, the booze, the glasses and the right tools. So, um, how do you make a martini anyhow? Or how about that trendy Negroni? There is an unending library of how to make cocktails but Voisey recommends The Savoy by Harry Craddock for classic cocktails and The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan for fun stuff. Or she says, just ask your favourite barkeep. Choosing what to make might be, as easy as, observing your favourite bartender at work and asking them to share recipes, she says."
-Sept. 7, 2013