Monday, April 27, 2009

Raising the Bar

Admit it: at one point or another we've all imbibed a cocktail or two made from the disparate (and desperate) remnants of a less-than-fully-stocked bar. I recall a particularly repugnant Jagermeister, peach schnapps and cranberry juice cocktail, the memory of which still triggers my gag reflex. The part of me that used to happily put back those types of cockamamie concoctions — as a "pre-game" on a Tuesday night, usually with a paper due — retired after college (but reserves the right to make cameo appearances at my friends' bachelorette parties).
Now I prefer a more civilized libation, like the "first Gin and Tonic of the Spring" (with extra limes) that my husband and I shared on our terrace at sunset last night- heavenly.
Even if you aren't much of a drinker yourself, now that we're grownups in the Real World it's time to channel the Chairman of the Board and get yourself a real, grown-up home bar (in case I come over and want to mix something up). With these selections, you will be able to make almost any cocktail your little boozy heart might desire. While alcohol don't come cheap (and if it does, I recommend avoiding it), the good news is that it never goes bad, so this is a one-time lump investment that will only require occasional replenishment. So, without further ado, I present to you:

The Charmed Guide to Home Bar Essentials


1. Vodka. No need to go super high-end unless you drink it straight. Stolichnaya is good, reasonably-priced option. I keep it in the freezer.
2. Gin. I like Bombay Sapphire, but Beefeater or Tanqueray are both decent.
3. Light Rum. Like Bacardi Gold.
4. Dark Rum. Like Myer's.
5. Tequila. I'm comfortable with Cuervo or Sauza, but Patron is noticeably smoother.
6. Bourbon. We like Maker's Mark. And by that I mean, my husband likes Maker's Mark.
7. Scotch. I'm not a Scotch drinker, but usually keep a bottle of Johnnie Walker or Chivas around for guests.
8. Rye. I've only ever had Old Overholt, but it does the trick.
9. Sweet and Dry Vermouth. For the Sweet we have Punt e Mes, and for the Dry we buy Martini & Rossi.
10. Triple Sec. Essential for a deelish Marg — any cheap store brand will do. Don't use up your extra cash upgrading here.
11. Cognac. You know, Hennessy, Remy Martin, Courvoisier... in case you have Busta Rhymes over for drinks.
12. Cointreau. An orange liquor. You could sub Grand Marnier instead- they are not exactly the same, but similar enough to stand in for each other in a Cosmo or dessert recipe.
13. Campari. Necessary for Negronis. Yum.
14. Bitters. Like Angostura's or Peychaud's.
15. 2-3 bottles of each of the following:
Red Wine
White Wine
Champagne (you never know when you are going to have something to celebrate!)
16.Beer. I always keep at least six bottles in the fridge.

1. Fresh Lemons, Limes and Oranges. These are also helpful for warding off scurvy.
2. Cocktail onions. For the "Gibson" variation on a Martini.
3. Olives.
4. Maraschino cherries. Keep these in the back of your fridge. They make a nice snack when you are truly out of groceries (at least they beat the mayonnaise).
5. Celery. I make sure I have it in the fridge if I suspect Bloody Marys might be on the horizon.

1. Soda.
2. Tonic. I really like Vintage brand, but that might just be a New York thing. Canada Dry is also fine.
3. Ginger Ale.
4. 7-Up or Sprite.
5. Coke or Diet Coke or both.
6. Tomato Juice (I like V-8, ever since I found out Clamato has MSG in it)
7. Peppermill
8. Tabasco
9. Worcestershire Sauce
10. Ice.
Frozen Minute Maid cans of the following, kept in the freezer:
11. Cranberry juice.
12. Orange juice.
13. Limeade.

Bar Snacks:
1. A can of nuts.
2. Some dried fruits.
3. A bag of fancy potato chips.

1. Ice Bucket and Scoop.
2. Stirrer. A tall spoon will do in a pinch.
3. Shaker. You'll need it when James Bond stops by.
4. Bottle Opener. The one on your key chain doesn't count.
5. Corkscrew. You don't have to spend a million dollars on a CO2-fueled one, but don't cheap out, either- the inexpensive ones tend to break easily.
6. Strainer.
7. Shot glass. For measuring, not downing Kamakazes.
8. Cocktail Napkins. Get some cute paper ones.
9. A Nice Glass Pitcher
10. A Bartending Guide.

Bottoms Up!

photo credit: Pottery Barn

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