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Friday, June 11, 2010

Cocktails 101: Stocking your cocktail bar for great drinks

The first step to stocking your bar is to take stock of what you have.  Most amateur mixologists will not be starting from scratch.  By the time you decide that you want to learn how to shake, stir, and pour your own cocktails, you have probably been sampling cocktails in bars or restaurants for a while, and mixing simple drinks at home.  What kind of liquor do you have around the house?  Put it all on the kitchen counter and see what you’ve got.  (If it won’t fit, you may well have already stocked your bar.)  Don’t bother with wine and beer at this point; you’ll need to have some around for parties and everyday consumption, but don’t really belong in your cocktail bar.

Unless you’re lucky, space is always an issue.  It’s often cheaper to buy bigger bottles, but you may not have room for very many of them.  750 ml. bottles are probably the right size.  If you’re budget conscious, you can buy 1750 ml. bottles when they’re on sale and use them to refill the smaller bottles in your bar.  Never try to deceive your guests by refilling expensive bottles with cheap booze; you will fool no one, and hurt your reputation in the process. 

Begin by stocking a basic bar.  As you buy the necessary ingredients for specific cocktails, your bar will grow and evolve (this will happen organically if you start a drink-of-the-month club).  If you’re on a budget, don’t try to buy everything at once; buy bottles as you need them and you’ll be able to afford better brands.  If you and your friends lean toward a certain type of drink (e.g. rum or gin), stock those first.  You should also consider the types of cocktails you will be pouring.  If you plan on making Gin or Vodka Martinis you will want to buy better quality brands of those liquors than if you plan on making Vodka Collins or Tom Collins. 

Now it’s time to get down to business and look at the liquors you will need to have a well-stocked home cocktail bar.  You should stock your bar with Rum, Vodka, Gin, Bourbon, Tequila, Brandy, and Whiskey, as well as a variety of liqueurs and mixers, to have all you need to make fabulous cocktails.  Remember, all of these spirits are available across a broad range of price and quality.  Try to determine if you’re paying for a difference in quality and taste, or just for a brand name and a lot of advertising.  Three popular, top selling liquors are Rum, Vodka and Gin; follow this link to a post that recommends some good, but not too expensive, brands and some recipes to use them in.  Let’s not forget Bourbon, Tequila, Brandy, Whiskey and a selection of liqueurs.  (You were probably just thinking “hey, he forgot [insert your favorite here].”)  Follow this link to my recommendations for Bourbon, Tequila, Brandy, Whiskey, etc.  

Never forget bar safety.  If you have children in your home, keep your bar locked or out of reach.  By the time they’re teenagers, locked is the best option.  Alcohol and kids do not mix.  We used to keep ours (bottles, not kids) in a cabinet above the fridge. You may think you can trust your kids, and you may be right, but what about their friends? Be safe and avoid heartbreak.
stocking bar, entertaining

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