Many of us host parties during Derby Season and from the entertaining front, the home bar is the center of attention.
Here is a guide to help you get that home bar up and running.
For beginning entertainers, the bar is a place to build upon as you start to entertain more often. Don’t worry about getting everything all at once. Build your tools, spirits and glass collection a little at a time.
I recommend you invest in the proper tools and buy the best. Quality tools will last you a lifetime and add to the elegance of your bar. For glassware, start with a nice Chardonnay glass. These glasses can multi-task as white, red and even sparkling glasses.
The bar is an important component to entertaining. There are a few must-have tools, spirits, mixers, condiments and glassware items that equip a home bar able to satisfy any guest. Start with the basics and build as you go. And always remember to be a responsible host and offer plenty of alcohol-free choices.
- Lemon juice (fresh)
- Lime juice (fresh)
- Sweetened lime juice
- Lemon-lime soda
- Club soda
- Tonic water
- Orange juice
- Tomato juice
- Pineapple juice
- Grapefruit juice
- Cranberry juice
ESSENTIAL CONDIMENT CHECKLIST
- Bitters (regular and orange)
- Grenadine syrup
- Tabasco sauce
- Superfine sugar
- Cream (heavy and light)
- Simple syrup
- Cocktail olives
- Cocktail onions
- Maraschino cherries
- Fresh mint
Three types will satisfy your needs for most cocktails. Look for glassware that is simple in shape, easy to handle and with a thin lip or rim.
- Rocks or bucket glass
- Collins or tall
- Martini or cocktail
- Good insulated ice bucket that doesn’t sweat when filled with ice
- Ice scoop or tongs
- Cobbler shaker (three pieces: tin, top with strainer and cap)
- Boston shaker (two pieces: mixing glass and tin)
- Mixing glass
- Wine key or opener
- Measuring cups
- Hawthorn and Julep strainers (Hawthorn holds back the ice and larger ingredients, the Julep will help with any pulp or other materials)
- Microplane zester for zesting fruit
- Sharp knife to cut fruit
- Channel knife for creating twists
- Cocktails are the life of the party. A well-made drink highlights the spirit, while balancing other flavors.
- The original cocktails were quite simple. In 1806, a newspaper article described them as a spirit of any kind, water, sugar and bitters.
- Many of the originals, like the Manhattan and Daiquiri, have stood the test of time.
- The Manhattan is whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters.
- The classic Daiquiri is rum, lime juice and simple syrup.
- Today there are many recipes and new concoctions for cocktails with a vast array of flavors and ingredients. Bartenders are becoming bar chefs as they experiment with new ingredients, herbs and spices. I invite you to try new flavors and spirits at home as well. Here are a few tips on making and designing cocktails.
- Always measure each ingredient.
- Always use fresh ingredients when possible.
- Unless a recipe calls for crushed ice, always use large cubes of fresh, solid ice so your cocktail will not become overly diluted.
- If a recipe calls for crushed ice, place the large cubes in a clean bar towel, wrap, and crush by hammering with a rolling pin.
- Never reuse ice in a cocktail shaker.
- Fill ice cube trays with bottled or filtered water to avoid “off” flavors.
- When serving a drink over ice, always fill the glass with ice all the way to the top, then fill with the chilled cocktail from the shaker or glass.
- Always fill your shaker two-thirds full of ice and shake for a good 25 seconds. Never shake carbonated beverages.
- Don’t forget to garnish.