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Essentials for the Home Bar
By Lauren Hall January 21, 2009
Rocks Glass- Also called Old Fashioneds or Tumblers. The single Old Fashioned is smaller and suited for stronger drinks over ice (like the Old Fashioned) or spirits served neat (sans ice). The double Old Fashion is a larger version most commonly used for mixed drinks, such as a gin and tonic. A well stocked bar should have both, yet the double Old Fashion serves both purposes.
Highball Glass- Not only do mixed drinks look amazing in an elongated glass, but just as with Champagne flutes, a smaller opening causes carbonation to hold longer in those fizzy drinks.
Pint Glasses- Traditionally used to serve ‘pints’ of beer, these are perfect mixing glasses if you plan to make cocktails.
Shot Glass- Shot glasses are a staple at most bars, though are rarely used before midnight or outside of college campuses. But they are relatively affordable, don’t take up much space, and hold a sentimental place in most barmen’s hearts — so we felt they deserved a mention.
Vodka-The quality of Vodka tends to be reflected in its price.
Gin-There are many levels of herb infused Gin; Hendricks will be light and smooth with notes of cucumber and rose petal while a brand like Bombay Sapphire will be heavily spiced with Juniper Berry.
Whiskey-Whether its rye, bourbon, or scotch—it’s a whiskey. A good guide line is to keep a lighter style whiskey for mixing and a more robust or refined whiskey for sipping (ie. Scotch or single barrel bourbon).
Tequila-The type of tequila is determined by the aging process. Blanco (unaged) is a great for mixing, Resposado (moderately aged) makes the best margarita, and Anejo (heavily aged) has a smokiness that makes it ideal for sipping.
Rum- Rums also come in light, golden, and dark shades. The darker the rum the higher residual sugar it will have.
Sure this is great advice, but when it comes right down to it, you want to stock your bar according to what you and your guests like to drink and what cocktails you plan to serve. Spend wisely, if you plan to make a mixed drink then a moderately priced spirit will do—the subtleties of expensive top shelf liquors can be lost when other components are added.
Mixers and Liqueurs
When it comes to garnish, it is worth the extra few dollars to purchase gourmet and artisan olives, cherries, and cocktail onions. Small jars are much better suited for a home bar. Just remember, if you wouldn’t eat it straight from the jar you should never put it in your cocktail.
Tending you bar is all about preparation and adequately stocking product while mixologists tinker with spirits and spices, juices and liqueurs until they reach their desired result, much like the difference between a line cook and a chef. Mixology can get expensive and messy in a home bar unless you are extremely familiar with the basics.
Always remember: drink what you like; a well-made cocktail takes time, and if it comes in a cheap bottle it will probably taste cheap as well.
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