Happy Hour: 11.20.19
Every person I know who enjoys liquor dreams of a home bar stocked with great spirits and fine wine where friends and family can gather and enjoy themselves. Then, reality sets in. Liquor and wine can be expensive, and there are so many recipes for so many cocktails that unless you are in the restaurant industry, things can get confusing. But your bar can be more than just a hodgepodge of random spirits leftover from parties. Here are a few tips for a well-stocked, festive home bar for the upcoming holiday season and beyond.
▶ Always have the ingredients to make a Long Island. Not only is it a great drink, but the ingredients make up the staples of any bar: vodka, gin, tequila, rum and triple sec. With these ingredients, you can make countless different drinks like margaritas, lemon drops and cosmopolitans. You’ll also have everything on hand for simple cocktails that only require juices and tonics.
▶ Have a whiskey to use as a mixer. Nothing is worse than a party guest mixing your expensive whiskey with Coke. Building a home bar inventory is an investment, so if you want pricier options, you definitely also want some more accessible brands for everyday drinks. Jim Beam is a great whiskey to have on hand for people to mix in whatever they want (and your heart won’t sink). Save the good stuff for special occasions.
▶ Vermouth, Campari and Aperol … the rest are just details. Once you have your base spirits, you need just a few other things to create a respectable home bar. I would buy vermouth, Campari and Aperol—in that order. With vermouth, you can make Manhattans; Campari, Negronis and boulevardiers; and with Aperol, you have what you need for a refreshing Aperol spritz or the now-popular Paper Plane. Sure, you can buy things like Lillet, Crème de violette and coffee liqueurs, but at the very least, you want to have vermouth at least the same quality of the popular brand Dolin.
▶ Take it slow. Home bars take time and experimentation. Go to a good liquor store and pick up the basics, then slowly build up the rest. A few times a year, pick up an obscure liquor you wouldn’t normally buy, like Amaro. Even if you don’t like it, you’ll have something that might interest a guest at your party. Plus, having an array of liquors makes you look like you have a sophisticated palate. Go to local cocktail bars, look at menus and ask bartenders questions. Professionals usually love talking about ‘in the know’ liquors because that’s what they are drinking. With time and some smart buys, you easily can make your home bar the place to be this holiday season.
Anthony Geary is sommelier at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis.