Most folks have the makings of an alcoholic drink at home when entertaining, but an actual bar is impressive and classy. Mixing a drink at your own bar can help romance a date, impress a friend or relative or even help schmooze your boss or a business client. You’ll also feel wonderful knowing appreciative people are enjoying drinks that you made. Here’s what you need to know to create your own home bar.
Alcohol: The most important ingredient
The standards include vodka, gin, white rum, tequila, Scotch, Canadian or bourbon whiskey and maybe a Cognac or brandy.
When it comes to mixers there are two categories: alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Depending on what cocktails you want to make, alcoholic versions might include red and white vermouth and Cointreau. Soft selections are club soda, tonic water, cola, Sprite or 7-Up, ginger ale, juices (orange, cranberry, tomato, pineapple, etc.) and although not exactly a mixer, Angostura bitters.
Garnishes: The finishing touch
Garnishes add a bit of decorative flare or flavour to a drink and provide something to munch on as you sip. These include cocktail olives and onions (along with toothpicks), limes, lemons, Tabasco sauce, horseradish, salt, pepper, sugar and ice, and any herbs for special cocktails like mint or rosemary.
Barware: The tools of the trade
You’ll need a jigger (an hourglass-shaped measuring device, usually made of metal, containing two different measuring amounts – one on either side of the hourglass — used to pour accurate amounts of alcohol into a drink). A “cocktail shaker” of some sort is also required. This two-part unit includes a metal cup with another portion, either metal or glass, that may have measuring numbers on it, and that fits over the metal cup allowing a drink to be mixed or shaken in it. It often has a strainer to sift out large residue when pouring. A long bar spoon for stirring; a “muddler” (like a pestle) used to mash herbs, fruits, and spices; and a paring knife for slicing citrus peels or wedges and chopping herbs, complete the list.
Glassware: The proper vessel
You really only need a short glass and a tall one for most drinks, but if you want to get specific, you should have several different styles: highball, old-fashioned, Martini, shot and rocks glass. (You should also have some wine stems and beer mugs, as well, if serving those.)
Finally, you’ll need somewhere to keep all of this. Some sort of cabinet will easily do or one of the prefab bars (some with a built fridge and sink) on the market with a prep area and storage compartment for ingredients and glassware. If space is a real issue, you could simply use the top of your refrigerator or a cabinet in the kitchen. Keep a decent mixology recipe book with your bar and you’re good to go.
If this all sounds too much for you, you don’t have to go all out initially. Start off small, basic and simple and as you get more comfortable with the concept, you can expand and maybe end up having an actual bar in your living space somewhere. You might even have bar stools. If so, it most likely will become a gathering point in your home when entertaining and you’ll have fun playing barkeep. Many new homes today have wet bars built right into them. No matter how grand or simple your in-home bar, just remember to serve alcohol responsibly.