The idea of setting up a home bar and making cocktails may sound as daunting as trying to cut your own hair or perhaps as foolish as being your own attorney. But trust us, when it comes to DIY pursuits, being able to craft a perfect Manhattan or Martini is a very satisfying and relatively easy feat. Whether you’re entertaining your boss or your girlfriend, making cocktails for guests will seal your rep as an excellent host. “The whole point of having a bar at home is to make your guests happy,” says Esteban Ordonez, a beverage consultant and mixologist based in New York.
So where do you start? We’ve broken it down into four easy buckets – no pun intended
The foundation of any bar is the booze itself. Start with the five basic spirits: Tequila, rum, vodka, whiskey and gin, says Ordonez. Don’t worry about having three choices in each spirit. But then again, since it’s your personal bar, there’s nothing wrong with having some bottles for guests and other special stuff — like the single-estate Tequila Ocho Añejo — which you stash away for sipping solo or with a very good friend. Here is a simple “If – Then” breakdown of your spirit selection:
If Tequila then go for Patron Silver and use it for a Classic Margarita
If Rum then go for Don Q Silver and use it for a Daquiri or Mojito
If Vodka then go for Grey Goose or Absolut and use it for a Martini or Vodka Soda
If Whiskey then go for Michters Rye and use it for a Rye Manhattan
If Gin then go for Beefeater or Plymouth and use it for a Martini or Gin & Tonic
Once you get these basics covered, your next trip to the liquor store may inspire you to branch out a bit. If you like tequila, try mezcal, or if you’re into bourbon, you may want to add a single-malt scotch. “If you see something that gets your attention, pick it up and play with it as you have the bar it will evolve and grow,” says Ordonez.
Mixers & Fresh Ingredients
Some people wouldn’t dream of drinking anything but their favorite spirit straight up or with a couple ice cubes. But most guests will want something to cut the firewater, so you’ll want to stock mixers.
The basics include tonic water and club soda, ginger ale, cola and orange juice. “Whiskey and ginger ale is quick, rum and Coke or tequila, soda and lime and you don’t want to waste time going to the store,” says Ordonez. If you’re not a soda drinker, look for demi cans or little bottles that take up less space. Step up your game with triple sec or orange liqueur for margaritas and simple syrup for sweetening drinks like Mojitos. Ordonez says it’s easy to make your own by boiling 1-1/4 cup sugar with a cup of water. When the sugar crystals dissolve, let it cool and store it in a pretty bottle with a pouring spout.
For Martini and Manhattan drinkers, the most crucial mixers are vermouth, both dry (the white one) and sweet (the red one). A proper Manhattan also calls for bitters, a little mix of roots and herbs in an alcohol base. Get the Angostura ones, and maybe some orange bitters. Plus, if a guest ever gets an upset stomach, Angostura bitters in club soda will fix them right up. Aside from the mixers, be sure to store jars of olives and real marasca cherries in your refrigerator, and when it’s time to entertain, pick up fresh lemons, limes and mint, since you can count on at least one guest wanting a Mojito.