This year, we have all been doing a lot from home: working, schooling, working out and, well, drinking. After all, what would all the hard work be for if we did not reward ourselves? Because we miss our go-to bar with our favorite bartender who mixes up our favorite drinks, maybe it’s time to pick up a new hobby and learn to bartend at home for you and your guests. All you need is a home bar set up and a little bit of cocktail knowledge.
By definition, a cocktail is an alcoholic beverage that consists of a combination of ingredients including spirits, liqueurs, sweeteners, fruit juices, or creams.
There are different tools and techniques used by bartenders to craft the perfect cocktail. Since most cocktails are shaken or stirred, you’ll need a shaker, mixing glass, jigger, strainer, bar spoon, muddler, peeler, juicer, paring knife and cocktail picks.
After the cocktail is made, there are different ways to serve the drink. A cocktail served “up” is shaken or stirred with ice and strained into a stemmed glass with no ice, such as a Martini or Manhattan. A cocktail served “on the rocks” is also shaken or stirred with ice, then poured in a rocks glass over ice, such as a margarita or old fashioned. Some spirits like bourbon, tequila and single malt scotch are best enjoyed straight out of the bottle either “neat” meaning no ice, or “on the rocks” meaning over one large piece of ice, ideally a perfect sphere of ice made with your Meltdown.
A “highball” cocktail is usually one spirit and one mixer served over ice in a tall, highball glass, such as a gin and tonic or whiskey and coke. So, you’ll want to stock your home bar with the appropriate glassware; stemmed glasses, such as coupes, Nick & Nora’s or martini glasses, rocks glasses, highball glasses and shot glasses, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Your home bar should have a variety of spirits, liqueurs, mixers, bitters, sweeteners and garnishes. You could customize your home bar according to what you like to drink, with a diverse collection of your favorite spirits. Or you could mimic a professional bar and be ready to serve all the classics.
Here’s a basic list of the most popular classics categorized by the base spirit:
- Vodka – Moscow Mule, Cosmo, Martini, Bloody Mary
- Gin – Martini, Negroni, Gimlet, Vesper
- Rum – Daiquiri, Mojito, Dark & Stormy
- Tequila – Margarita, Paloma, Tequila Sunrise
- Whiskey/Bourbon – Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Whiskey Sour, Mint Julep
- Champagne – Spritz, French 75
Here are some liqueurs to add to your home bar; Aperol, Campari, Chambord, Chartreuse, Cointreau, Frangelico, Lillet, St. Germain.
You’ll also want:
- Vermouth – both dry and sweet
- Sweetener – agave or simple syrup
- Mixers – any sodas of your choice, tonic, club soda, cranberry, orange, grapefruit or pineapple juices. Citrus juice, such as lime or lemon juice, is best freshly squeezed
- Bitters – choose one you like; Angostura is a nice, well-rounded option to start with
- Garnishes – limes, lemons, oranges, cherries, olives, mint, cocktail onions, celery, pickles
Once you have everything stocked in your home bar, start practicing. Pick up a cocktail book for recipes, techniques and more knowledge on spirits and the history of cocktails. Then invite your friends over and impress them with your new skills and, of course, your Meltdown.