Entertaining season is in full swing! Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner, or just a seasonal cocktail party, there is one thing you’ll want to make sure you have: a fully-stocked, well-equipped bar. We teamed up with Lou Bustamante author of The Complete Cocktail Manual and member of The United States Bartenders Guild to offer up tips for home bartending. First up? Everything you need to make some killer cocktails at home. Cheers!
Beginner’s Bottles – To give you a sense of what a versatile collection of bottles for bartending looks like, USBG bartender Kevin Diedrich (San Francisco Chapter) of PCH (Pacific Cocktail Haven) compiled his ideal ingredient list for beginners.
Small Sweet Vermouth
Small Dry Vermouth
1. Cocktail Shaker – Besides liquor and ice, a shaker is the only thing that’s absolutely necessary to make cocktails. The variations in style are endless, but stick to two-part shakers, such as French or Boston styles. Three-part shakers, where the strainer is built into the top, can freeze up at the seams.
2. Strainer – There are two basic types of strainers: a Hawthorne (which ahs a loose spring forming a half circle on the lip), and a julep (which looks like a squat, slotted spoon), but you probably only need the Hawthorne—the julep is for stirred drinks, but often a Hawthorne fits and works better.
3. Bar Spoon – Use a bar spoon for making stirred drinks and fishing cherries out of their jars. You can also use a long spoon, like those for iced tea; but if you don’t have one, it’s easy to find a nice, inexpensive bar spoon.
4. Tongs – When handling ice, stainless-steel tongs are a must to keep the temperature down. They can also come in handy when grabbing garnishes.
5. Jigger – Free-pouring (mixing without using measuring tools) is a skill that takes time to develop; until then, please measure—a fraction of an ounce can turn a great drink into a bad one. Double-ended jiggers are great for speed but not for flexibility— if you need a quarter ounce of something, you’ll ahve to eyeball it. The small measuring-cup-style ones are a better choice for beginners.
6. Muddler or Hand Juicer – A good muddler is essential for incorporating bold flavors from fresh herbs and fruits into a cocktail. Fresh juice is critical in a good cocktail, and the best juicing tool when making drinks on a small scale is a citrus press. They’re fast, extract both fragrant citrus oils (from the peels and rinds) and juices, and they clean up easily.
1. Cocktail – Shaken drinks like a Cosmopolitan or Lemon Drop [recipes featured in The Complete Cocktail Manual] get a classic cocktail glass. And just because it goes in this glass doesn’t mean you need to add “-tini” to the name. Please.
2. Coupe – Coupe glasses were used for Champagne, originally, but are now popularly used for stirred and shaken classic drinks like the Daiquiri.
4. Collins – Drinks with soda, juices, or low-alcohol patio drinks such as a Pimm’s Cup, are best in a Collins glass. You’ll need a bottle brush for washing the tall, narrow kind.
5. Old Fashioned – Ideal for spirit-focused cocktails that may or may not come with ice, like the namesake Old Fashioned, Sazerac, and Negroni.