Home Cocktail Bar Essentials: A Basic Guide
Setting up a home cocktail bar can seem a little daunting at first.
If you have ever been into a professional bar that specializes in cocktails, you will see row after row of assorted drinks, many of them exotic colors and with interesting names.
The truth is that to make many of the most popular cocktails you do not actually need that many spirits, mixers or syrups.
The definition of a cocktail is a spirit or several spirits mixed with other ingredients.
So while most of us associate a cocktail with more exotic mixtures, a scotch and water can be a cocktail by this definition.
Although other definitions consider that a cocktail needs at least two alcoholic drinks plus one other.
Whatever definition you choose to use you will, of course, need to know some recipes to mix the drinks and have the tools with which to mix them.
We are going to take a look at a few of the essentials that every cocktail bar should have.
With these essentials you will be able to make a surprisingly large variety of drinks.
A selection of glasses is essential.
A quick search on the internet will bring up sets of glasses with a variety of sizes to get you started.
Most cocktails can be served in highball and old fashion glasses but some, such as a margarita and the iconic martini, are better presented when served in the appropriate type of glass. Having several shot glasses can help with measuring volumes of various mixes out.
Cocktail Recipe Book
Having a cocktail book with recipes available is very useful, you can see what you can make with the ingredients that you have.
There are many books available, with a selection of drinks ranging from the popular to some very obscure concoctions. Many of these books are available as eBooks or suitable for tablets.
> We highly recommend you check out The Ultimate Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich <
Many cocktails don’t actually need shaking, some do and having a proper shaker all adds to the spirit of the making if the drink.
Cocktail shakers can range in price from a few dollars up to the hundreds.
A quick online search will bring up a number of inexpensive cocktail sets which include a shaker and all the accessories, such as strainers, that go with it. Remember for a drink that requires any soda in it, shake the drink before adding the soda.
Many cocktails are made with crushed ice. A blender is great for breaking the ice up and mixing the drink ingredients together at the same time.
While not an essential a small refrigerator for your bar can make life easier.
Most cocktails use a lot of ice, so having it on hand saves having to keep replenishing ice buckets.
There are a number of small accessories that all go to add to a cocktail occasion. Here are a few suggestions;
- Salt ‘rimmer’ – for getting a small rim of salt around the lip of the glass – essential for the perfect Margarita.
- Swizzle sticks
- Accessory caddy – for keeping everything tidy
- Jiggers – of various sizes
- Ice buckets and tongs
- Cocktail picks – for olives and cherries etc.
- Drinking straws
- Crusher – for mint leaves (essential for making a perfect Mojito)
- Cutting board and knife – for slicing limes etc.
Most people will already have the basic alcohol content for many cocktail drinks. For example;
- White Rum
- Dark Rum
Just putting ‘vodka cocktails’ or ‘gin cocktails’ into a search engine will pull up a hundred or more different cocktails.
Mixers and Syrups
Sodas are the most common mixer for the majority of cocktails with fruit juices a close second.
After that there are a number of inexpensive mixers that can either be made up yourself or bought ready-made. A sour mix, for example, when added to a spirit can make;
- Vodka Collins: use a highball glass, add 1 ½ oz. vodka, 2oz sour mix. Then give a short shake. Top up the glass with Club soda, add a cherry & orange
- Tom Collins: Made the same as Vodka Collins but use Gin instead of Vodka
- John Collins: Made the same as Vodka Collins but use Whiskey instead of Vodka
- Joe Collins: made the same as a Vodka Collins but with Scotch instead of Vodka
One of the most versatile syrups that you can have for your home cocktail bar is Grenadine.
It is a very sweet, red syrup that is used in a wide variety of cocktails. You can buy it ready-made but it is very easy to make your own, adjusting the sweetness to suit your tastes.
The standard measure is 1 cup of pomegranate juice to ¼ cup of sugar. The mixture is rapidly brought to the boil and mixed until it thickens slightly.
When it cools a small amount of lemon juice can be added to bring out the tartness of the syrup.
Two of the most famous cocktails that use Grenadine are a Tequila Sunrise and a Pink Lady.
There are several more less well known such as;
- Pink Martini
- Planter’s Punch
- Mary Pickford
- Jack Rose
A quick search on the internet will bring up dozens more, all using Grenadine.
Syrups and mixers can also be used to make a number of non-alcoholic cocktails.
These non-alcoholic cocktails look identical to many of their alcoholic counterparts (and, in fact, taste very similar to many as well) and allow people who do not wish to drink alcohol to join in with everyone else.
When you start to get a collection of spirits and syrups, displaying them on an illuminated shelf all adds to the cocktail bar ambience.
To get you started a selection of bottles with colored liquids gives the same visual effect.
As well as the drinks and mixers for cocktails, it is a good idea to have a selection if drinks for those that would rather drink something else, such as wine or beers.
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