Stocking a bar for Mixing Cocktails
The basic cocktail spirits are vodka, gin, rum (light and dark), and whiskey. Two possible love-them-or-hate-them additions are tequila (for margaritas) and brandy (for warming winter drinks like eggnog). Many fancy cocktails also require flavoured liqueurs, like triple sec or Amaretto. Flavoured spirits have a relatively short shelf life, so if you buy a bottle, keep it in the fridge once opened and use it up within a year.
In addition to alcohol, a good cocktail requires a mixer: soda water, tonic water, pop, or juice. Mixers take up a lot of space and often don’t keep, so it’s best to buy small quantities regularly. However, it’s handy to stock up with a few cans of pop and some 250ml individual juice boxes. (Don’t buy bottles unless you’re making a whole batch of cocktails, because they lose their freshness after opening.) Their tough packaging means they’ll last for years in the cupboard, so you’ll have emergency mixers to serve unexpected guests.
In addition to all the booze, you’ll need equipment to make the cocktail.
The Boston-style cocktail shaker – A large metal tumbler which you close with another glass, looks more professional than the bottle-shaped cobbler.
A strainer is essential, unless you like picking bits of fruit out of your teeth, and a measuring jigger is useful. For long drinks, you’ll need a cocktail spoon (for mixing in the glass) and a muddler (for crushing fruit and herbs).
Food Processor (strong enough for ice). Always have twice as much ice as you think you need.
The final thing to think about is presentation. Most drinks have traditional garnishes served with them – like a dirty martini will often have Spanish Olives and possible a lemon twist. Be prepared to make any cocktail –olives, brown sugar, Grenadine, salt, Tabasco on hand. For rimming glasses you may want flavoured salts. Obviously, fresh garnishes like cucumber or mint can’t be stored for very long, so start with a little of everything, and replenish when you know your typical owners/guests preferences.
There’s a dizzying range of different cocktails, but it takes very few components to make the perfect drink. Take quality spirits, and serve with a fresh mixer in a suitable glass. The key is to keep enough of these ingredients to hand that you can put together a classic drink at a moment’s notice.