Whether you’re entertaining loved ones or trying to drink them away, the run-up to Christmas and New Year’s is a good time to build or improve your home cocktail bar. Invest in basic equipment, and stock up on essential liquors. Get your tools ready before thirsty friends and relatives descend for the holidays.
Unless you already have a built-in bar, a mobile bar is the best option, as it can be wheeled out when needed and stored when not. A slick sideboard will also fit the bill – bonus points if there’s a cabinet to display your favorite bottles.
The equipment needed to mix a cocktail is simple to master, and you don’t need a lot of it.
- Ice bag
- Bar spoon
- Cocktail shaker
- Ice cube trays
Depending on you and your guests’ favorite cocktails, you’ll want to have a range of different glassware. Having a selection of highballs, rocks glasses, champagne flutes, wineglasses and Martini glasses should set you up to service any request.
A ten-bottle bar should meet all your cocktail needs, giving you the ingredients to make hundreds of recipes. Here’s the only liquor you need, along with mixers.
Bourbon: For Manhattans, old fashioned, and whiskey sours.
Gin: For martinis, gin and tonics, Tom Collinses, etc.
Rum: For daiquiris and mojitos
Tequila: For margaritas, sunrises, and palomas. The best tequilas are made from 100 percent agave; check the label.
Vodka: Vodka is the workhorse of the liquor cabinet, used in basic drinks such as vodka tonics, screwdrivers, and the vodka martini.
Cognac: For sidecars, brandy milk punches, crustas, daisies, and smashes.
Cointreau or Triple Sec: A bar essential — clean, full of natural orange flavor, and not too sweet.
Vermouth dry/sweet: For Manhattans. Essential for truly sublime martinis.
Bitters: are used not to make the drink taste bitter but to help other flavors blend.
Sodas, all of them: The “soda” in most cocktail names refers to club soda or seltzer, not cola. But honestly, having cola, ginger ale, and a fizzy citrus choice around alongside seltzer isn’t the worst idea. Plenty of people drink them, after all. Bar tip: buy individual cans rather than larger liter sizes—if you’re a regular soda drinker, you’ll know that these are your mixer stash. If you’re not a regular soda drinker, you’ll won’t lose any money on spare soda going flat.
Find a good cocktail book or app. No one knows every drink out there. So find a good guide to mixed drinks. I suggest an actual book rather than an app for a few reasons. First, drinks don’t really change so you don’t need something that is being updated. Second, you can leave it behind the bar and tab the drinks you make often. Third, you don’t have to worry about getting your mobile device wet or sticky!