Cocktail Chameleon on Forbes.com
BUILDING A SUPREME LUXURY HOME BAR, FROM CAMPARI TO CHERRIES
By Elana Golub
A high-end in-home bar is a crucial component to quality entertaining. However, with such a wide range of potential inventory, it’s hard to discern what items are essential. Author of Cocktail Chameleon and entertaining expert Mark Addison gives his recommendations for the core collection of personal mixology musts that will leave house guests feeling refreshed and impressed.
Many people will fill their liquor cabinet with six standard spirits: vodka, gin, rum, tequila, whiskey and either cognac or brandy. However, by keeping certain varieties on hand, you’ll be able to cater to even the most complex cocktails. Addison suggests the following selections:
- Gin: If you're looking for an upscale gin experience, Nolet’s is the label to look for. Sip on the limited-edition Reserve or stir up the floral-noted Silver with tonic water.
- Vodka: According to Addison, having a highly distilled quality vodka is a necessity. He recommends Chopin Vodka in an assortment of potato, rye and wheat, so you can tailor your vodka selection to the flavors it’s joining.
- Rum: Choosing the right rum can completely alter the flavor of a beverage, but as long as your liquor cabinet has both a light and a gold variation, you’ll be able to master most mixed drinks. Enhance the powerful flavors of daiquiris and piña coladas with Havana Club Blanco or concoct a classic rum and coke with Zapaca’s 23 and XO blends.
- Tequila: Margarita mavens know their tequila comes in three varieties: blanco, reposado and anejo. When it comes to this spirit-lifting spirit, Addison encourages stocking one of each, specifically the high-end Volcan de mi Tierra Blanco and Milagro Reserve Reposado.
- Whiskey: A particularly difficult category to cover, whiskey comes in several blends and flavors from across the globe. For a star-studded collection, Addison advises acquiring a rye (Michter’s), a bourbon (Blanton’s), a single-malt scotch (Glenmorangie 1990) and a blended scotch (Johnnie Walker Black).
- Cognac/Brandy: Sold in a multitude of flavors with no clear frontrunner, these grape-based spirits offer the most room for a bartender’s opinion. If you need a place to begin, Hine offers superior cognac options. Apple brandy enthusiasts should turn to Drouin Calvados, whereas those who prefer pear will enjoy Eau-de-vie de Poire Willams Grande Réserve.
Prefer flavored spirits? Addison recommends that you use the alcohol in your arsenal and infuse it yourself. This extra step gives your bar a personal touch while staying away from synthetic tastes.
Although not the main attraction of the liquor cabinet, these sweet spirits are integral ingredients in many beloved beverages—and will take your bar from sub-par to five-star. Under Addison’s advisement, add these five liqueurs to your shopping list: Cointreau, dry vermouth, sweet vermouth, Campari and Saint Germain Elderflower Liqueur.
While the options for booze-free beverages are seemingly unlimited, there are a few liquids that hold court in any quality bar fridge. Club soda, tonic water, ginger ale and ginger beer are major players in cocktail recipes, joined by the essential simple syrup. Addison prefers to fill his fridge with Fever-Tree products, commenting that the tiny glass bottles provide aesthetic pleasure as well as small, tight bubbles that increase the effervescence of any drink. For a little more variety, add in your favorite fresh juices to serve up fruity selections like cosmopolitans and sangria.
Round out your repertoire with solid ingredients, as many recipes call for the inclusion of bitters or sugar cubes. Addison recommends opting for San Francisco Bitters and La Perruche sugar cubes to adjust the sweetness of your servings.
To master cocktail concoctions, you don’t need a big toolbox—just a trident bar spoon, a shaker, a strainer and a jigger to measure serving sizes. Addison recommends Cocktail Kingdom’s gold-plated materials, elevating the elegance of your shakes and stirs.
“Glassware is like cocktail attire for your cocktail,” says Addison. “The more ornate the drink, the fewer accessories you use.” Thus, he suggests going with a simple, exquisite collection of glassware, allowing flexibility in décor. The Château Baccarat Dégustation Set, complete with one red wine glass, one white wine glass, one champagne flute and one tumbler is a great way to get started—and you can continue to grow your collection by buying additional sets.
Manhattans and martinis are among the mixtures that are never fully dressed without a garnish. Sable & Rosenfeld’s “Tipsy” products provide a delicious and decorative finish to any cocktail, allowing you to complete your bar with the necessary maraschino cherries, stuffed olives and pearl onions. Otherwise, turn to fresh citrus fruits for peels, wheels and wedges.