If there is one thing I have in my house, it is booze. I’m not a huge drinker (anymore), but I like to have options when I do imbibe. Lots of options. You never know what sounds good on a particular evening, and having a wide selection of everything is the best course of action. Here are some really great tips on how to stock your home bar.
Wine: I am far from a wine snob. There may be pictures of me funneling a box of wine circulating in the dark recesses of the internet, so I am not particularly picky. However, there are people out there who get upset if you chill red wine, serve Chardonnay with steak, or if you “forget” to let the wine air out before drinking it. The best course of action is to have a few different choices in your house. I usually stick with 2 whites (one of which is a Pinot Grigio), and two reds. You do not need to spend a lot, and you can probably keep most people happy enough with at $10 a bottle.
Bonus points: Champagne is goo to have on hand. You never know when there is something really worth celebrating, and nothing says celebration like champagne. You don’t need Cristal, but a Chandon Reserve Brut is a good call.
Well Liquors– Just because I call it well liquor does not mean you should go cheap. I simply want to give a quick guideline for what spirits you should have on hand. Vodka, Gin, Rum, Scotch/Whiskey, Brandy, Tequila and Bourbon are the five must haves. I suggest spending around $20-$30 a bottle for decent booze, but don’t be afraid to go $50 or more on your own drink of choice.
Now there are two schools of thought on choosing liquor, conservative and risky. Conservative is where you pick up the big brand names that your will find in virtually any bar. (Absolut, Tanqueray, Bacardi, Jack Daniel’s, E & J Brandy, Jose Cuervo and Jim Beam are solid choices here.) I usually like to go riskier with my booze choices, and grab bottles not many people know and ask questions about. These do not have to be expensive, but just different. Consider Samurai, Aviation 84 proof, Flor de Cana Grand, Feckin Irish Whiskey, Korbel Brandy, Aguila Resposado, and Bulliet Bourbon. This gives your bar talking points. (“this is pretty good.”, “I like this bottle.”, “where did you find this?”, etc)
Bonus Points: Armagnac is the oldest know liquor, and many casual drinkers and bars don’t even stock it. Picking up a bottle of Cles des Ducs V.S.O.P is another excellent talking point, and any good bartender will appreciate your taste. Mix it with Dry Vermouth to make a Mercenary, (2 oz dry vermouth, 1/2 oz Armagnac, splash of creme de menthe.). I personally like to use it to make a dry Armagnac Manhattan on the rocks. (2 oz Amagnac, 1/2 oz dry vermouth, splash of bitters)
Alcoholic Mixers/ Liqueurs: Not everyone drinks things neat or on the rocks. This means you’ll want to have a small collection of mixers, both alcoholic and non alcoholic. Most alcoholic mixers fall under the “liqueur category, meaning they are usually sweeter than liquors. Don’t go crazy on these, but have a few on hand. I suggest staying with Sweet and Dry Vermouth for martinis and Manhattans, then Kahlua, Triple Sec and a Bailey’s just in case. A Creme de Menthe and Creme de Cocoa are popular mixers as well, however I rarely find use for them.
Bonus Points: Grand Marnier/Chambord: These are great alternatives to Triple Sec. Grand Marnier has the same Orange taste, but is slightly stonger than Triple Sec, and Chambord has a raspberry flavor. Try substituing these into a Long Island Ice Tea or mix it with Southern Comfort to make great summer martini alternative. (2 oz Southern Comfort, 1/2 oz Chambord/Grand Marnier)
Non-Alcoholic Mixers: This pretty much encompasses everything under the sun, so grab a little of everything. Its a good call to have three of four cans of Ginger Ale, Cola, a lemon lime soda, and diet cola. These are the staples on the soft drink side. Fruit juice is tough, but having canned (so it doesn’t go bad) orange, cranberry and pineapple juice should be enough. Lime juice, Grenadine and Sour mix are other staples to a well stocked bar.
Bonus Points: Angostura Bitters: To make a real Manhattan, one of the best “man” drinks out there, this is needed. Enough said.
Beer: This is a tough one to keep in stock at all times. No one really argues with a Bud Light, but have a few craft beers on hand too. It impossible to just grab and forget a beer, so I suggest just having a 12 pack of a Light Domestic (Bud Light) and then a seasonal craft beer (Sam Addams does some really goo ones.)
Bar Ware: The are tons of bar ware sets out there, which usually include 6 or seven pieces. The staples are a bottle opener, corkscrew, can opener, cocktail shaker and strainer. After that, you can get anything from an ice bucket to a nut cracker. Get only what you need for a bar (I don’t mix walnuts into my drinks and my fridge makes ice).
Bonus Points: Spouts: Do you need these, no, but they are fun. Learning a proper 4 count for a perfect ounce is key to accurate drinks, and it is almost impossible to do without spouts. Just be sure to take these off and replace the actual bottle cap back on to prevent the alcohol from evaporating.
Glass Ware: There are basically six different types of glassware for most bars. There are rocks, collins, wine, martini, and pint glasses plus brandy snifters. The truth is you really only need three of these (Rocks, Wine, and pint). Anything more than this is gravy. Yes, there are glasses that are classified as either “red or white”, but ignore this. Don’t spend the extra money, no one will care. As for Martini glasses, Collins glasses and brandy snifters, if anyone complains slap them across the face and tell them not to look gift booze in the mouth and to drink out of a rocks glass. It will taste exactly the same.
Bonus Points: Decanters: This is really just here to help make your well drinks cheaper. I don’t drink vodka, but have a decanter of Sminoff in my house. No one knows that it is Smirnoff and not a higher end vodka. Spending $25 on a decanter once can save you money in the long haul.
SUPER BONUS POINTS: SAKE: Want to try shamelessly try to impress a date, cook her a simple stir fry (Basically just chicken breast and a bunch of vegetables in a skillet, use Olive oil to keep it low fat) and serve it with warm sake. Just about anyone can do it. Serve it at around degrees (115*-120*F, Jyoh-Kan) and pretend to be cultured. (Avoid Godzilla references) .