With the continues closure of bars and general restlessness from months of being cooped up, it is no surprise that an at-home mixology movement is on the rise. Whether you are missing the perfectly shaken martini from your favourite watering hole, preparing for a Zoom happy hour, or looking for a quick way to unwind from your home office set-up, mixing cocktails at home has become de rigueur during pandemic days.
So how do you upgrade your home bar beyond that dusty bottle of gin you have stored away for the occasional G&T? For those who are more used to drinking cocktails than making them, the good news is stocking a bar with the essentials is neither expensive nor difficult to source, with the most basic bar set-up breaking down into a few workhorse tools, and a core list of spirits and mixers needed for the most popular cocktails. Below, we ask our bartenders for their essential gear to stock any home bar.
Suraj Gurung, Buenos Aires Polo Club
For starters, I recommend the following basic bottles: vodka, gin, sweet and dry vermouth, Campari, Angostura bitters, bourbon, tequila and tonic water. For tools, you will need a two-piece Boston Shaker, Hawthorne cocktail strainer, Japanese-style jigger (1/2 oz and 1/2-3/4 oz), conical mesh strainer, Mexican elbow (citrus juicer), muddler and tear drop bar spoon (or you can use chopsticks!). Kwong Wing is a good local supplier for your basic tools, or try cocktailkingdom.com for a more premium selection.
JD Valencia, Osteria Marzia
If you are going to be serving drinks at home, I would recommend stocking up on some fruit bowls for storing garnishes and fresh fruit, bottles for juices and homemade syrups, straws, and measuring cups. It is your own bar, after all, so you should customise it to your drinking preferences, whether that is gin, vodka or rum. Aperol is a must-have aperitif (particularly for those who enjoy a refreshing Aperol Spritz), plus a few styles of beer, soft drinks and juices for your basic mixers.
Ashim Gurung, BELON
You really do not need any fancy brands at home for making your most popular cocktails. For vodka (caprioska, vodka gimlet, bloody mary), I would get Ketel One or Still Elite. For gin, any London dry gins, Tanqueray or Plymouth. Bacardi or Havana for white rum, or Plantation Dark and Sailor Jerry for dark (daiquiri, mojito, caipirinha). Go for Ocho Blanco or Jose Cuervo Reposado tequila for your margaritas and palomas. In addition to basic garnishes (lime, lemon, orange, mint), I like to have on hand some berries, jalapeños for a little kick, pineapple (goes well with most spirits), herbs (Italian and Thai basil, shiso leaves), and pepper, which gives added dimension.
Agustín Da Sambiagio, Taqueria Super Macho
In addition to spirits, mixers and garnishes, you will want to pay attention to your glassware and another key element, ice. For glassware, I would recommend dividing into three groups: highballs (for G&Ts or other spritzers); rock glasses, also known as an Old Fashioned glass; and martini glasses for serving cocktails with no ice (“straight up”), like manhattans and martinis. You may also use coupettes (old-style Champagne glasses) or flute glasses.
Most people would not think it, but ice is probably the most important ingredient in a cocktail. It is the one variable that will change your drink completely—not only diluting it, but also affecting the temperature and presentation. What you want is clear ice, or at least the clearest ice possible. The white you see is due to oxygen; to make good ice at home, we need to try to remove it. A good technique is to boil the water and let it cool before putting it into the freezer, even better if you use a big plastic reusable container instead of the regular ice trays. If you need crushed ice, just put some ice in a bag and smash it with a muddler.
Arnaud Bardary, Carbone
When it comes to wine, Coravin is a definite game changer and a worthwhile investment. It is the first and only tool in the world that allows wine lovers to pour and preserve wine without removing the cork. You can easily keep your wine for weeks after pouring the first glass (unless of course, you are finishing the bottle the same day!).