The Cocktail Bar, Part II

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's time for Part II of Building your Home Bar: the booze you simply must have. And since I have a sneaking suspicion that you miss your cocktail recipes, I've included a delicious one, too!

When it comes to stocking your liquor cabinet, start with the must-haves: vodka, gin, rum, whiskey and tequila. You can make nearly any cocktail with these base spirits, so they're worth their weight in gold in your bar.

First, vodka: don't bother to buy Grey Goose or Chopin, unless you absolutely love it. The truth is that it's nearly impossible to tell the difference, so there's no need to spend a ton of money. Titos, distilled in Austin, is a terrific, inexpensive choice. While we're on the subject, let's dispense with this wives tale: more expensive vodka won't save you from a hangover, but drinking less of it will.

On to gin: there are 4 major types (London dry, Old Tom, Plymouth and Dutch, also called Genever), but you really only need one. Plymouth gin is the most versatile and has the most stringent quality controls, but some people prefer London dry gins like Beefeater in their martinis.

There are many kinds of rum, so while the fledgling bartender can get away with just one, your rum collection should grow as you build your bar. You'll need a white rum for light cocktails like a classic daiquiri, an aged rum (5-8 years) for mellower drinks and an agricole rum to show off what a sophisticated hostess you are (also for agricole rum punches, and as a substitute in recipes for a bit more flavor).

When it comes to whiskey, there's always plenty of confusion. First, let's start with a quick run down of what exactly "whiskey" is, since this one little word can represent all manner of evils. Scotch? It's Scottish whisky. Bourbons? Rye? These are American whiskeys, each with their own primary grain (corn, wheat, rye and barley). Each bar really needs three kinds of whiskey: a Scotch, a bourbon and a rye.

When it comes to Scotch, it's almost always drunk on its own, so taste lots and buy a bottle of something you like; John prefers the Balvenie Doublewood. Chose Wild Turkey for your bourbon selection; it's one of the only mass-produced bourbons that uses only non-GMO corn, so you'll impress your guests with both your knowledge and your environmental savvy. When it comes to rye, the men I know go crazy for Rittenhouse.

And now for tequila, a personal favorite of mine. There are three primary types (blanco, reposado and anejo), but a reposado tequila will serve your purposes best. John and I stock our bar with Corralejo.

Before we leave this liquor list, let's quickly address another wive's tale: that clear alcohol is better for you than dark. The bottom line: this simply isn't true. I know that lots of people (including Miss SkinnyGirl over there) are touting this misinformation as fact, but white tequila is no better for you than anjeo, although it might be less expensive!

Next week, we'll give you the essential non-essentials: everything you need to make your bar sparkle!

And now as a reward for getting through this liquor primer, a recipe for a Campari Sour!

1 1/2 oz of Campari
1/2 oz of simple syrup
1 oz of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 egg white
orange bitters

Combine Campari, simple syrup, lemon juice and egg white in a shaker without ice. Shake for 15-30 seconds, then add ice and shake for no more than 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass; garnish with orange bitters.

Notes: the first shake without ice is called a "dry shake"; it gives the egg a chance to froth up, just like whipping them to make a meringue. As always, use the freshest eggs you can find, and if egg white makes you anxious, just omit it!

Photo and Recipe from Summit Sips.

Cheers, darlings!


  1. Love love love!! Great info and now I must go start stocking my bar thanks to you lovely Lena! Have a GREAT weekend!

  2. Yum yum yum! Perfect cocktail for a Friday afternoon!

  3. i can always rely on you to get my happy hour self wishing it really was 5 o'clock somewhere!!

    have a great weekend, lady!!

  4. I need to have you come over here and help me with my bar ;-)

  5. This is so interesting, I've always wanted to have a bar at home. I don't drink much and cannot drink right now but I love it for guests.
    Thank you darling!

  6. Yum campari sour. That sounds really tasty!

  7. Lena! You have gone above and beyond with this one! So many wonderful facts! Now we will only use Wild Turkey and Corralejo, and who would have known that drinking expensive vodka does not prevent a hang over. haha. You're the best. I certainly hope we can share a cocktail together one day. Cheers! xo Samantha
    ps. Including you on my Love Links today! :)

  8. Ummm can I hire you to be my personal mixologist? I always thought clear was better than dark - so misguided all these year! Have a great weekend, Lena :-)

  9. Fabulous advice! I however could never drink something with an egg white in it. I have never tried Corraeljo but I'll definitely look for it. My new favorite is lemon San Pellegrino and tequila. It is a light and refreshing summer cocktail!

  10. well done! by "miss skinnygirl" i assume you mean bethenny frankel? you know, she invented the margarita :)

  11. well i really need to stock up. I seem to be good on the vodka (I also keep cherry vodka on hand for spiked cherry limeades) and the Wild Turkey (whoa that stuff is dangerous)!

  12. You have got to be the most sophisticated blogger I know! I'm so impressed by and thankful for your wealth of bar knowledge. Again, it's so helpful to have it all spelled out! I had no idea there were that many sorts of gin, and that's my base of choice. Apparently I need to drink more... :)

  13. you should totally start a side business. and I would gladly be your taste tester ;)


  14. OMG, Lena..there are soooo many things I have to learn about this!! I'm so lucky because you can teach me all the best!! Love from your italian friend..

  15. I love your tips, thanks for sharing. It would be fun to have an entertaining bar some day!

  16. You are just a fountain of knowledge! I can't believe how much you know about alcohol, cockails & stocking you bar. This is such a great post, thanks!

    ~ Clare x

  17. This was so informative! I stick with white tequila and rums myself (with a bit of sweet tea vodka here and there:) ), but so good to know this for entertaining!

  18. Naturally, I love this series :)

  19. I am seriously enjoying this series as I am such a dum dum when it comes to alcohol. Thanks, Lena!!

  20. Yes! yes! Cheap tequila is my favorite.



A Crimson Kiss – Timeless Events and Classic Cocktails by Ana Degenaar : Blogger