Your favourite nightcap, made your way at your place…. Life’s good
A year ago, catching up with friends for after-hours drinks, was a thing that got us through our long work week. Then, there were the weekend plans. Today, as most of us continue to WFH, the home-and-work-life balance seems to be off. So, there has never been a better time to build yourself a neat little home bar than now! You can unwind with a little cocktail, while you wait for your vaccine shot and for your go-to watering hole to reopen. Besides, it will be a great addition to your mancave, for when you can go back to throwing epic house parties.
They say, a great cocktail is not born, it’s built. In simple words, you’ll need proper equipment to make one. In the same way, your personal bar rig needs a few too. Here’s our list of home-bar basics for you….
1. A DEDICATED BAR SPACE
Like with building anything, start with a foundation. A proper bar trolley/cart. A fancy bar cabinet or the corner of a kitchen counter—it’s most helpful when you have a specific bar space and not general storage. Rather than let a bunch of bottles take over your kitchen, keeping a designated area for your bar helps you stay organised. Home bars should have room to grow, as you can upgrade it according to your budget and ever-evolving tastes and requirements. If you or your partner/friends enjoy a glass of wine or two, a wine cooler will be a great addition.
Proper proportions make or break a drink. This makes a jigger, a must-have tool for your home bar. It has two sides with different capacities—to quickly flip from one standard cocktail measurement to another with ease. Man’s Life recommends owning two: A one-ounce/two-ounce size and a half-ounce/three-quarter-ounce size—to make sure you’re making the perfect drink each time.
If you’re a fan of mojitos and mint julep, a muddler is an absolute essential. A sturdy muddler is a handy device that crushes tasty things such as—mint leaves, herbs or even fruit to unlock their goodness—meaning, flavour and oils. Always remember to mash in the cocktail shaker or the glass that you’ll be using to serve the drink. Be gentle while muddling herbs and citrus peels. Invest in a good-quality wood muddler, and avoid anything with a varnish on them.
4. TWO-PIECE SHAKER
Buy the Boston-type two-piece shaker—in which you hold together two parts that look like metal pint glasses—and a separate strainer like the pros do. Shaking a drink when necessary, not only chills the cocktail properly but also ensures proper dilution and aeration. A Boston shaker is the classic industrial two-container unit preferred by bartenders for quick mixing and clean up!
5. A HAWTHORNE STRAINER
In modern cocktail making, a strainer is as necessary as a shaker. A Hawthorne strainer, as it’s known, allows just the liquid (and the ideal amount of tiny ice chips) into your glass. This is your go-to tool for separating cocktails from ice and other remnants as you pour from a mixing glass or shaker; it fits against the rim of both like a lid. The Hawthorne strainer can be found at homes and commercial bars around the world.
What makes a great cocktail? Fresh ingredients. Fresh juice is imperative to most cocktails, as it elevates the taste of homemade drinks by a mile. Bottled lime and lemon juice do not taste as good as freshly squeezed ones. Go for a medium-sized hand-held metallic juicer or a two-part setup that can handle oranges too.
7. ICE TRAYS/MOULDS
There’s a reason why bars of repute use bigger and good-quality ice cubes. They melt slowly, keeping your drink cold without watering it down. Buy the 2-inch ice ball mould and use the ice for serving straight spirit on the rocks, as the ice-tray version will liquify quickly.
8. THE BAR SPOON
Don’t be a cheapskate and try to make do with a regular teaspoon. It will be too short or wide, and your wrist will probably be taking an alcohol soak. A bar spoon is used to stir your drink, as stirring ensures a cocktail that’s extra cold and silky. According to experts, go for a spoon with fork-like tines on the handle end, which makes spearing cherries or olives out of the jar a breeze.
9. THE GLASSES
Use rocks glasses when you want to muddle ingredients in the serving glass, and as a general rule for drinks served neat or over the rocks. Shot glasses for, well, shots. Tall glasses for highballs, coupe or stemmed glasses for cocktails without ice and wine flutes and glasses.
10. STAPLE MIXERS
You’ll need mixers—the ingredients that turn mere liquor into drinks of the Gods. Your basic staple mixers should be tonic water, club soda, bitters and simple syrup (a 50-50 mixture of reduced cane sugar and water, heated and then cooled), which you can easily make at home. Then, move onto the next-level: Dry and sweet vermouth, an Italian aperitif (like Campari), some interesting liqueurs (Cointreau, Bailey’s and Maraschino, etc). Stocking these will take a beginner’s home bar to a pro’s in no time.
11. COCKTAIL BOOKS
A couple of bars books will give your home bar a classy aesthetic. While there are many websites that have recipes, there’s no replacement for a truly great cocktail book. Cocktail writers and bartenders have published hundreds of books on the subject of cocktails—from comprehensive histories of spirits to entire recipe books dedicated to one spirit.
12. GOOD BOOZE
What’s a bar without some fantastic booze? While all of these tools are great for making your choice of cocktail, you really can’t do much without a good selection of booze at your disposal. This is the most crucial step in setting up your home bar. Yeah, we know, good bottles can be expensive. The good news is that not all of them are! Stock up on— the single malt, blended scotch, the gin, a great-quality red wine, vodka, rum, tequila, and a bottle of bubbly for special occasions (since most are celebrating anniversaries and birthdays indoors). Keep your labels facing out, even when pouring, so, both you and the person you’re making the drink for know what they’re signing up for.
It might be tough to replicate the magical ambience of your favourite bar, but you can certainly shake/stir up some of their best drinks at home without the hefty price tag or VAT. Whether it’s a bar cart/cabinet or just a section of your kitchen counter, your home bar should be customised to suit your needs and tastes. When done right, your booze station will enhance your living space—elevating the entertaining-at-home experience.
[All Image Credits: Shutterstock]