Have a solid home bar setup already - all the basic equipment and bottles with which you can make a wide variety of classic cocktail recipes - and now looking to add a few new bottles and bitters? This post is you for you!
Taking your home bar to the next level increases the number of different recipes you can create and serve. From an expanded bottle selection to a greater selection of tools, your approach here should be the same as when you started: what am I interested in trying next? Which additions open up the greatest number of new possibilities?
Spirits That Go Beyond the Basics
Once you have the basics down and are ready to build out your home bar even more, consider investing in one or more of the following bottles:
- Aged rums and other styles like Rhum Agricole are significantly more complex and nuanced than most starter white rums, able to substitute for darker spirits or elevate standard rum recipes. Flor de Cana’s anejo rum is a great start, and affordable, while Rhum JM’s agricoles are more of an investment, though certainly worthy. Approximate cost: $20 – $60
- The bittersweet Italian liqueurs known as amari / amaro will add immense personality and structure to your drinks, and can also work as a vermouth. Montenegro is an ideal place to start, if you are new to amari, while Cynar’s artichoke notes, Fernet’s mentholated airs, or Cardamaro’s sherry-like lightness offer several other directions in which to explore. Approximate cost: $30 – $50
- A collection of good bitters is an excellent addition to any home bar. Try Peychaud’s or creole bitters, grapefruit, chocolate or mole bitters, or nut bitters. A good bitters will trigger taste buds you’ve never noticed before, and similarly coax other ingredients to come forward. Approximate cost: $10
- The Italian vermouths Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth, Punt e Mes, or Cocchi Vermouth di Torino will provide more full-bodied, complex flavors than your standard sweet red vermouth. Approximate cost: $20 – $35
Next Level Cocktail Equipment
- Garnish peeler: While you can get by with a standard vegetable peeler, having one of several proper garnish peelers allows you to roll off twists, ribbons, and coins from your fruit.
- A good cone strainer enables you to double strain cocktails with muddled fruit or herbs, or just fine ice.
- Citrus juicers make it easier to quickly juice (of course) fresh limes and lemons.
- Lewis bags are canvas bags that flap shut, and along with a good mallet, is the best way to produce perfect crushed ice.
- Nick & Nora glasses are delightful, prepossessing tulip-shaped glasses that can fill in for coupe glasses.
- A rimming dish holds salt or sugar you hope will attractively adorn the rims of your drinks, and proves much more reliable than trying to dip your glass into a giant bowl or onto a flat plate.
Design Your Own Drinks with the Golden Ratio
The more you explore and familiarize yourself with the thousands upon thousands of recipes available to you, the more you’ll recognize similar structures and proportions.
One of the most common, and a template for your own experimentation, is what’s called the golden ratio:
- Start with 1 1/2 ounce of a base spirit (whiskey, rum, gin, etc.)
- Add 3/4 to 1 ounce of a vermouth-like ingredient
- Add 1/4 to 1/2 ounce of a liqueur, amaro, or anything else with a little sweetness
- Finish with 1 or 2 dashes of bitters
These simple proportions make it less daunting to go off-script and start personalizing the cocktail recipes you come across.