Welcome back from the holidays! With all of the hustle and bustle from Black Friday through Christmas I haven’t really had a chance to do much writing, even though I have definitely been making! Over the next few weeks I’ll be catching up and writing posts on things that I’ve made over the past few weeks. You’ve got a recipe for Cinnamon pecans, a recipe for black bean soup-in-a-jar gift, and a purifying lavender clay mask tutorial on the way. However, to get 2017 started off on a classy note, I’m going to finish writing a post that I started months ago on stocking a bar cart for around $150.
Having a well-stocked home bar will take your parties and gatherings to the next level, and will help you experiment with different flavors. Plus it looks snazzy to have a bar cart set up, even if you personally don’t imbibe. 😊
Even though you’re always going to have that one person in the room whose drink order is “a Manhattan, and kick the vermouth in the side with a pair of steel-toed boots” (I ❤️ you if you get that reference), for the most part your guests will probably keep it pretty straightforward. So, this post will cover all the basic tools and liquors you should have- no crazy mixology.
Before we get down to the fun stuff, let’s talk about what tools and glasses you absolutely have to have. My list includes a few specialty items that are specific to drinks I make frequently, so if you have a favorite drink that has a special tool/glass go for it! Remember, after all your guests are out of your house your bar is still going to be set up for you, so make it yours.
The majority of my glassware I’ve found at antique and thrift stores very cheaply, so the $150 doesn’t really include glasses. The best time to scour thrift stores for barware is actually right now. As people began packing up their holiday decor and decluttering their homes as part of some crazy new year’s resolution the chances of them keeping a set of rocks glasses that Aunt Biffy gave to them 8 years ago is probably not good. Trust me, Goodwills and local shops like Carolina Thrift are overrun with home items this time of year. 2 years ago I found champagne saucers for $.29 a piece at Goodwill and a set of highball glasses for $2.25. Magic like that can happen to you too, you just have to look.
Anyway, I’ve digressed. I’m sure a few conossieurs are going to disagree with me, but here’s my must have glassware and tools list:
- Rocks glasses- any short, wide glass will work. As you can see in the picture above I’ve got several different sets, so just use whatever you have. You’ll use these for any drink “on the rocks” and other classics like the timeless gin and tonic.
- Highball glasses- taller than rocks glasses and used in drinks that have a high proportion of nonalcoholic mixers like bloody Mary’s and mojitos, can also be used for Tom Collins in lieu of a Collins glass
- Martini glasses- from the classic Bond martini to cosmopolitans, manhattans, and gimlets this glass can serve it all.
- Cordial glasses/tall shot glasses-because no other glass is tiny enough to serve the small amounts of these sweet after dinner liqueurs we all love
- Cocktail shaker- They come in all styles and prices but a good, basic one will run about $15-20. It’s a must have for drinks like cosmos and Martinis, and it looks really pro on your bar cart. 🙂
- Muddler- works kind of like a pestle and helps release aromatics from herbs and whatever else you might be muddling
- Strainer- just in case you muddle something too much you can strain out all the herb and fruit bits
- Measured shot/ jigger glass- used for measuring amounts of alcohol for all mixed drinks
For the tools that’s pretty much it. Now here is a list of what you need to buy next time you go to the ABC store:
- Vodka- obviously. This spirit is very smooth and works well in a myriad of drinks because of its mild flavor. Hammer and Sickle is my go to brand for drinking on the rocks-it’s a little pricey but well worth it ($19.95). Pinnacle is my go to when I need to buy in bulk or just need a good basic mixing vodka. A medium sized bottle of Pinnacle will only run about $13.
- Gin- my personal fav. This aromatic spirit pairs well with citrus and herbs and is the base for the classic Gin and Tonic. When it comes to gin you absolutely can’t buy cheap. Cheap gin tastes like Pine Sol smells. Horrible. Bombay Sapphire ($23.95)is my go to, but there is a local distillery in Winston-Salem called Sutler’s that makes a very good gin. I’m not sure if it can be found outside of NC but a bottle at our ABC stores is around $29.95.
- Rum- this sugarcane derived spirit has an easily recognizable taste. It’s used in many drinks we’ve all had like Pina Coladas and Dark and Stormys. I like to keep it basic and get Bacardi (around $7 for 375 ml bottle)and a spiced variety like Captain Morgan’s ($14.95).
- Tequila- everyone has a story about tequila. It’s not really one of my go-to spirits but nevertheless you have to have it for mojitos and margaritas. I prefer gold varieties but whatever you get make sure it’s made with blue agave. Since I don’t drink it on the reg I stick with basic Jose Cuervo gold ($8.95) unless I think we might have someone at a party who wants to do shots, then its Patron Silver ($24.95).
- Whiskey- mainly ordered on the rocks, you also need whiskey to make whiskey sours, manhattens, juleps and a myriad of other famous cocktails. Have a good variety available to your guests. I keep SoCo 100 ($8.95) and Jack ($14.45).
- Specialty Whiskeys- I keep one Irish whiskey and one Scotch just in case anyone wants to deviate from American options. Jameson is my go to Irish and will run about $18.95 and Dewar’s White Label is a very basic scotch at $12.95. Their 12 year is very good and only $34.95 so if you want to splurge go for the aged option.
- Cordial- Cointreau, Midori, Disaronno, Grand Marnier… the possibilities are endless, and the prices vary greatly. You should really stock two, one citrus and one coffee or amaretto option, but if your budget only allows one go for Grand Marnier.
That’s pretty much all you need for your basic set up. I know it seems like alot but you don’t have to buy it all at once. In fact, if you do, you might get some strange looks and judgy eyes at the ABC store. All of your mixers and garnishes like juices, tonic water, soda, and fruits can be bought for around $15 or so. Pick them up before your next party and you’ll be set!
P.S. Here’s my favorite cocktail: a lemon-basil tonic. It’s like summertime in a glass. I’ll share the recipe later😉