Now, I’ve had a few friends ask me why I felt a post like this was necessary. Other than throwing some beer in the fridge or having a few bottles of wine in the pantry, most people that I know can’t assemble a good mixed drink at home. Margaritas using frozen bucket mix from Costco does not count! Now I surmise that this is the case because most people go out to the bar and have a professional mix their drinks for them. I do that too – Sara at Ole St. Andrews, our local pub, is a real pro. That place is like our living room sometimes (doesn’t hurt that they have excellent fish and chips!). But I digress. So I suppose the thinking goes that if you’ve got a great bar around the corner, why have one at home? Well, sometimes you don’t feel like going out, but you’d still like a gin & tonic. And yes, I’ll play the economy card here – a bottle of decent gin costs the same amount as just three drinks here in good old Chicago. So get the most bang from your limited buck, you’ve got to mix up at home. Don’t be scared. It’s easy.
Start with classics. For classic drinks – martinis, gin & tonics, etc., you only need the basics. An essential to one person might be fluff to another, but my suggestions (my favorite brands as well – mostly handcrafted stuff) are:
– Tito’s Vodka
– Origine Gin
– Maker’s Mark Whiskey
– Sailor Jerry Dark Rum (in my opinion, light rum is useless – just drink vodka!)
– Le Compte Calvadoes (apply brandy – better than plain brandy I think)
– Lemon and lime juice (I try to keep the actual fruit in the house, but backup bottles of organic juice are always in the fridge)
– Tonic Water
Tools are simple enough. A bottle opener. A jigger (one of those measuring things) and a cockail strainer are sufficient. Oxo makes a nifty, compact bar set that I own and can personally vouch for – I use it all the time. It also comes with a few neat extras like a citrus knife, mini cutting board and a cocktail spoon.
Recipes are essential if you’ve never mixed drinks yourself before. The internet is your friend. That’s the Spirit is a pretty entertaining and comprehensive site. I also recommend keeping a good book or two at the bar. In addition to being useful for the recipes, they’re also good looking and great conversation starters. I recommend The Ultimate Bar Book. See how simple it can be? So get mixing!