With everything that's going on outside it's time to hunker down in your cocktail den and put on some Netflix. But there might be one problem: what should you have in ready supply to make as many different cocktails as you can? Well here’s a surefire list of most of the things you’ll need to stock your bar and survive in style during this trying time.
Just like the plains of Africa, you’ll always need the big five. Every single home bar, if you’re hoping to pull off a cocktail hibernation, will need a high quality Vodka, Gin, Whisk(e)y, Rum and Tequila. If you want to go full Prohibition style, then get low quality spirits, but trust us, that’s a one way ticket to regret town.
First item on your list should be equipment. You don’t actually need much to be honest and a fairly reasonable cocktail set should only cost you $40. You’ll need a shaker to begin with and the most affordable will be a ‘cobbler’ or three-piece shaker. The good thing about these is that you don’t need the extra hawthorn strainer to go along with it. Get a shaker made of stainless steel for two reasons: its cost effective and it's highly efficient for temperature conductivity. Next you’ll need a measure or ‘jigger’ as they’re also called. This is to make sure you measure your recipes accurately. Obviously in isolation you don’t need one of these but it makes everything so much easier instead of eye-balling everything. Our go to pace to grab all this stuff is Barware.com - really well priced and good quality gear, delivered right to your door!
Number two on your list to start your cocktail journey is sugar. The good old sweet stuff. Sugar is awesome and there’s so much flavour you can get from it in all its forms. Sugar is the cocktail equivalent of butter. Sugar elevates the other flavours in a cocktail and also improves mouthfeel, but you can’t just have one sugar. Like Pokemon, you’ve gotta catch ‘em all. Experiment with Demerara sugar in Rum, Moscovado in Whisky, Raw Sugar in Tequila, and Caster sugar in your Vodka and Gin. Honestly - play around with your sweetener because it’ll pay you back in spades.
Thirdly you’ll need citrus. Yes, we know citrus encapsulates a few things but that's why we’re heaping it into one bracket. Otherwise this would be an article about citrus. Lemons, limes and oranges are the best place to start, firstly for juice and secondly for garnishes. Fresh juice is the way to go for all cocktails, unless you’re pre batching drinks or doing something funky with your juices.
The fourth thing you’ll need is bitters. There’s no real way of getting around this one unless you want to make them yourself from scratch, but I dare say if you’re doing that, you most likely have everything on this list already! Most recipes in the classic canon require ‘aromatic’ bitters, of which Angostura is the go-to for most bar professionals. Peychaud’s is another popular variation, especially for a well made Sazerac and Orange Bitters is often called for in old school recipes as well. There are thousands of different bitters out there, but for most classic drinks you’d only ever need these three.
Final number five is a good Curacao Sec or Triple Sec: basically Cointreau. Now a commonly asked question is - does it make a difference if I don’t get Cointreau? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Cointreau sits at 40% alcohol by volume whereas most other triple sec sits between 20%-25% and this has huge ramifications when it comes to flavour and mouthfeel of drinks. A Margarita tastes completely different without Cointreau. Now if you want to support local then I’d grab Autonomy Distilling’s 'Mr Orange Liqueur'. Its 38% ABV and sustainably sourced through a partnership with Market Juice Co. Or over to South Australia, our good friends at Imperial Measures make a delicious Mandarin or 'Mandeaux' Liqueur.
And that's that! That's all you'll need to start your cocktail journey at home! Before you know it you'll be milk clarifying and lacto fermenting everything in sight - it's a fun time, but never forget your roots!