Updated: Jan 20
Photo by Tom Arena
It's time you invest in a home bar. Why? Because rather than knocking back the same drink every other night, you need to know there's more to life than your Jack and Coke or a vodka soda. Now, don't get me wrong, those drinks have a time and a place and it's usually at 1:24am in some hotel in Vegas as you're trying to rally for your next move knowing damn well you should have called it a night hours ago.
But what if you're beyond that?
Which brings us to now. You're a little more established in life. You know what you want. You know your likes, your dislikes and you're a little more settled in your ways. Totally understandable that you have "your drink." But before you go all Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino on me, hear me out:
My friend, there is a world of badass flavors and textures awaiting you.
These hipster bartenders with their waxed mustaches and patchouli smellin' selves have cooked up some amazing stuff and chances are, you're missing out on drinks you'll fall in love with and flavors you didn't even know existed. So here's my proposal: let's open the aperture a bit. Let's talk about the foundations of your home bar and how you can incorporate them into your post-work elixir. Worst case scenario, you're left with enough ingredients in your own bar to throw an amazing party and wow your friends and family with your newly acquired knowledge of spirits and drinks.
Let's start with a basic drink to get the conversation flowing. What'll you have?
How about a Negroni?
Yeah, I agree.... I thought it sounded like a rival mafia family from the Sopranos as well, but it's actually a really smooth and simple drink to make. Don't even bother measuring it out. Just throw some ice in a rocks glass and add equal parts Campari, Sweet Vermouth, Gin, and a slice of orange.
Since only the Siths deal in absolutes, please know there's more than one way to build out your bar. To keep it simple, we're gonna talk about our two preferred methods:
Option 1: If you're on a budget or perhaps you don't ever see yourself becoming that adventurous with your cocktail game, you can buy liquor by the cocktail, not the spirit. So rather than buy a bunch of bottles and ingredients, pick out a couple of cocktails (ideally from our super sweet Drinks Deck), and just buy the spirits necessary to make those specific drinks. If you're a whisky guy/gal, you could focus on whisky-based cocktails which would allow you to sample a variety of different drinks while using the same base spirit. You could go this route and easily spend less than $100. Boom, you're all set.
Option 2: Spend a bit more but have pretty much all the ingredients necessary to make a range of drinks...
So, about making drinks. It's not hard. When in doubt, just add some kind of alcohol with red, but there are a few staples you're going to need that will serve as the cornerstone of your home bar. First, you'll need some good booze. Now, of course you can march down to your local liquor joint and raid the bottom shelf like you're buying booze for a Sigma Nu bender, but we think you're better than that. Plus, should you decide to knock back a few, your headaches won't hit as hard if you buy the good stuff. So keep that gaze at eye level on the mid-priced bottles. No need to drink what the rappers drink up there on the top shelf, but you will spend around $20-30 per bottle on the good stuff. If you're feeling ambitious, by all means go for the best money can buy. Here's what you'll need. Any mid-level brand will do, but we've shared our favorite producers in parentheses.
-Bourbon $38 (Woodford reserve)
-Vodka $21 (Titos)
-White tequila (Espolon) $26
-Cognac or Brandy $27 (Remy Martin). ( I realize this "or" will offend many a bar snob but, for now, either will suffice)
-Gin $37 (Hendricks)
-Rum (Bacardi) $23
-Grand Marnier $25
-Martini Rossi Dry Vermouth $10 (store in refrigerator)
-Martini Rossi Sweet Vermouth $10 (store in refrigerator)
-Angostura bitters $13
-Tonic/soda water $5
-Simple syrup (make it at home because it's super easy)
-Your trusty C&D Drinks Deck
All of this can be had for around $350'ish.
.... Yeah, yeah, I get it.
That's a considerable chunk of change.
But take a moment to think about the last time you had one too many at the co-workers happy hour. Remember when you pulled that crumpled receipt out of your pants or checked your bank account the next day only to wonder if you actually bought a round for the entire bar AND the bar next door? Me too. This is the long game and long game will save you money.
For $300 you'll be able to make enough drinks that easily would have cost $800+ at your local bar. Plus, if you store this stuff in a nice cool area, the quality of the alcohol should last 8-10 months once opened, but possibly longer depending on the spirit.
Now that you have all the ingredients you need to make cocktails, start experimenting with your Drinks Deck. Next time we meet up we'll move on to barware, but that's an entirely different discussion. I will say, there's a company called C&D cookin' up some pretty cool stuff though. Chat soon, friend. Cheers!