Setting Up a Home Bar
Building a bar in your own home is one of those tasks that may seem daunting at first but, once established, will have you dazzling guests like Mr Gatsby (with or without the associated glitz and glamour).
Now that I'm the proud renter of my very own bach pad, and being an award-winning cocktail bartender, what better time than now to perfect my craft and pretend to be Tom Cruise in Cocktail once more? (Highly recommend Cocktail, excellent movie). I'll walk you through the essential equipment and liquor to stock, so you can join along as well!
Before we begin, let's dig into what makes an excellent mixologist. Two things separate the pros from the no-nos in any trade. The quality of your tools and your understanding of the job at hand.
Let's use guitars for an example;
If you get one of Slash's guitars (best tool) and give it to a noobie (no understanding), they'll be like a virgin on prom night. No idea what the hell they're doing with it - but it sure sounds like cats being drowned in a bathtub.
If you get a bottom of the cheapo line guitar (crap tool) and hand it to Slash (virtuoso understanding), he'll make it sing like Meatloaf at the AFL Grand Final. It's bearable, but you know it can do better.
Have a roadie get Slash's guitar (best tool) and have Slash perform (virtuoso understanding), and you wind up with a decades-long career in a music industry that nets you over $100m in royalties and payments.
Understanding ALWAYS trumps tools, but that doesn't mean you should buy the cheapest thing you can get your mitts on. With that out of the way, let's dig in.
NOTE: There's a lot of lingo in the bartender world, but I'm going to use layman's terms to make it easy. Jargon is for people who can't explain things adequately - usually because they don't understand what they're talking about ... I digress!
The bare minimum you'll need for a bach pad type setup is in the picture below. Let's go over what we have.
Boston shaker (glass with stainless steel cap) + Hawthorn strainer
Let's just get it out of the way. Those crappy shakers that you buy from discount stores are terrible. You know the ones that have the cup and a lid, with an integrated strainer. That goes in the crap tool list and will make your life miserable. Invest in a proper Boston shaker and Hawthorn strainer. There's a lot of reasons for this but please, just invest in a good quality kit. You can find them on Amazon, but again, don't go the cheapest you can find.
That's the elongated twirly thing on the right. No, it's not for scratching your ass with, thanks, Homer Simpson. This is useful for cocktails that require stirring instead of shaking, and for making some bomb ass shots. Like a QF. Maybe I'll make a video later to show that.
That's the three silver thingies with the black rubber grommets. These go in the liquor bottles you're going to be pouring from. Trying to flow directly into a jigger (we'll get to that) is near on impossible and messy. If you want to do this properly, get at least 3 of these bad boys.
That's the little measuring cup. 15mL on one side, 30mL on the other. Making cocktails without these as a beginner leads to disaster. Eventually, you'll learn to free pour, padawan, but until then, use the damn jigger.
This is the least important part. What I've got here are some shot glasses from Amazon (pack of 6 for $6, score - suggest buying a heap of these) and some Libbey cocktail glasses (suggest four). To be fair, any glassware will do. This is for presentation, and we want function over fashion to begin with.
If you're looking for the same gear as me, check out the Cocktail Kit (www.cocktailkit.com.au). That's not a referral link and won't net me any cash, but I rate their gear on price and quality.
A bach pad bar only needs a few spirits, mainly if the elemental cocktails are what's on the menu. My advice here is to not buy the cheap stuff. Cheap vodka, scotch, rum, etc. are usually more bitter, and fundamentally alters the flavour of a spirit. That's why cheap tequila hurts to drink, but expensive tequila can be sipped like water.
So what're the essentials?
Vodka - a great base that can be used in many different drinks, as a mixer, or for the Russki, as a straight-up panacea for any illness you may have. I'd recommend Sky as a minimum.
Rum - not pictured here, and there are two types, white and dark. White is a substitute for vodka with a bit more punch, dark has a different flavour profile. My preferred white is Havana Club, and dark is the Appleton Estate.
Gin - gin is basically a flavoured vodka, they're pretty similar. Sure, some puritans will get upset about that, but I'm not a hipster and nor do I care what they think, deep down they know it's true.
Whiskey - I don't make any cocktails with whiskey, I like it straight up. Any single malt does me and allows you to enjoy the flavour profile of that particular whiskey. Blends like Jim Beam and Johnny Walker are ok to use in mixers, and they taste the same every time you have them. I like variety, in all regards 😉
Fireball for the shots. Nothing else to add there.
The tasty stuff that people love, and can really get you nasty drunk if you have too much of it. Liqueurs are flavoured drinks that are typically loaded with sugar, hence the mean hangover the next day. My selection of choice is as pictured.
Kahlua - coffee flavour
Midori green - rockmelon flavour
Chambord - raspberry deliciousness
Coffee patron - it's tequila, not a liqueur, but it fits in this group because it's delicious and goes in cocktails well
Malibu - coconut rum
Baileys - Irish cream, also pictured is the rare strawberries and cream flavour
Paraiso - super sweet lychee
Now buying all this nectar of the Gods can be quite expensive, so I'd suggest signing up to Dan Murphy's and First Choice Liquor's mailing lists and buying it on the sales. Easy easy.
What are your asking me for? Go buy your shit and get making! Lastly, I'm going to give you some tips about making cocktails like a pro, with these instructions for your perusal.
Get all your spirits ready with some ice hand.
Always pour your liquor into the glass half of the Boston shaker, BEFORE you add ice. That way you can tell how much delicious booziness is in there if you're free pouring. If you pour over ice, you start diluting the cocktail before you even start shaking, so cut that crap out. Liquor first, ice second. That's a rule.
NOTE: If you're making multiple cocktails, I'd suggest not making any more than two per shaker. Three can get a bit crowded.
Once your alcohol and ice are in, put the silver half on top, rest the glass on something sturdy, and tap the top of the silver.
Shake shake shake! Depending on what you're making, it may be a gentle shake to mix and cool the goodness inside. Anything with egg (white or yolk) in it, shake it like you stole it, and the fuzz is right on your ass and the only thing keeping you out of prison is shaking that damn receptacle.
When you're ready, hold the glass in one hand, the silver in the other, and twist in opposite directions. If the cold has snapped it all together, then while holding it as above, tap the side of the conjoined shaker against a benchtop with moderate force. That will dislodge it. But don't you dare drop that damn shaker ...
NOTE: Depending on your skills, you'll either want the glass or metal part on the bottom. I'd always suggest having the glass part on the bottom, because then when you're pouring multiple cocktails from the one
Insert the Hawthorn strainer into the glass, so the coils are fully embedded, and pour your drink. Don't just dump it in, pour it slowly and evenly. If you're pouring two drinks, pour 1/4 into the first glass, then 1/2 into the second glass, then the last 1/4 into the first glass. There's science behind that, but trust me.
So you've stayed to the end ... don't you have anything better to do? Well, you're in luck. Here is the recipe for my award-winning Espresso Martini. Super simple, very straight forward, and enjoyable. You ready?
- 1 shot espresso (lately I've been using pods, works well)
- 1 shot coffee Patron
- 1 shot Malibu
- Pour all ingredients into the glass shaker, and top up to halfway with ice.
- Silver top on, and shake like Lindsay Lohan circa Mean Girls era was the recipient of your drink
- Tap shaker on the benchtop, strain into a martini glass
- Garnish with three coffee beans
Ok look, there's a little more to the award. I did rim the glass with coconut and chocolate shavings and used an expensive type of espresso. But you get a similar result.
The beautiful thing about cocktails is you can change this to your heart's content.
If you want less alcohol flavour, swap the coffee Patron for Kahlua. Now you have extra strength coffee flavour with less alcohol.
If you don't like coconut, swap the Malibu for white rum. Now you have a standard Espresso Martini.
If you don't like coffee, swap the espresso for Mozart (a chocolate liqueur) and the Kahlua for Baileys. Now you have a completely different cocktail that's also delicious.
At any rate, the world is your oyster when it comes to this stuff.
Anyways, you're always welcome to join me for a drink at Chateau de Dymock and talk about the more beautiful things in life while we enjoy the cat's/landlord's company.