The Bar Essentials
|Not nearly as grown-up a
concept as it sounds, having|
your own bar at home is
something that comes
same time as an appreciation for
dinner parties, rating one's car insurance
and hair in all the
wrong places. We asked three people in
the bar-know to list what they'd set up
their first bar with. Three different people
-- three different styles.
Way more than just the man behind the bar, Jules has run the show at Longrain, mixing drinks and tracks, since it first opened nearly two years ago. With a skill for recreating super smooth drinks that focus on fresh ingredients and clear spirits Jules is truly a master of the bar.
In order to lay the foundations for an impressive home bar, a solid investment in premium spirits is the key. This operation can be quite costly so a gradual acquisition is recommended -- collect them like stamps.
Vodka: Absolut and/or Absolut-flavoured Manderin, Citron or Kurrant.
An essential component in any home bar. Swedish Absolut provides vodka drinkers with a smooth clean taste. Most popular drinks include served straight, over ice with a lime wedge or tonic and a lime wedge.
Gin: Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray
Gin drinkers can be quite particular but satisfaction is guaranteed if either Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray is used in a tall glass with ice, tonic, and a fresh lemon wedge. Essential for martinis.
White Rum: Bacardi
A Cuban classic. Served in the old fashion with ice, coke and a fresh lime wedge, or use as a base spirit in a number of summer cocktails.
Tequila: Hornitos Tre Generacionas
Savour the smoky, peppery flavour straight up -- no salt or lemon.
No bar is complete without quality scotch. Enjoy straight, over ice, or if required, with a dash of soda. Never serve with coke.
This is my preferred. Still tremendously popular when served over ice with a fresh orange slice. Also, many popular cocktails include Cointreau as a vital ingredient, such as cosmopolitans and margaritas.
Mixers can completely destroy a quality drink or perfectly complement it. Invest in Ôbuddy' four packs to ensure freshness. You should stock soda, tonic and ginger beer.
Besides standard juices, like orange or pineapple, popular juice mixers such as cranberry and ruby red grapefruit juice should be stocked.
If you possess both the time and a juicer, freshly squeezed lime and lemon juice makes a serious difference to the flavour and quality of your drinks. A dash of lime in a vodka soda or fresh lemon in a margarita gives it the edge. Avoid the temptation of using sweet lime cordial.
ESSENTIAL BAR EQUIPMENT
It's too easy to get lost in the world of cheesy bar gimmicks, so stick with sturdy quality equipment that's visually sound, without the clutter.
Chopping board and sharpened knives
Jigger (nip measure)
Boston shakers and strainers (ensure that shakers form a seal around all glassware)
Black straws, both long and short
Black paper napkins
First year apprentice rolling pin (used specifically to 'muddle' or crush fruit in the glass)
The importance of glassware is often overlooked when laying the foundation of a home bar. A well weighted, solid glass sets the cocktail off visually and feels good in the hand.
Old fashioned tumblers
Some tips for running a quality bar at home:
Always use fresh produce, whether for the subtle taste of garnish or the full flavour of a refreshing cocktail.
Aim for drinks that are not too complicated or strong.
Take care in presentation; cocktails that are visually alluring appear to taste even better.
Always keep the home bar clean and orderly.
DRINKS: THE SHOWSTOPPERS
A refreshing cocktail from Cuba
1 and a 1/2 fresh limes diced
Five or six fresh mint leaves
30 mls of sugar water
1 tspn of castor sugar
60 mls of Bacardi rum
Place the diced limes along with the fresh mint at the base of the old fashion glass, add castor sugar and 30 mls of sugar water (sugar water prepared by adding sugar to water at ratio of 1:3 and bringing it to the boil, then allowing it to cool).
Use a rolling pin or muddling stick to crush and fuse the ingredients at the base of the glass, ensuring the juice is extracted from the limes. (Tip: hold the base of the glass in one hand whilst applying pressure in a twisting motion with the muddle stick in the other, keep the stick straight and take care with the walls of the glass).
Build the glass with ice (to the top) then pour 60 mls of Bacardi into it.
Place the Boston shaker over the glass and contents, ensuring that there is a tight seal, and shake vigorously. Gently separate the glass and shaker and our contents back into the glass. (Tip: The contents should appear slightly milky, indicating that the rum and the lime juice have fused properly).
Pour in a dash of soda to bring out the flavour of the mint. Add a short straw, stir gently and present with a napkin.
The technique for this cocktail is quite adaptable, so throughout both summer and winter you can come up with seasonal fruit variations.>
Hairy Canary, Melbourne
Since the Hairy opened, it's become something of a haunt for the super cool kats of inner city Melbourne. Sure there's espressos served all day, but if sparking up an evening with a shake and a shot is more your flavour, Nikki's the one behind the mix.
Always try to add a touch of your own personality to the bar. It could be feathers, palm leaves, anything that shows your true self and try to cater to everyone's needs -- even if it's not your style. With all this basic equipment, alcohol and mixers, you're sure to be able to entertain your guests and keep them drinking well into the next morning.
Scotch: Johnnie Walker Red Label
It's a well-known product that's very affordable and carries a good reputation.
Stoli's a very smooth vodka, not too crisp like other brands and is very popular with guests. Not too hard price-wise either.
Bourbon: Jim Beam
Jim Beam's a well-known bourbon with a good reputation that is commonly requested.
Vermouth: Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
This is not a necessity but if your friends are martini drinkers then a bottle of this, as well as stuffed olives and martini glasses, will keep them happy.
Gin: Bombay Sapphire
A superbly popular spirit that serves well straight or mixed.
This orange influenced liquid is essential for many common cocktails.
Schweppes and Coke are the most commonly used brands, which are easily obtained and always good quality.
Other mixers that you should have:
It's essential that your bar also have limes, lemons and oranges. Fresh fruit is a big part of having a well set-up bar.
You can pick up a basic cocktail equipment package from a homeware store like Minimax, which will include a shaker, strainer and a nip pourer. All these tools are your basic necessities for making drinks and a basic range of cocktails.
The best and easiest drinks to make are:
Gin and tonic with fresh lime wedges -- popular and always a refreshing drink.
Vodka and cranberry is another good one that appeals to the people who enjoy a sweeter taste without the strong taste of alcohol.
Scotch and bourbon is not for everyone but there is always a scotch or bourbon drinker who must be kept happy.
A bar's not complete without ice, so always have some handy.
The Gin Palace, Melbourne
Owner and bar chief at Melbourne's velvety Gin Palace, Vernon's style for a bar set-up is as lush as his bar -- it's about visuals and a whole lotta showmanship. "I prefer Spaceage Bachelor Pad chic to Bryan Brown's Cocktail any day."
Your home bar should reflect your individual taste. Set yourself up with basics, and be prepared to offer one or two special cocktails.
At home one needs to be able to mix a good range of drinks. Try not to get stressed by offering too many choices. It's best to offer your own favourite cocktail and make it with confidence.
The most important basic spirits are gin, vodka and scotch whiskey. Champagne, wine and beer are, in my mind, just like food, so one's fridge and cellar should always be well stocked with a good selection of these.
I always keep Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray in the freezer.
Finlandia and Zubrowka vodkas always lay in the freezer (right by the gin).
I drink Dewar's White Label Scotch Whiskey and currently Oban single malt. I enjoy changing brands every now and then. Oban is a milder scotch to drink in summer while I enjoy a heavier more peaty style in winter.
Campari and pastis (Pernod or Ricard) to serve as pre-dinner drinks.
Sherry has made a strong comeback, I recommend you try some Spanish and local varieties.
If you have the space and don't mind the effort the next stage is to purchase rum (gold and white), brandy, American whiskey, tequila, pimms, Cointreau, vermouth (sweet, dry and red).
Keep 375 ml bottles of soda water, tonic water, some oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and a good juicer handy. You can now offer an excellent range of drinks from gin and tonic to Campari and grapefruit without much trouble at all.
The next stage is to purchase lime cordial, dry ginger, lemonade, cranberry juice, grenadine, Angostura bitters, tomato juice, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce.
Don't forget if you intend to serve Pimms, fresh cucumber is needed to garnish and for Bloody Marys celery stalks are essential. I stock Cognac, Chartreuse, Frangelico, and Averna for after dinner. Also, port, tokay and muscat might be needed for certain occasions.
Glassware is the most important item
Assorted cocktail glasses
Don't use glassware that you see in bars as an example, they're chosen for practicality. At home drinking vessels can be much more interesting and fun. If they don't all match it doesn't matter. Granny's gilt-edged martini glasses and old crystalware may be worth investigating.
Use liqueur and cognac glasses, wine, Champagne (the saucer is back in), pilsner and whatever unusual glasses you like. I'm obsessed and have way too many for my needs. A vintage ice bucket might be found at a store, but it can also be a bowl and spoon.
Don't use spirit measures at home, free-pour and be generous. A shot glass can be used to measure the correct proportions for cocktails, but your guests will be more impressed if you remember the recipe by heart.
For mixing equipment you'll need:
A waiter's friend
A bottle opener
Small chopping board
I like my martinis very dry and garnished with olives or cocktail onions (a Gibson). You need French dry vermouth (Noilly Prat or Lillet), the gin already in the freezer, green olives (white cocktail onions) and toothpicks long enough to reach from the bottom of your glass to above the rim. I stir my martinis in a jug that holds eight serves and I use a Hawthorn strainer (available from hospitality and homewares suppliers) that fits exactly into the circumference of the jug -- efficient, though not very theatrical. A little bit of showmanship goes a long way with cocktails
A classic recipe book I recommend is The American Bar by Charles Schumann, but there are many others available.
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