Shake up your cocktail making game with these home bar essentials…
If you’ve not become your new favourite bartender over the last few months, to be honest, you’ve been doing lockdown wrong. There’s no better way to shake up a Friday night at home than to garnish your evening with a homemade cocktail or two. But, if previous habits (or nights in) have left your cupboards looking a little bare, let us guide you on all the essentials needed to make sure your at-home cocktail bar is ready to support you through your at-home journey.
Needed for: Everything. The most common mistake of the at-home mixologist is to free-pour when shaking up a storm. Because we’re in charge, we can make it that little bit more boozy right? Putting aside the overpowering taste, we have to agree that when it comes to our favourite cocktails, bartenders have worked out how to create the perfect mix thanks to years of trials and testing. Cocktails are all about the balance, so leave it to the professionals and grab yourself a jigger, which will easily measure single and double serves as you need.
A Cocktail Recipe Book
Needed for: Everything. Even the best bartenders follow recipes, so don’t be ashamed to invest in a little extra help and inspiration from an expert. We love The Essential New York Times Book of Cocktails which teaches you all the classics, along with gorgeous new ideas. Or, of course, you can rely on our very own Weekend with Hemingway collection.
There are a range of many more tools which will help you finesse your cocktail-making, but they’re probably not essential. Unless you’re James Bond, a good stir will often suffice where a shaker might be used, or the end of a wooden spoon can be swapped for a muddler.
Needed for: Negronis, Classic Martinis, French 75 and a good old fashioned Gin & Tonic. We recommend investing in something bright and classic like Hendricks Gin, or, if you’d prefer to support a business closer to home, try Four Pillars or Archie Rose Distilling Co. – two Aussie brands making big moves in the gin world.
Needed for: White Russians, Moscow Mules, Bloody Mary’s and Cosmopolitans. A staple for any at-home bar; if you’re not drinking it on the rocks, it’s not absolutely necessary to go for a premium brand, but something classic and still smooth like Absolut will hit the mark nicely.
Needed for: Mojitos, Daiquiris and Piña Coladas. There are so many gorgeous spiced rums on the market which are well worth your attention, but when it comes to cocktail-making, you’ll need to stick to something crystal clear. Sydney-based Brix Distillers is a great option and allows you to support a local business.
Needed for: Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Whisky Sour. If you’re a fan of whisky, then it’s likely that you’ll already have a few bottles in stock, but if you’re just looking to have it on stand-by for a good Friday night shake-up, make sure you keep it simple. For this we’d recommend a rye which is often best for mixing, as it will stop you bringing in any strong peaty or smokey flavours more prevalent in a Scotch or Irish choice. Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye is a great smooth choice.
Needed for: Margaritas, Cosmopolitans and Long Island Iced Teas. Marie Brizard is a simple and inexpensive option to ensure that you’ll always have a drop of this ready to go.
Needed for: Espresso Martinis, Black & White Russians. There’s nothing more vital on a cold winter’s evening than something warming and creamy in your glass, and Kahlua will help you deliver that every time. Stay on brand for this one and go for Kahlua itself.
Image by Marcus Z via Shutterstock.
Needed for: Daiquiris, Caipiroskas, Mojitos and more. The easiest way to get your hands on a good simple syrup is by making it yourself. All you have to do is bring equal parts of water and sugar to the boil and simmer until all the sugar is dissolved. Then remove it from the heat, let steep for 15 minutes, funnel into a bottle and keep it in the refrigerator for storage. It’s as easy as that.
Image by Shyria Alexandr via Shutterstock
Needed For: Old Fashioned, Martini, Manhattan. Bitters can be a confusing term for a brand new bartender, offering a catch-all name for a large array of aromatic, typically alcohol-based infusions of bittering botanicals. Admittedly, many cocktails will call for a specific brand or genre of the stuff, but we recommend starting off with a classic Angostura Bitters, a fail-safe for cocktails such as an old fashioned.
A dark rum like Australia local, Husk Distillers North Coast Bar Series Spiced Bam Bam Rum is great to have in for fans of a Dark & Stormy.
Tequila (like Espolon Tequila Bianco) is also a great addition to any bar, although for margarita-lovers, of course, it’s absolutely essential.
For more seasonal cocktails, spritzes are a beautiful summer addition to your drinks cupboard, and you can’t go much wrong with an Aperol Spritz on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Garnishes are technically an essential for any good cocktail. In fact, the term “cocktail” rises from the garnishes themselves, which are displayed proudly to show off an impressive drink, much like a peacock’s tail. That being said, they’re mostly needed fresh so cannot be stocked up on and stored ahead of time. If you are preparing for a cocktail-infused dinner party, we recommend stocking up on limes, oranges and mint which are likely to suffice for most drinks.
Want some cocktail inspiration? Try these wine-infused cocktail recipes for your next at-home happy hour, or, if whisky is your tipple, try these cocktail ideas in collaboration with Starward Whisky. If you’d rather leave it to the professionals, we can recommend the best cocktails to pick up or take away in Sydney.