Your Guide to Starting the Perfect Home Bar
Looking for a first-class cocktail without leaving the comfort of your living room? Need last-minute drinks for a group of thirsty friends? We’ve got you covered, from top tools to perfect pours.
They came in with the 20th century, and they haven’t left. A well-stocked bar cart is a glam home essential, ideal to wheel out at parties and display favorite bottles when there’s no space for a full bar.
Sleek and Graphic: Tiered Bar Console from West Elm ($399)
Ideal for a Tight Space: Ernest Chrome Bar Cart from CB2 ($199)
Industrial Chic: Baxton Studio Alera Rustic Industrial Serving Cart ($120)
Three Bartenders and the Tools They Can’t Live Without
Zach Lynch, Ice Plant, St. Augustine, FL
“To peel citrus for garnishes, my OXO Y peeler ($8.99) is key. It’s super sharp, comfortable in the hand and they sell replacement blades. After [owning] a bunch of peelers, this has been the proven one I’ve stuck with.”
Max Green, Coup, New York City
“Grab yourself a pair of Japanese jiggers, with graduated lines for all the measurements you’ll need to make a drink.”
Jim Kearns, Slowly Shirley, New York City
“For tiki-style ‘exotica nights,’ the must-have list includes a swizzle stick for mixing drinks with crushed ice.”
From The Classic & Craft Cocktail Recipe Book, by Clair McLafferty
When it comes to bitters, should you DIY or buy? The short answer is both. In addition to classics like orange bitters and the spiced-cherry profile of Peychaud’s, splurge on fanciful flavors like celery, chocolate mole or “tiki spice” to add complexity to drinks.
But if you’re inclined to make your own, try aromatic bitters, which has an autumn-appropriate spiced profile similar to classic Angostura. It’s versatile enough to add to almost any drink. The following recipe makes a large batch, so consider giving a few bottles as gifts.
- 1 medium lemon
- 1 750-ml bottle overproof grain alcohol
- ½ teaspoon gentian extract
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 1½-inch piece fresh ginger, halved
- 4 whole allspice berries
- 4 whole cloves
Using vegetable peeler, zest lemon in strips, leaving white pith behind. In large sealable glass jar, combine zest and remaining ingredients. Seal and store at room temperature. Let steep for 2 weeks, shaking jar every 2 days. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a coffee filter into another large glass jar. Funnel into small bottles with droppers. Makes about 3 cups.
Courtesy Allen Katz, The Shanty at New York Distilling Company, Brooklyn, NY
An easy to build, punchbowl-ready cocktail, perfect for when you’re short on time. Just like the sharp-tongued writer for whom it’s named (Dorothy Parker, of the Algonquin Round Table), this drink may appear demure, but it packs a punch.
- 16 ounces gin (Katz prefers Dorothy Parker American Gin)
- 2 ounces orange liqueur
- 4 ounces hibiscus syrup (or other floral syrup)
- 4 ounces lemon juice
- Seltzer, to top
- 8 orange wedges, for garnish
Funnel first four ingredients into an empty 1-liter bottle. When ready to serve, shake well to mix, then divide among eight glasses (or pour 3 ¼ ounces into each glass). Scoop ice into each glass, and stir to chill. Top each glass with chilled seltzer. Garnish each glass with an orange wedge. Serves 8.
You Can Make a Wide Range of Drinks With These Spirits
Whiskey (Bourbon or rye)
The Next Three to Fill Out the Bar Cart
Vermouth (dry or sweet)
Prosecco (or other sparkling wine)
What if someone isn’t in the spirit of things? Offer them a glass of wine. Here are four fail-proof offerings for that dispirited guest, courtesy of Beverage Director Ariel Arce, Air’s Champagne Parlor and Tokyo Record Bar, both in New York City.
Rosé: Clos Cibonne 2015 Cuvée Spéciale des Vignettes Rosé (Côtes de Provence); $31.“One of my absolute favorite rosés, this wine is made from old vines and matured in giant 100-year-old neutral oak barrels. It’s [an] all-year-round rosé. Ideal with toasted country bread with soft goat’s cheese and mushrooms.”
Red: Barale 2015 Nebbiolo (Langhe); $19. “From one of the great Barolo producers in Piedmont, this is a fall red [that] pairs nicely with shrimp and grits or a pulled pork. Put a chill on this bad boy.”
White: San Ferdinando 2015 Vermentino (Toscana); $17. “I love citrus, generally limy zesty notes that make me feel like it’s summer all year round. Vermentino, with its richness and yet shockingly bright acidity, allow[s] for an amazing pair with a seafood pasta.”
Sparkling: Albert Mann 2014 Extra Brut (Crémant d’Alsace); $23. “Crémant is a really cool alternative to Champagne. This bottling is dry and citrus-driven, with stone fruit and melon, and a wonderful sparkler to start the meal. Killer with a cheese plate or some raw seafood.”
- 1Cart Before the Pours
- 2Bitters: Buy or Make Them?
- 3The Acerbic Mrs. Parker Cocktail
- 43 Bottles to Have on Hand and Wine Essentials