Monday, July 7, 2014

Starting a bar

A couple people asked about this recently, and my email got a little...bloviated. So here's a blog post instead. If I was starting a bar from scratch, this is how I might go about it. As such, the order of importance and cocktail lists are very much to my taste. Your priorities may vary.
These lists are obviously not complete, but neither are they intended to be the minimum. Basically I'd draw a line somewhere down each list and get the things above that, as willingness to drop money dictates. Furthermore, your own tastes and cocktails that you specifically want to have, make, or learn to make should clearly take precedence. I've put two sample lines in the list and tried to make up a list of cocktails you could make with things in that line. This is largely off the top of my head, I'm sure I missed some great ones.

Core Bottles (in order of importance)
These are bottles that are the basis for most drinks. Don't go terribly extravagant with these, as they tend to empty pretty fast and you'll feel the hit to your wallet pretty fast. That said, they say a cocktail is only as good as the worst ingredient, so get a bottle you like. I've put my go-to cheap-but-tasty bottle in parentheses where I have one.
  • Gin (New Amsterdam)
  • Bourbon (4 Roses)
  • Rye (Old Overholt)
  • ---------------1-----------------------------
  • Light Rum (Cruzan Aged (it's white, but they call it aged. Whatever))
  • Vodka (Russian Standard)
  • Dark Rum (Goslings)
  • ---------------2-----------------------------
  • Brandy
  • Aged Rum (Cruzan again. The brown-colored aged one. So baffling)
  • Tequila

Bottles that add spice
These are bottles that add flavor and are called for in many cocktails. These tend to last a good long time as you don't usually use much, so it's worth getting one you like when there are options. There often aren't.
  • Bitters
    • Angastura
    • Orange Bitters
  • Sweet (red) Vermouth (Carpano Antica)
  • Dry Vermouth
  • Campari/Aperol (very similar flavors, campari is much more bitter)
  • ---------------1-----------------------------
  • Maraschino (Luxardo)
  • Chartreuse (Green)
  • Creme de Violette
  • ---------------2-----------------------------
  • Cointreau
  • Amaretto
  • More amaros
  • More bitters
  • etc
  • etc

Mixers aren't really big in the sort of cocktails that I enjoy. Here are the ones that I try to keep in stock.
  • Simple Syrup (do not buy this. It takes like 2 minutes to make)
  • Tonic water
  • Soda water
    • Quick note: if you get or have a soda fountain or sodastream, I'd invest in good tonic syrups instead of bottled tonic. It's tasty and doesn't go flat.
  • Ginger Beer
  • Lemon Juice (bottles of 100% not-from-concentrate can be found and are a lifesaver.)
  • Lime Juice (ditto. Whole foods and the like is where I usually find them.)
  • Eggs
  • Milk/Cream
  • ---------------1-----------------------------
  • Grenadine (also do not buy this)
  • OJ
  • Bubbly (shut up, it counts)
Other Considerations
  • Glassware (the below are 90% of all you'd ever want or need)
    • Cocktail glasses (martini or coupe style, whatever)
    • Highball glasses
    • Double Old Fashioned (rocks) glasses
  • Garnishes (fancy pants
    • Lemon and orange peels
    • Good maraschino cherries
    • Olives if you like martinis dirty, I suppose.
  • Tools
    • Shaker (I care too much about shakers). Any old shaker is fine.
    • Knife (just your kitchen paring knife for garnishes)
    • Spoon (barspoon if you're feeling fancy. It's a little easier to stir a drink with one)
  • Ice
    • More than you'd think.

Some Cocktails for ---------------1-----------------------------
  • Old Fashioned
  • Manhattan
  • Negroni
    • Contessa (negroni with aperol instead of campari)
    • Marquis (negroni with bourbon instead of gin)
    • Marquessa (negroni with bourbon and aperol instead of gin and campari)
    • etc
  • Martini
  • Gin Gimlet
  • Tom Collins
  • Boulevardier
  • Whisky Sour
  • Gin & Tonic

Some More Cocktails for ---------------2-----------------------------
  • Vodka Martini
  • Vesper
  • Dark & Stormy
  • Moscow Mule
  • Gin Mule
  • Ramos Gin Fizz
  • Last Word
  • Aviation
  • Daiquiri

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