The holiday season is in full swing, and if you’re like me, you’re doing a lot of entertaining. I love to entertain, and I usually have a signature cocktail and punch prepared for guests. This saves time, introduces people to new flavor profiles, and to honest, helps stretch my ‘spirits’ budget. But I also like to have a bar for those guests interested in something different.
With so many different types of alcohol available, it may be difficult to know just what your bar should have. So this week’s Your Resident Gourmet Newsletter is giving you a very easy to follow guide on what you should have on hand for a well-stocked Holiday Bar.
Stocking The Perfect Holiday Bar
Vodka is the workhorse of the most bars and is used in basic drinks such as vodka tonics, screwdrivers, and the vodka martini. Like tequila, it is excellent liquor for doing shots or for mixing into popular cocktails. Vodka doesn’t have a strong color, taste, or aroma, so it makes for a perfect liquor for mixers. The differences between vodka brands comes down to what they’re distilled from (potatoes, grains, sugar cane) and their texture in the mouth. Some (like Absolut) have an oily, silky texture while others (like Stolichnaya) have a watery, medicinal finish.
Gin is the perfect clear spirit and is flavored with juniper berries. It is relatively dry when compared with other spirits and is often mixed with sweeter ingredients, such as tonic water or vermouth, which helps to balance the dryness. The traditional martini is made with gin. It’s one of the base spirits for many popular cocktails, so definitely have plenty on hand. Gin comes in four varieties: London Dry, Plymouth, Old Tom, and Genever. Infused gins are becoming very popular and easier to find, so you may want to stock a cucumber or basil infused gin as well.
Bourbon is basically the American version of whiskey, but the big difference is that it is made with 51 percent corn, which gives it a distinctive flavor. Great for sipping and classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned. Two bourbons that I recommend for your holiday bar are Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark. They have two distinctly different tastes, are stocked at most liquor stores, and tend to be very easy on the wallet.
I suggest having a blended and single malt scotch in your home bar. If you really enjoy Scotch or Irish whiskey, then invest in good single malt like Glenlivet. Single malt scotch is reserved for those who truly enjoy sipping their drink while trying to solve the problems of the world. For those who consider single malt Scotch to harsh, blended Scotches like J&B and Johnnie Walker Green may go down a bit smoother.
A must-have liquor for your bar. Tequila is a spirit made from the blue agave plant, a succulent similar to the aloe plant. What type of tequila you stock depends on what you plan on using it for. Gold tequila is usually the cheaper type of tequila and is perfect for mixed drinks. If you’d like to take your tequila straight up, you’ll want to go with this agave-based drink in its purest form-silver tequila. Tequila is has grown exceedingly popular so be sure to have both gold and silver on hand. Like infused gins, infused tequilas are very popular. Try a jalapeno infused tequila as a shot for a spicy finish.
This tasty liquor is from the Caribbean, is made from distilled sugarcane, and is perfect for summer cocktails such as daiquiris and mojitos. It can also be served straight or on the rocks. Dark rums are best for punches, light rums are for mixing cocktails, and are good served hot-in spiced cider. I say start off with both a good quality light and dark rum. What part of the Caribbean you get your rum really depends on how sweet you like it. Mount Gay and Banahcourt have distinctly different tastes and both are great for sipping and mixing into cocktails.
Once your home bar is stocked with those essentials, add these specialty liquors:
- A drop of white vermouth, along with gin or vodka, is what makes the martini. To make a Manhattan, add red vermouth.
- Cointreau is distinctive orange-flavored liquor used in margaritas and Cosmopolitans.
- Angostura bitters are concentrated bitters that help blend the flavors of many cocktails, including the old-fashioned and the Manhattan.
Beer, Wine & Bubbly
Local MicroBrewed Beer
Sparkling Wine (both sweet and dry)
Garnishes add the finishing touch to your drink. The type of garnish you add to a drink depends on the drink. Tequila-based cocktails often use citrus garnishes like a lime or lemon. Gin-based tonics use olives and onions. Never add garnishes to a Scotch.
Glassware & Bar Equipment
Highball glasses or tall glasses
Red and white wine glasses
Beer mugs and pint glasses
Martini shaker and strainer
Ice bucket with scoop
Paring knife and cutting board
Toothpicks for the olives and onions
A good Mixologist recipe book
Your favorite cocktail recipe!