Spir­its and Sup­plies for Your Bar

The how to’s of stock­ing a home bar

Gulf & Main - - News - BY GINA BIR CH

With the hol­i­day sea­son be­hind us, there’s a good chance your home bar took a hit, or maybe you re­al­ized you never had a good one to be­gin with and are ready to make a change for the new year. Set­ting up a home bar might not be cheap, but it is rel­a­tively easy to lay a good foun­da­tion. We have the ul­ti­mate check­list for you. Beer and wine are non-ne­go­tiable sta­ples. In fact, these quin­tes­sen­tial items are all that many home bars con­tain; they rarely let you down or go out of style. A sim­ple rule for wine: al­ways have red, white and bub­bles. Cer­tain spir­its are uni­ver­sally pop­u­lar and pro­vide a solid base for a menagerie of cock­tails: vodka, te­quila, gin, rum and bour­bon. Vodka is like a blank canvas for the home mixol­o­gist be­cause its fla­vors tend to be more neu­tral than other spir­its. With a mind­bog­gling se­lec­tion, bar­tender Jay McAu­ley from Cru in Fort My­ers sug­gests, “Be­gin with some­thing midrange like Stoli. It works with mixed drinks and mar­ti­nis.” Te­quila is best known for its star­ring role in mar­gar­i­tas, but you can also make mar­tini-like cock­tails with this sprit that has a dis­tinct smell and fla­vor. With a hi­er­ar­chy of cat­e­gories, start your col­lec­tion with re­spected Her­radura Sil­ver. This qual­ity spirit gets its spice from white oak and is just smooth enough to sip over ice. Gin also has a dis­tinct fla­vor, pre­dom­i­nantly from ju­niper berries; how­ever, dis­tillers of­ten add other botan­i­cals, mak­ing it pop­u­lar with mixol­o­gists who want to cre­ate herbal cock­tails. From Italy, Un­cle Val’s Botan­i­cal Gin is beau­ti­fully fresh and flo­ral with cit­rus and cu­cum­ber fla­vors. Quite pleas­ing. Rum is es­pe­cially good for sweet con­coc­tions, as its su­gar cane base is friendly with juice and so­das. Typ­i­cally, clear rum is sweeter and lighter for mix­ing. Kirk and Sweeney is dark, aged in oak for 12 months and with its warm toasty fla­vors of vanilla and caramel, it is a beau­ti­ful sip­per rather than mixer. It also looks nice on the shelf. Bour­bon is, hands down, the hottest spirit on the mar­ket, and once again there is no short­age of choices. Bour­bon must be made from at least 51 per­cent corn, mak­ing it a bit sweet. Bib and Tucker Small Batch is then aged in charred oak bar­rels for nutty spice. Smooth yet com­plex, this bour­bon is en­joy­able and goes down easy.

Bit­ters are like a spice rack for your bar. They’re es­sen­tial items that Dawn Blau­velt keeps at home and be­hind her bar at The Standard in down­town Fort My­ers. She says, “They are a great way to add a twist to a reg­u­lar cock­tail like an Old Fash­ioned.” She sug­gests keep­ing or­ange, choco­late and aro­matic bit­ters on hand.

Mix­ers can make or break your home setup. Al­most all mix­ers come in small serv­ing sizes, so they don’t have to go flat or take up a lot of space. Club soda and tonic are pri­or­i­ties.

Keep a se­lec­tion of fruit juice to add a splash of sweet­ness, acid­ity and lay­ers of fla­vor; think or­ange, cran­berry, grape­fruit and trop­i­cal nec­tars. There’s noth­ing like fresh cit­rus, but as a backup, the juice in those squeez­able plas­tic lemons and limes will do.

Small cans of cola, le­mon-lime and gin­ger so­das should be in the stock­pile, not just for mix­ing but also for vis­i­tors want­ing a vir­gin drink. Another small can to con­sider is tomato juice to doc­tor up for a Bloody Mary.

Bar­ware is ex­tremely im­por­tant. Sty­ro­foam and plas­tic just won’t do— ever. Glass is a must. A ba­sic set of tall high­ball and short rocks glasses can ac­com­mo­date most all cock­tails. Michelle Kosteno Prin­ci­pato from Blue Coy­ote Sup­per Club on Sani­bel also sugg ests stem­less wine glasses. She ex­plains, “They can be used uni­ver­sally, from wine to a Moscow Mule, or re­ally any­thing.” Gad­gets make life fun and eas­ier. Es­sen­tials for your bar be­gin with a qual­ity shaker set and a pro­fes­sional wine key that can tackle both corks and caps. For that ex­tra touch, get ice trays in the shapes of large spheres or squares, a zester for cit­rus and an olive stuffer. Cru’s McAu­ley says about the stuffer, “They’re re­ally cool and work great,” ad­ding, “They’re not just for bleu cheese and mar­ti­nis, but you can get cre­ative and stuff olives with al­most any­thing.” Now that you’re stocked and ready per­haps to try your hand at cre­ative cock­tails, get the book Shrubs: An Old­Fash­ioned Drink for Mod­ern Times, by Michael Di­etsch. It pro­vides unique twists on tra­di­tional drinks, as well as new ones to wow your guests. On a bud­get and have a birth­day com­ing up? Con­sider mak­ing the cel­e­bra­tion a “stock the bar” party for an entertaining and easy way to give your home setup a boost. Cheers. Gina Birch is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor, a lover of good food and drink, and a well-known me­dia per­son­al­ity in South­west Florida.

Dawn Blau­velt runs the bar at The Standard, where she en­joys com­ing up with new craft cock­tails. Many can be re- cre­ated in a well- stocked home bar.

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