When it comes to at-home entertainment, preparation is everything. So if you don’t want to abandon your guests in order to make a last-minute run to the liquor store this season or seem clueless about your wine selection, take some tips from the experts by constructing the ultimate at-home bar.
You’ll need something to shake, stir, and strain cocktails; this can be as simple as a mason jar and a pint glass or you could go for a more professional stainless steel shaker.
You should also have a muddler, a peeler, a hand juicer (never use anything but fresh juice), some jiggers so you can accurately measure, and a spoon for stirring; also helpful is a hawthorne strainer for shaken drinks, a julep strainer for stirred drinks, and a fine strainer for removing bits of fruit and mint.
The simplest thing to do to make great interesting cocktails is to make syrups. Add equal parts sugar to water and dissolve. And it’s really easy to add flavors… like something floral? Get some floral tea like jasmine, heat it up, and add equal parts sugar to the tea. I have a drink on the menu at Leyenda made with chamomile syrup (basically strong tea and sugar) that’s amazing.
The staples of a basic bar are rum (go for El Dorado, any age), vodka (I like Reyka), tequila (Tequila Ocho or El Tesoro), whiskey (such as Rittenhouse Rye), and gin. (Get Brooklyn Gin!)
You’ll also need modifiers; sweet vermouth like Cocchi di Torino, dry vermouth like Dolin Blanc, and Cointreau are the most important. I also like having Chartreuse and Maraschino around, and bitters pack a lot of flavor in small doses.
courtesy of Ivy Mix
2 oz jalapeño tequila (cut open 2-3 jalapeños per bottle of tequila and let sit for 15-30 minutes, depending on the heat level desired. Strain out the peppers and seeds.)
1 oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz chamomile syrup
2 dash peychauds bitters
2 dash Bittermans mole bitters
Shake, serve in a coupe, enjoy!
A wine opener. For the Rolls-Royce of wine openers I would choose the Code 38 wine key. Stay away from gadgets like aerators, which make no difference whatsoever.
I keep it somewhat simple for at-home use. I like to use smaller white wine glasses (about 12-16 oz) for both sparkling wine and any unoaked whites. It’s much better for sparkling because it allows the aroma more room to develop and is still small enough to preserve the bubbles and temperature. I use large-sized (28-34 oz) burgundies for Pinot Noir, thin-skinned varietals, and oaked whites, and then the same size Bordeaux-style glasses for all other reds. My favorite brand is Korin’s Ion glassware.
Bottles to Buy
For Large Groups: I’d do Andre Tissot’s Cremant du Jura, a completely biodynamic cremant made in the traditional champagne method. It is outstanding! The region it comes from is named the Jura due to the soils dating back to the Jurassic period.
For a Dinner Party: I’d recommend the small grower-producer sparkling of Domaine Doyards Cuvee Vendemiaire. It has an extended elevage, sees some neutral oak and a longer time on the lees. This gives it an incredible texture and mouthfeel coupled with intense minerality.
To Splurge: Pierre Peters Cuvee Chetillions blanc de blancs made from a small plot in the Grand Cru of Le Mesnil. He’s one of a handful of producers making wine from this reveled plot famous for its chalky soils and the Chardonnay grape.
For Large Groups: Domaine de Vissoux Beaujolais Cuvee Traditionelle. Beaujolais is one of the unsung heroes of the wine world and incredible for the warmer summer. The Gamay grape shows tart red fruit of cranberry and cherry mixed with black tea, a hint of black pepper and incredible granite minerality. Very food friendly for anything from chicken to hamburgers.
For a Dinner Party: La Rioja Alta’s Vina Ardanza Rioja Reserva. Rioja is another of the unsung heroes in the wine region and lucky for us is priced as such. This Tempranillo wine packs so much complexity into the price that it’s tough for any other wine region to compete. With flavors of pomegranate, tart cherry, cranberry, dried herbs, old leather and dill this wine is surprisingly elegant on its feet and ages beautifully.
To Splurge: I’m such a big fan of Syrah and no one does it better than the Northern Rhone. I’d highly recommend Jean-Louis Chave’s Hermitage. It’s an iconic red wine based on Syrah. The Chaves have been making wine from this area since 1481. Needless to say that they got it “right” a long time ago and these wines could easily change your life. They often showcase red and black cherry fruit, campfire smoke, roasted meat, campfire smoke, black olive and wild herbs like rosemary and violet florals. A bottle of this and a dry aged ribeye off the grill could be a match made in heaven.
For Large Groups: Granbazan Albarino Etiquette Verde from Rias Biaxas Spain. It is all hand harvested from the oldest and coolest subregion in the area basically touching the Atlantic Ocean. It is full of green apple, pink grapefruit, white peach, and sea spray.
For a Dinner Party: Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir de Fye. It’s 100 percent Chardonnay but only sees a kiss of neutral oak, is all hand harvested and has amazing texture. Its meyer lemon, white peach, cheese rind, chalk and salt minerality compliment everything from seafood to pasta.
To Splurge: Domaine Roulot Merusault from Burgundy France. One of the top producers, his wines are packed with balance, minerality and complexity. The flavors of hazelnut, brown butter, lemon meringue and limestone go great with just about anything or simply on its own!
Though I’ve been known to drink beer out of a mason jar, the better your glassware, the better your beer. You really should be focusing on the following styles to have on-hand, so that you’re properly prepared for most beers.
They have a bulb towards the top of the lip, which allows more of a head to develop, releasing perfumes in beers like pale ales, IPAs, and pilsners. These are much preferred to the standard shaker pint (the standard stackable pint you see in most bars), which allow too much aroma and carbonation to dissipate quickly, meaning the last half of the glass isn’t nearly as good as the first sip.
Stemmed Tulip/or Snifter
Depending on your space constraints either one of these glasses are perfectly acceptable to use for IPAs, porters, and stouts, particularly imperial or any beer that you might only want a few ounces of, like sours, barley wines, etc. They can also be used for Belgian styles, though goblets are a better choice.
I almost always have a growler on me when I know I’ll be by a brewery or place that allows growler fills. Go for one that has a standard opening and screw top lid on the lip. Many breweries and bottle shops have installed counter-pressure growler filling systems that only work with this traditional kind of growler, as opposed to the swing-top or wide-mouth stainless steel varieties. Using a counter-pressure system flushes the growler with carbon dioxide and purges it of oxygen, which extends the shelf life of your beer from 24-48 hrs to up to a week.
Now, if you’re a real baller, you can always invest in a kegerator—a refrigerator specifically built for kegs. It allows you to purchase beer in larger quantity, usually in a size known as a sixtel (roughly 5 gallons), though many are able to accommodate larger kegs up to the standard 1/2 barrel size (15.5 gallons). Popping bottles for friends may seem fun and all but there is nothing classier than walking up to your own tap and pulling a fresh cold one in the privacy of your own home. Better yet, it allows your guests to serve themselves freeing you to entertain at parties without anyone feeling like they need permission to grab another beer.
3 Beers You Should Have On Hand
1. Transmitter PH2
Fermented with passion fruit and the bacteria lactobacillus. A crisp, tart, sour, and refreshingly fruity dance of the senses from our friends in Long Island City.
2. Threes Vliet
A classic German-style Pilsner. Crisp, floral, slightly spicy, and easy drinking. Get your growler filled at Threes Brewing.
333 Douglass Street, Gowanus
3. Other Half Forever Ever
A year-round offering from our friends in Gowanus and perfect for summer crushing. This session IPA is what it’s all about. It’s the kind of beer for long drinking sessions with friends in the summer heat.
Finally, you can incorporate beer into your home cocktail program. Though I mostly stick to beer backed up with the occasional Fernet Branca, I reached out to my homebrew club The Brewminaries for advice on beer cocktails and Greg Besso sent me this recipe:
1 oz patron silver (infused with habanero peppers for 2 days)
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 tablespoon lime juice
Combine the above ingredients with ice, stir to combine, strain into a nonic pint with ice and fill the remainder with your IPA of choice.