On Saturday, M. and I delivered our long-awaited wedding gift to Katie and Chris: a cocktail lesson and essentials to stock their home bar. M. focused on three spirits and six classic cocktails (three shaken, three stirred) that can be improvised in dozens of ways. Our friends Julie and Aaron joined in as well. He taught them techniques, he got them drunk, we all laughed way too much. It was one of those ain’t-life-grand moments.
So grand, in fact, that I feel like spreading the love (even though you haven’t invited us to your fabulous New Orleans wedding — we’d totally come, btw). Below are what we consider the home bar essentials, and the six drinks everyone should have in their repertoire.
Cheers to a lifetime of great drinks and great friends!
- Spirits: Beefeater gin, Santa Teresa 1796 aged rum, and Templeton Rye whiskey. (Obviously, tequila, mezcal, and Laird’s Bonded Applejack are critical, too, but good gin, rum, and rye will get you on your way.)
- Liqueurs/modifiers: Benedictine, Campari, Cointreau, sweet and dry vermouths (keep them in the fridge), maraschino, and absinthe.
- Bitters: Peuchaud’s, Angosturra, orange (M. makes a 1:1 blend of Regans and Angosturra orange bitters, feel free to do the same), and Bittermens Chocolate Mole (terrific in spirit-forward stirred drinks such as a mezcal old-fashioned, but buy whatever unusual bitter inspires you).
- Equipment: shaker tin and cheater tin (they fit together and can be used separately for stirred drinks, though a chilled pint glass is best for those), bar spoon (if it has a heavy, flat end, it serves as a muddler, too), two jiggers (1/2-and-3/4 oz and 1-and-2 oz, respectively), Julep strainer for stirred drinks, Hawthorne strainer for shaken drinks, vegetable peeler for garnishes, handheld citrus juicer, Perfect Cube ice trays, and a good cocktail book.
It’s my firm belief that the recipes below will please anyone, and can inspire a lifetime of experimentation. If you stick to the basic proportions of spirit, sugar, and modifier, you can make anything your heart dreams up — and it’ll actually taste good. (For example: replace the rum, Angostura, and orange bitters in the Old-Fashioned with tequila and chocolate mole bitters for an entirely different drink; likewise a Hemingway Daiquiri is easily adapted from the traditional recipe by switching out some of the lime juice and sugar for grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur.)
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
1/4 oz simple syrup
2 oz gin
Instructions: Shake ingredients with ice. Strain into glass.
2 dashes orange bitters
3/4 oz dry vermouth
2 1/4 oz gin
Instructions: Stir ingredients with cracked ice in a mixing glass. Strain into glass and garnish with lemon twist.
3/4 oz simple syrup
1 oz lime juice
2 oz rum
Instructions: Shake ingredients with ice and strain into glass. Garnish with lime wheel.
Sugar cube or 1 tsp demerara syrup
Angostura and orange bitters
2 oz spirit (rum or any as preferred)
Instructions: In glass, muddle sugar cube with 3 dashes Angostura and 1 dash orange bitters. Add spirit and stir briefly. Add ice to glass and stir again. Garnish with orange and lemon twists.
3/4 oz lemon
3/4 oz simple syrup
2 oz whiskey
Glass: cocktail or rocks
Instructions: Shake ingredients together without ice until incorporated. Add a very small amount of ice and shake again until ice is entirely incorporated. Add a generous amount of ice and shake hard. Double-strain into glass and garnish with Angostura.
2 dashes Peychauds bitters
1/2 oz demerara syrup
2 oz rye whiskey
Glass: Single rocks
Instructions: Rinse glass with absinthe. In separate mixing glass, stir remaining ingredients with cracked ice. Strain into glass. Express a lemon twist over the glass, rub the rim, and discard.