All The Ingredients To Make the Perfect Bar Cart For Your Home
What’s in a bar cart? It’s a pedestrian term for a thing of beauty and wonder. It is a place of sanctuary. It’s a place entirely designed for your pleasure. To house your well-curated selection of alcohol (and that one bottle of unpronounceable liqueur left over after a party you’ve long forgotten). When you get home after a long day there is no purer act of self-love than mixing yourself a cocktail.
I recently suggested a friend make Negronis for a party and she exclaimed: “I’m not a CHEMIST”. I tried to explain to her that it was three simple ingredients, in equal parts, combined over ice with a slice of orange for a garnish. She was having none of it (“I don’t understand ratios”). Which is a great pity, because essentially if you can make cheese on toast, you can make a Negroni. Both cheese on toast and Negronis have an instant soothing effect and are well received at parties. An added bonus is if you manage to master three or four cocktails your friends will think you are some kind of soirée svengali. Discussing the latest leadership spill of whichever party is in power at the time this goes to print? Reach for a mixing glass and spoon. Feel the absurdity of life wash away from your mind. You can’t cure cancer or reverse climate change, but you can make a perfect Manhattan in the comfort of your home.
I genuinely think that if the world was about to end, and I had a ten-minute warning, I’d make Martinis and hold my loved ones close as we drank them. When I make cocktails at home I am channelling Oscar Wilde, I’m embodying Hemingway. I’m not as smart or funny as either of them, but my Martinis are probably up to scratch against theirs. And that makes me erudite in my own special way.
What do you need to make your home drinking dreams come true? You need some basic kit, we’ve got your back here.
Then you need some basic cocktail ingredients. You need some of the cornerstone spirits - vodka, gin, rum, whisky (again - we got you - here). On top of those main players, you’ll need some modifiers. You’ll need some bitters (The benchmark - Angostura - is available in good bottle shops - if you want to go fancy and buy some nifty bitters have a look online, but be aware that once you start down a fancy bitters route you’re most certainly a cocktail tragic (Welcome, friend!). What follows is a suggested list of bit parts (and in some cases bitter parts) you won’t regret backing up the main players in your cocktail repertoire. It’s not exhaustive and you don’t need all of it to show yourself (and your guests) a good time.
Dry Vermouth - The playmate of white spirits in Martinis - but it can also be employed with darker spirits to give them an austerity measure that you’ll recognise well if you spent any time in England in the last 20 years, or indeed the next 20 years. If you’re a hard right capitalist you may well find you get a personal jouissance from this dose of dryness. Try an Old Pal - you won’t look back.
Sweet Vermouth - Whatta guy. The sweet vermouth treatment bestows rich fruit on the simplicity of straight spirits. Sweet vermouth + gin + other ingredients = Martinezes, Hanky Pankys, Negronis). Sweet vermouth + whisky = Boulevardiers, Manhattans (and all of its children).
Maraschino - Last Words, Aviations (both 1 & 2), Casinos, Red Hooks. You might not have heard of this product, but if you’ve ever enjoyed these drinks in a bar, this is the product to pick up from your local bottle shop. It’s a complex sweetening agent - it has tart notes and brings a marvellous depth to some great classics.
Absinthe - I know what you’re thinking, “isn’t that a hallucinogen?”, “Didn’t that make Van Gogh cut off his ear/create some of the greatest art of the 20th century?” or some variation of those questions. The answer is almost universally “no” to whatever form your question was going to take. Sadly, it will neither make you trip nor make you a creative genius. But a dash of it here and there brings intensity and a herbal length that is altogether pleasant. Pop this embittered bastard on your cart and enjoy shaking a Corpse Reviver, or stirring a Sazerac.
Orange Curacao or Triple Sec - Some classic brands you’ve probably heard of: Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or from our mates south of the border - Marionette - a great new Aussie brand of liqueurs, who seemingly create gold any time they reach for fruit. This ingredient brings a world of fruity goodness to your home bar. Without it, you’ll struggle to make a Mai Tai, Cosmopolitan or Pegu Club.
Fernet Branca - Not for everyone but without this you’ll sadly miss out on Hanky Pankies, Fancuillis, Torontos, or the most marvellously named modern classic: Eeyore’s Requiem.
Sugar Syrup - This is incredibly simple to make, so simple in fact it’s sometimes known as Simple Syrup. Mix equal parts white sugar with warm water and dissolve. However, if making a cup of tea sounds daunting to you, you can pick up a bottle of Crawley’s Simple Syrup from a bottle shop near you.
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