My husband and I have often talked about trying to set up a mini home bar, so that we could make our own cocktails, but it always felt a little intimidating and overwhelming to get started with it. But this year, I decided to surprise my husband by gifting him with all the various accoutrements for his birthday! In case anyone else is interested in trying to make their own cocktails at home, I thought I’d share some of the resources I found along with the various liquors and tools that I ended up purchasing!
First off, I bought him a simple cocktail recipe book—nothing too complicated, so that you don’t have to be a professional bartender to follow the recipes. I chose this one from Williams Sonoma, which includes both the classic cocktail recipes along with some more interesting variations. My in-laws also bought him The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique by Jeffrey Morgenthaler. It is much more in-depth but still very readable, so it will be great if my husband decides to get very serious about his cocktail-making technique.
Liquors and Their Accompaniments
I had no intention of trying to fully stock our home bar (since that would get very expensive), so I just stuck to the main liquors, which I thought we might use most often. We already had a bottle of gin (London Dry Gin, which is a fine inexpensive brand), so I also purchased a bourbon (Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey) and a whiskey (Crown Royal Blended Canadian Whiskey). Most of the recipes that I looked at specifically called for a blended Canadian Whiskey; this particular one was a little on the pricier side, but it was on sale at our local liquor store! I also bought us a bottle of Sweet Vermouth, Angostura Bitters, and Simple Syrup. The cocktail book had recipes for simple syrup using various different kinds of infusers, but I thought it would be helpful to start out with a pre-made bottle.
There are all sorts of expensive barware sets out there, but you don’t necessarily need all those fancy tools to start making cocktails.. My father-in-law recommended this excellent article from Wirecutter, which lists all of their recommended tools based on extensive research and testing. My husband and I already had this cocktail shaker, which we received as a wedding gift, so in addition, I bought him this jigger, a muddler, and my in-laws chipped in and got him a juicer. Note: rather than a traditional two-sided jigger, Wirecutter recommended a mini-measuring cup instead. It’s inexpensive, provides more measurements than a standard jigger, and it’s easier to get more accurate measurements with it if you are a “amateur” bartender.
So, there you have it! In case you are feeling inspired to try this yourself, I’m sharing a recipe from the Williams Sonoma cookbook, which we tried out this weekend. It calls for “sage simple syrup,” which you can make very easily at home by simmering a cup of water over medium-high heat and then adding a cup of sugar and 10 roughly chopped sage leaves. Continue simmering the mixture until the sugar dissolves, strain out the sage leaves once the syrup has cooled, and then refrigerate it in a clean airtight container.
Grapefruit and Sage Gimlet (serves 1)
2 1/2 ounces of gin
1 once fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce sage simple syrup
1 grapefruit slice
1 fresh sage leaf
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the gin, grapefruit juice, and sage simple syrup. Cover, shake vigorously, and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with the grapefruit slice and sage leaf. Cheers!