Is your home bar not much more than a motley collection of left overs from your last house party and some old duty-free? If so, it’s time to get yourself sorted.
It doesn't take a big investment to put together a respectable home bar. If World Class Cocktail Week has inspired you to make better drinks, World Class Bartender of the Year Tim Philips, of Sydney's Bulletin Place, has put together a list of the basics that will see your cocktails rise to stratospheric levels of respectability.
Sounds simple, but without doubt the most important thing for every home bar is being well stocked with the right alcohol. “You don’t need that much,” Philips says. “You can cover most of the bases with very few things.” Here are his must haves:
Gin “A workhorse in cocktails, and it goes with everything. It’s the backbone of so many drinks so use something good, like Tanqueray No.TEN.”
Rum “I recommend an aged one for cocktails, but get a white one if you want to make cleaner-tasting drinks. Go for Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 if you’re feeling decadent.”
Tequila “Yes, you do need tequila," Philips says. "Besides being the ultimate party starter ingredient for your Margaritas, tequila goes surprisingly well in stirred drinks or for sipping.”
Scotch “You should have a good single malt for after dinner. My favourite is Caol Ila Distillers Edition.”
Vermouth “Vermouth is back. You need a Rosso and a Dry for Manhattans and Martinis respectively. I like Regal Rogue, and Dolin Dry. Keep them in your fridge for longer storage.”
Bitters “Bitters is a bartender’s salt and pepper. Throw a dash in every drink you make to add palate-weight. Angostura is the benchmark and a great all rounder.”
Vodka “A good vodka, like Ketel One, is delicious straight from the freezer.”
Other than these, Philips recommends saying no to fruit- or cream-based spirits, “We live in Australia. Go for fresh fruit instead. It’s way more delicious.”
The right tools don't need to be fancy. “At the end of the day practicality should rule supreme,” advises Philips. “Having a simple shaker you are comfortable with is better than a $300 three-tier piece shaker that you cannot get the top off.” Heed this advice and not only will you be able to make good drinks, you’ll probably save yourself a lot of cash, too.
Shaker “Most bars use a tin-on-tin shaker where the smaller metal cup fits around a larger metal cup. This is known as a Toby-Tin or metal Boston Shaker. These are the industry standard and shouldn’t set you back more than $20.”
Strainer “You need a good one. With strainers it’s the tighter the ‘coil’ the better. I recommend a Bonzer strainer from the UK. They are a bit pricy ($35) but one will last you a lifetime.”
Mixing jigger “I use a step jigger because it tells me when I’ve poured incremental measurement from 12–75ml. They take a little while to get used too. Making cocktails consistently is all about exact measurements.”
With garnishes there are two must haves available year-round; a small jar of Luxardo Brand Maraschino Cherries and non-pitted Sicilian green olives in brine. For Philips, Luxardo cherries are, the real deal. Go for non-pitted olives, they have more flavour. When using fruit, Philips suggests using whatever is in season. "I like figs, plums and pears at the moment.” Similarly, Philips advises that if lemons and limes aren’t in season use another citrus. “Coming into winter, keep an eye out for mandarin and blood orange.”
Once you're set up, put the home bar to use with these World Class recipes.
What is your welcome drink? Share a photo of your welcome drink on Instagram and you could win a cocktail masterclass with 2015 World Class Bartender of the Year Jack Sotti. You’ll be in your own home with 10 friends, learning all the cocktail secrets while eating food from one of our favourite restaurants. All you have to do is share a photo of your welcome drink on Instagram with the hashtag #welcomedrink and tag @broadsheet_melb.