tea berry-blue (teaberryblue) wrote,
tea berry-blue
teaberryblue

The Care & Feeding of a Bar

Cecille asked me if I would take a photo of my liquor cabinet/bar.

So, I thought that in addition to taking a photo of the whole thing, I would take photos of what is inside it so that those of you who would like to learn to mix drinks or who already enjoy mixing drinks can get a feel for what I do.

This is the contents of my bar!

All the Liquor in My Bar

All the Liquor in My Bar

But I’m going to go through it and explain to you what-all this is.

1) Vodka

Vodka

Vodka

Vodka is a very clear liquor that is made via a multiple distillation process, usually from grain or potatoes. It is very high proof and generally has no flavor other than tasting like alcohol.

I am not a fan of vodka, which is why you will see there are only three vodkas in my bar. Vodkas are normally used in cocktails that aren’t supposed to “taste like” alcohol, which, to me, defeats the purpose of drinking alcohol. There are also a lot of flavored vodkas available, but many of them taste like artificial flavoring, and that’s not my idea of a good drink. I keep vodka in my bar for friends, but that’s pretty much it– although true infused vodkas (vodkas that are used to soak herbs or fruit and then strained to get the flavor) are often yummy.

2) Gin

Gin

Gin

Gin is also a very light-colored liquor, but it has a bit more flavor than vodka…enough that different gins will have very distinctive tastes and you will want to use different types of gins in different kinds of drinks– the gin you use in a martini is not the same gin you want in a gin and tonic. Gin is, like vodka, usually made with grain, but it is made out a distilled grain liquor that you add juniper and sometimes other herbs to, and then re-distill again.

Gins are usually classified by their “dryness:” a dry gin will have very little juniper flavor. Less dry gins will taste like juniper, herbs, or citrus fruits. I keep a variety of these, ranging from a classic London Dry like Broker’s to sweet gins like Tanqueray Rangpur, which tastes like lime or Desert Juniper which tastes like juniper berries.

3) Bourbon and bourbon-style whiskey

Bourbon

Bourbon

Bourbon is probably my favorite liquor ever. It is a corn-based distilled liquor aged in charred oak. Technically, a bourbon whiskey MUST be made in the state of Kentucky, but there are a lot of good bourbon-style whiskeys that are not made in Kentucky, so I am including those here. I love bourbon because it is a bit sweeter than most whiskeys and has a fuller body. A lot of the drinks I post in my blog are bourbon based drinks made with fruit– it is great with peaches, cherries, and other berries. Bourbon is also the chief ingredient in a Mint Julep.

My (and the) standard bourbon to have in a bar is Maker’s Mark, which is famous for its red wax label. I always have at least one bottle of this, and then several other bourbons, some of which I use in mixed drinks, and others which I just drink on the rocks.

4) Scotch

Scotch

Scotch

On the very far other side of the whiskey spectrum is scotch. Scotch is a whiskey made from malted barley and aged in oak. You don’t mix scotch. I mean, you could, but scotch is meant to be drunk neat (in a glass, room temperature, with no ice) and savored for the complexity of flavor. My mom is the real scotch drinker in the family– I like some scotches, but a lot of them are very peaty and taste like dirt to me. It is much drier than bourbon and is generally very light in texture but very strong.

5) Other Whiskeys

Whiskeys

Whiskeys

There are many other whiskeys in the world! You will want some of them in your bar. My collection of whiskeys includes Irish whiskey, Canadian whiskey, American whiskey, and Southern Comfort, which is a whiskey-based liqueur. It i basically bourbon soaked with fruit and spices plus sweetener (traditionally honey). Different whiskeys are needed for different types of drinks, as they will have different flavors based on what type of grain they are originally made with!

6) Rum

Rum

Rum

Rum is possibly the most variable of all liquors, and thus you may, once you start expanding your bar, want many types of rum. Rum is a liquor made from molasses which means that is it generally the sweetest of all the liquors I have mentioned here. It also comes in many varieties, but there are three basic ones: white, or silver rum, which will be the “cleanest” one, gold rum, which will be a bit sweeter and have a bigger variety in tastes from one to the next, and black rums, which are the heaviest and sweetest. All three are appropriate for different types of cocktails and recipes. Many rums will have a citrusy flavor to them as well as the sugary flavor they are known for. In a well-stocked bar, you will probably want a silver rum, a gold rum, and a black rum.

7) Cachaça

Cachaça

Cachaça

Cachaça is basically like white/silver rum, except that it is made from cane juice instead of molasses and therefore has a distinctive flavor. It is not a bar necessity but it is the primary ingredient in a Capirinha, which is one of my favorite drinks.

8) Tequila

Tequila

Tequila

This one is kind of embarrassing, but I put it in just for the sake of completeness. Tequila is a
Mexican liquor made from agave, a kind of succulent plant. Like rum, it comes in gold and silver varieties, with the silver having a cleaner flavor and the gold having more complexity.

HOWEVER, the only tequila in my cabinet was Jose Cuervo. While Cuervo is probably the best known tequila in the US, it is also fortified with a bunch of additives that can give people massive headaches (it’s sort of like the MSG of tequilas). So I highly recommend going with a different brand, especially if you are primarily drinking margaritas or other sweet mixed drinks, as sugary drinks are more likely to give people a hangover in general.

9) Pisco

Pisco

Pisco

Pisco is a liquor distilled from GRAPES! It is a South American liquor which is most widely used in a Pisco Sour. This isn’t super essential for most bars but I like Pisco Sours a lot so I tend to keep a bottle of it.

10) Liqueurs

Liqueurs

Liqueurs

Now we are getting into the silly stuff! Liqueurs are pretty much a very wide variety of liquors that are generally sweet and strongly flavored. I have liqueurs that are flavored with everything from elderflower to biscotti! So you can get a sense of the very wide range they cover. You will probably want a bottle of Triple Sec, a popular orange-flavored liqueur used in margaritas and other mixed drinks, in a started bar. People often like to have peach schnapps and sour apple schnapps, but I have neither as I prefer to use fresh fruit in most of my fruit-flavored drinks. If you want to know more about liqueurs, please just ask me and I will be happy to offer advice and suggestions.

11) Liquorices

Liquorice

Liquorice

Okay, okay, liquorices are a subgenre of liqueurs, really, but they are a big one so I am putting them all together. These are very strong herbal liqueurs that taste of– you guessed it, black liquorice. There are a lot of different types of liquorices. In my bar, I have Pernod, Sambuca, Ouzo, and Aqavit, but you have probably also all heard of Absinthe, which is another type of liquorice.

Liquorices are sometimes served straight in shots as aperitifs, but I tend to use them very sparingly, sometimes just to coat the glass of a drink before serving it.

12) Bitters

Bitters

Bitters

There are a lot of kinds of bitters, but the main description of bitters is that they are an herbal concoction usually used in small quantities as a flavoring in a cocktail. Here are two very different kinds. Angostura bitters are alcohol-free and are stored in the refrigerator; Campari is a bitter liqueur. There are several other kinds of bitters, notably orange bitters (which I have and forgot to take out of the fridge) and Peychaud’s bitters, which are almost impossible to get outside of New Orleans and are an ingredient in the Sazerac cocktail. Bitters are pretty awful on their own, but are delicious when mixed in sweeter cocktails. Campari is one of the main ingredients in a Negroni, which is one of my favorite drinks.

13) Vermouth

Vermouth

Vermouth

Vermouth is technically a kind of wine. It is a wine that is soaked with herbs and comes in two categories: dry white and sweet red. There is also “extra dry” vermouth. Dry white vermouth is an important ingredient in a Martini, while sweet red is an important ingredient in a Manhattan.

14) Brandy

Brandy

Brandy

Brandy, like scotch, is a sipping drink. It is a distilled liquor made by distilling wine. There are a few drinks you might mix it with, but for the most part, you are going to drink it neat. My advice for brandies is to have a good brand for sipping and a cheap brand (like the Korbel here) for mixing. Brandy is great poured over desserts and in eggnog or as a little splash in a sangria, but you don’t want to use the fancy stuff for that!

15) Apple Brandy

AppleJack

AppleJack

You can get a lot of fruit-flavored brandies, and I prefer these to Schnapps for mixing. Mostly, I keep apple brandy on hand, but you can also get pear, peach, and various berry-flavored brandies. They are generally made with the fruit, rather than simply flavored like Schnapps is, and are really great if you soak fruit in them before using them to mix. I use apple brandy in my green apple flavored drinks– I usually soak apples in with apple brandy and sugar as a base.

16) Dessert Wine

Dessert Wine

Dessert Wine

Port, Madeira, and Sherry are the three big dessert wines. They are very thick, syrupy, and sweet, and many people sip them straight, but they are also amazing poured over desserts and as mixers. I like mixing dessert wines with rum or whiskey, and I use them in a lot of my hot winter cocktails.

And here is what it looks like when it is all in the cabinet where it belongs. The only liquors that don’t go in the cabinet are the scotches, which are out in the living room, and the brandies, which are on top of the cabinet. Those ones are really my mom’s liquor, though, and she drinks them more as after-dinner sipping drinks.

The Bar

The Bar

I will say that this is 1) an expensive hobby and 2) something I have been working on for a long time. Liquor lasts for a long time so specialty liquors don’t need to be purchased too often. The only ones you will be replacing frequently are the ones you like and mix the most often. Types of liquor range in price from $15-16 for a bottle of many liqueurs to $70 and sometimes even higher for a bottle of good scotch. My recommendation is to buy small bottles of staples to start, see which ones you like best, and then purchase those in the biggest bottles you can get, because it will be cheaper in the long run. Pretty much the entirety of my liquor collection comes in the form of gifts– this is what I get as Christmas and birthday presents! Don’t feel like you need to have as much liquor as I do to learn how to do this right– to start off, just having a bottle of gin, bourbon, rum, vodka, vermouth, bitters, and a couple of liqueurs or other things that look exciting to you is a good place to start. You should be able to get together a good bar to start experimenting for about $200. If you buy little bottles to start and see what you like the taste of, you can do it much more cheaply– many liquors come in taster bottles that cost under $10.

If anyone has questions about starting your own bar or about mixing drinks, I would be happy to answer them! I intend to follow this up with posts about some of the other items you should have if you want to get into bartending as a hobby– there are accessories, non-alcoholic mixers and ingredients, and glasses you will want to have as you progress!

Mirrored from Antagonia.net.

Tags: bartending, food and drink, liquor
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