Liquor Cabinet Essentials

Written by
Vintage Cellars
February 16, 2017
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The tools, equipment, drinks and mixers every modern home bar needs.

For many years, Boronia Marsala may have been the most stocked item in home liquor cabinets, followed by assorted blended whiskies from distilleries long forgotten, and colourful flavoured liquors to make fruit tingles and fluffy ducks. Whilst these are essentials for any retro-style cocktail party, or those of you feeling a little nostalgic, they aren’t necessarily the staples in the modern home liquor cabinet. With a little structure and forethought, it is surprisingly easy to acquire what you need for a fully stocked home bar. So, where to start?

First let us assume the freezer is already loaded with some choice white spirits to make martinis, for both the traditional Gin recipe and the Vodka version. Tanqueray and Grey Goose are solid inclusions and the perfect beginning to your home bar. As we move further away from summer however, darker spirits are in higher demand, so there is a lot of arranging to be done. 

All mixed up

Mixers are essential. Make sure you have Tonic and Soda water, Dry Ginger ale, Cola and Lemonade to add to your favourite drinks. It goes without saying that you will need plenty of ice, lemons, limes and the odd jar of maraschino cherries and bitters to make things look absolutely authentic. As far as bitters go, Angostura is a must. Scour your local neighbourhood or home garden for your herbs, mint in particular for cocktails, but rosemary can also add another level of intrigue to your secret recipe. In most cases purchasing a cocktail recipe book is the most important bar item you can get.

Tools of the trade

To make your drinks like a pro, you’ll need some gear. Keep it in the junk drawer in the kitchen (everyone has one) so they will always be close at hand. For starters, you’ll need a zester to zest your citrus and a muddling stick to mush up your sugar and spirits and limes. If you don’t have a muddling stick handy, the back of a ladle will work provided your glass is wide enough. A juicer, the type that looks like garlic press but shaped like half a lemon is best, and of course, a shaker and strainer to create your best Tom Cruise from Cocktail impression.

The glassware that you use is not essential in how the cocktails taste, but to look the part it would be wise to have both highball and lowball glasses at hand and some martini glasses too. This will cover most bases and having fewer glasses will also help reduce the amount of time you have to clean up the next morning!

The drinks

Cognac and Armagnac – made from wine, distilled and then aged in barrels to make a beautiful, life-changing drink. Cognac is arguably fuller and rounder centered, Armagnac perhaps a little more fiery, however both go a long way to bringing joy to your glass. Of the brown spirits, these are in many cases the most approachable.

Try Hennessy vs Cognac and Armagnac Castarede XO 20yo.

Whisky, with or without the ‘e’ is booming. With more and more Australian incarnations on the shelves, this as a category is front and center – and with good reason. It is delicious. Made from a rudimentary quasi-beer that is then distilled and aged in barrel, Whisky offers a little more fire and spice and a host of charry, malty notes that help to fend off winter chills.

Try Bowmore 12yo Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Woodford Bourbon Reserve.

Rum is as Australian as a barbecue at the beach, and can be white or dark. The white rums (unaged as a rule) are often a cocktail staple. Dark rums (aged) can also be a great cocktail addition, but high quality dark rum is perfect for sipping. Rum is made from molasses and offers smells of spices and bananas and deep concentrated brown sugar.

Try Appleton Estate Signature Blend Rum and Angostura 1824 12yo Rum.

Stocking the bar is just the beginning. The real test comes with the alchemy of blending, mixing and designing drinks that you love, be it classic or experimental, invented as you chat with friends.