Home Bar Essentials

Above: Home Bar Hacks: Drinks are at—not on—the house!
Above: Home Bar Hacks: Drinks are at—not on—the house!

Sometimes you want to treat yourself to an unusual drink—something made with liquor distilled by French monks and infused with rare bitters, prepared with great finesse by a vest-clad barkeep at an intimate cocktail lounge. Sometimes, though, you want to kick back in your PJs with a G&T and watch Master of None. If you’re going to indulge in the latter, a well-maintained home bar is essential. We chatted with Kristen Voisey, a six-year veteran of the bar-supply business and owner of Toronto’s BYOB and 1/2oz. Cocktail Emporiums, about what you need for the perfect at-home cocktail hour.

AmongMen: What are the current home-bar trends? What sells really well at your stores?
Kristen Voisey: People are stocking their bars with matching metals; they’re buying bar tools in either all copper, gold, rose gold or stainless steel. Rose gold is very popular right now—as are decorative copper pineapples!

AM: What core items should every home bar should have?
KV: Everyone should have a basic bar set:

  • Shaker (for cocktails containing juice or syrups)
  • Mixing Glass & Bar Spoon (for stirring cocktails, such as martinis or manhattans)
  • Strainer (for straining cocktail into glassware and keeping fruit pulp, seeds and ice out of the glass)
  • Muddler (for muddling herbs, such as mint for a mojito, or fruit, such as orange peel for an old fashioned)
  • Jigger (for measuring ingredients)
  • Elbow Juicer (for squeezing fresh lemon or lime juice—always use fresh citrus in cocktails)

It’s worth splurging on bar tools, especially a shaker. A crappy shaker is always a leaky, sticky frustration. Japanese bar tools are the best quality. I’d also invest in glassware; a great glass is a very important part of the cocktail experience.

AM: There are so many varieties of glassware out there. Which ones do you recommend that suit a wide variety of drinks?
KV: Every bar should have four types of glasses:

  • Cocktail Coupe: a glass with a sturdy stem and rounded bowl for cocktails not served with ice
  • Double Old Fashioned Glass: a short tumbler for cocktails served with ice
  • Collins Glass: a tall, cylindrical glass for cocktails served with a lot of ice
  • Glencairn Whisky Glass: a curved tumbler for straight spirits

AM: Which spirits and bitters are useful to stock?
KV: Always have at least four of your favourite base spirits (such as rum, gin, whisky or tequila) on hand. You’ll also need a variety of your favourite liqueurs and vermouths (such as Campari, red vermouth, white vermouth, Cointreau, etc.). Aromatic, orange and Peychaud’s bitters are versatile and suit a variety of drinks.

AM: What basic cocktail manual do you recommend?
KV: (The Bar Book) by Jeffery Morganthaler is great for learning cocktail techniques.

AM: What are your top three tips to keep in mind when shopping for your home bar?
KV: Know what types of cocktails you enjoy, know your budget and know what metal you like best (gold, stainless steel or copper).

AM: What mistakes do people make when shopping for their home bar?
KV: Nobody needs Goldschlager or Jäger!
AM: Amen!

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