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!