Essentials For Your Liquor Cabinet
We have a well-stocked wine cellar and liquor cabinet, and both come in handy. And while it takes years of tasting to amass a decent cellar, it only takes one or two trips to the supermarket or liquor store to have the staples needed for a decently stocked liquor cabinet. I’m here to help.
Let me start by saying that I have this knowledge due to years of tasting, my Level Two certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, continued education, many events and cocktail classes. From the classes, which I highly recommend, I learned the most about making cocktails. I’m not a bartender, though I’ve served as one more than once, and I know that it just takes a spin of a wheel to exchange one item for another to create a different cocktail. From a class with mixologist William Perbellini I learned that, “Aromatics…are the classics, usually made with only three ingredients.” Perbellini compared making drinks to playing a slot machine with three ingredients to choose from. “For example, when making an aromatic, you spin out one ingredient and add in another to make different options while keeping two of the same ingredients. By locking one and changing the other two or changing one and locking the other two, for example, a Mojito made with tequila instead of rum is a mint Margarita.”
So, now that you’re thirsty, let’s get started. You’ll need a few different spirits, liqueurs and bitters – to satisfy different flavor profiles. I’ll let you know which to drink neat, on “the rock”, rocks or over crushed ice. And of course, the glassware (like an iced coupe and different shapes for aroma enhancing) for each. I don’t have the space to give you the recipes, but they can easily be found on Google, and after you make one you can begin tailoring them to suit your tastes. Let’s start with some basic spirit categories and what you would need for simple cocktails:
Whisky and whiskey: the former refer to Scotch whisky, most often an aged single malt, that can be enjoyed in a nosing glass like a Glencairn or what we use when judging spirits: the Neat glass. Have this type of whisky with a dropper of water, or, if you want to linger serve an ounce or two on the rocks, or to linger longer on the sole “rock” that melts slowest. For whiskey, this would be blended whiskey, rye or bourbon, you can enjoy exactly the same way, though most prefer on the rocks or rock.
The whiskey category lends itself well in some common cocktails such as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Whiskey Buck, Rob Roy and Sazerac. (If you’re not sure which to make, order one at one of our fine restaurants to try them out.) They each have a little bitter and a little sweet taste to them. To make these cocktails you will need aromatic bitters, sweet vermouth, simple syrup, Ginger beer, Luxardo cherries, lemons, oranges and a little Absinthe rinse for the Sazerac. These cocktails can be served without ice in an iced coupe, or on the rock or rocks in an Old-Fashioned glass. Some more traditional drinkers insist that, say a Manhattan, requires ice, but again, I prefer the choice of ice or an iced glass be left up to the drinker.
Vodka, Tequila and Gin: While each can be sipped alone in a nosing glass or on the rocks, most often this category is used in cocktails. Ones to try include Martini (served “straight up” in a chilled Martini glass or coupe), Moscow Mule (served in a copper mug over cracked ice), Negroni (serve in iced Martini or coupe), Margarita (usually blended or on the rocks) and my favorite which calls for both gin and vodka and a little Lillet Blanc, it’s called a Vesper, aka a Casino Royale (served in an iced martini glass or an iced coupe) garnish with orange peel. Note: once you open Lillet Blanc, sweet and dry vermouth or Compari it is to be stored in the refrigerator. Once you open the glass jar of cherries it’s to be stored in a dry cool space.
Miscellany: Grappa, Cognac, Rum/Rhum, bitters, Domaine de Canton and St. Germain. These are not vital for everyone, but we have them all. Cognac and Grappa are nice after a night of wine. Rum is for those that like to sip and have a hint of sweetness as it’s made from sugar cane. Bitters – a huge category – you will get into if you get further into cocktail making, start with aromatic and citrus/orange. Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur and St. Germain elderflower liqueur are nice to have, again if you want to stretch your talents and try other flavor profiles, both are sweet on their own but nice in a martini instead of vermouth, and both are also splendid with sparkling wine.
Keep in mind that this is a start, we do have other liquor, liqueurs and bitters in our cabinet, so I hope this emboldens you to try spirits and cocktails new to you.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits, or if you need help amassing your liquor cabinet or wine cellar!
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