You welcome your friends as they walk into your house like Norm was greeted when walking in to “Cheers”. You choreograph a drink making routine with flair a la Brian and Doug in “Cocktail”. Two solid ways to create a semi-professional bar atmosphere at home. We have a better way, though. Try following these bartending tips from Kailee Asher, our chief mixologist, to create a professional bar in your home. Don’t forget to tip your bartender.
Our Top Ten Home Bartending Tips
1. Gear Up
Before you even think about mixing up the first cocktail in your home bar, you must make sure you have the right gear. You wouldn’t go running in flip-flops. So don’t make cocktails without the right tools. You don’t have to spend your life savings on equipment, either. We compiled a list of our affordable favorites (plus one favorite that only Jessica Alba can afford). Honestly.
2. Ice, Ice, Baby
The experts say that ice is almost as important to your drink as the liquor. Too much ice, and the drink becomes watered down. Not enough ice and the cocktail is a room-temperature disaster. And don’t get us started on cloudy, unfiltered ice that can alter the taste of the drink. Use filtered water in ice trays if your freezer doesn’t produce top quality frozen cubes. To get some extra fancy ice, you can always purchase inexpensive ice molds to really wow your crew.
3. More than a Vessel
When a recipe calls for a martini or a margarita glass, that’s a no-brainer. Even the newbie home bartenders have those two figured out. But what if the recipe calls for a Coupe or Collins glass? Or a Nick and Nora? (We thought that was a movie about music, to be honest.) Take a look at this handy guide for the standard glassware and the substitute glassware you can use in a pinch.
4. Come On and Stir It Up
It’s not you. It’s us. We just need a little space. That goes for double in regards to your home bar. Mixing drinks can be art, and the canvas is a good mixing station. You need elbow room to shake your drink. And counter space to slice your lemons. If your home doesn’t have a built-in wet bar, or you can’t purchase a bar like the one pictured above, set up your studio in your kitchen for the night. Organize your tools ahead of time and make sure that everything is clean and easy to reach. You don’t want your ice melting while you’re searching for the julep strainer.
5. Waste Not, Want Not
Take stock of what you and your crew like to drink. (Tequila, right?) Don’t bother stocking your bar with bourbon if the majority of the group prefers gin. Even though it seems contrary, alcohol does go bad. So don’t buy it if you aren’t going to drink it or if you’re just going to imbibe once in a blue moon.
6. Quality Over Quantity
As part of the “alcohol doesn’t keep” lecture, we suggest picking quality over quantity. Especially when it comes to your favorite spirit. If tequila is your absolute favorite (as it should be), invest in a little higher quality bottle. If you like vodka best, seek out a mid-range bottle to have on hand for your home happy hours. You can find most spirits available in the $20 – $75 range for great quality primary liquor.
7. Basic Black, Classics Go with Everything
Select your add-in ingredients carefully. There are so many choices when it comes to modifiers that it can be totally overwhelming. We suggest selecting the versatile classics that can go with just about any primary spirit. Curaçao, Sweet Vermouth, Dry Vermouth, Maraschino Liqueur, Chartreuse, Campari/Aperol, Absinthe, Angostura Bitters, Orange Bitters, and Peychaud’s Bitters are some of the added ingredients we like best. Start with a few of your favorites and build from there.
8. Let’s Mix-A-Lot
To keep cocktails balanced, most recipes call for some kind of mixer in addition to the spirit modifier. As with the modifiers, select flavor profiles that are multipurpose and that appeal to your taste buds. Spend a little extra to purchase quality mixers such as simple, honey, and agave syrups, grenadine, and orgeat. Make a farmer’s market run to stock up on everything fresh – lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, berries, mint, and thyme. Stock up on basic bubblies like tonic, club soda, and sparkling wine as the effervescence finishes in many drink recipes.
9. Step by Step
Just like in baking, following cocktail recipes is important. Not as important as in baking because you won’t explode a margarita like you could a cake. On second thought, don’t forget to put the lid on the blender before you crush the ice. However it is important to get the steps down. If the recipe says “shake” don’t stir. If it reads “pour over ice”, don’t shake it with ice. The instructions are there for a reason (for a fantastic cocktail). We should do our level best to follow them.
10. Say Cheese
No we aren’t talking about pairing tequila and cheese. Although tequila y queso es muy bueno. Making drinks at home should be fun and enjoyable! Don’t forget to smile. Grumpy bartenders don’t get tipped.
You’ve Got What I Need
And with these bartending tips, you’ve got what you need to be a super fly mixiologist. Except for recipes. You might need some of those. Head over to our tequila cocktails page for a library of recipes begging to be followed. We did all the heavy lifting, so it’s easy for you to search by modifier or mixer or flavor profile. Now go forth and get to mixing.