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September 7th, 2013
Metro New York Mixology
Have you ever stressed out over what to put in your bar for the holidays? Well have no fear; I’m going to make some really easy suggestions for getting your bar into shape for practically any drink.
First of all I always stress a pre-set cocktail list. I never show up to a house with the “I can make anything you want to drink approach.” What usually happens is everyone wants what I don’t have on hand, making for a bad experience. I try to set a vodka drink. I like to offer an interchangeable gin drink with a bourbon drink, similar set up, and different liquors. I like to do a milk punch as well. And I always offer Fernet Branca at the end. You don’t know how many people drink a little of this and a little of that during the holidays. What they really should drink is some Fernet Branca after that big meal.
But still you shouldn’t stress out. Here is my easy to follow recommendations for all that may ail ye! Good bourbon whiskey is a necessity. No, Jack Daniels is not bourbon; you can get that too, but remember it is Tennessee Sipping Whiskey.
Several bottles of vodka like Tito’s or Smirnoff. Don’t laugh; Smirnoff wins taste competitions all the time and no one has to know how much you paid. Transfer your vodka to cut crystal decanters; it will dress up even the most mundane spirits
If you see a brand named Bear Force, buy it. Don’t complain. It’s better than 99% of the stuff on the market. Try it!
I love gin so I’ll have several different kinds. Hendricks’s makes a fine botanical gin. For dry Martini’s, I like to offer Beefeater or Bombay Sapphire. If you want something truly unique, may I recommend Barr Hill from Vermont? Their gin is a perfect example of delicious and handcrafted. They also distill vodka from Raw Honey! I also love the Tuthilltown Half Moon Gin. Distilled from apples, this is a gorgeous slurp of American ingenuity.
Always buy fresh Vermouth. Dolin makes a lovely one. If you are able, try to find VerVino from Channing Daughter’s Winery out on the East End, or Uncouth Vermouth, or even Atsby. I also swoon over Vya Vermouth. The big guys, like Martini and Rossi do a fine job too for a crowd. Carpano Antica is my go/to for that unexplainably delicious taste of Italy, it’s classy stuff.
Scotch Whisky. Leave the single malts out and find some higher end blended whiskies. Pinch is a marvelous example as are some of the expressions from Johnny Walker. Seek out some Japanese Whisky or Indian Whisky if you are able. A few bottles of Irish Whiskey or some Canadian Rye spiked with maple syrup is also fun.
You may want to invest in some Craft Whiskey from the United States, Tuthilltown, Catoctin Creek, Few Spirits, St. George, Four Roses, Knob Creek, Bookers, E.H. Taylor. They are all delicious. I’m also a big fan of rye. Grab a bottle when you’re out.
Tequila. Either Casa Noble or Arrogante. Rudo Tecnico is gorgeous stuff with a really funky label.
Bitters. There are hundreds out there. Some of my favorites are Bittercube, Bittermens, Bitter End, Dram, FivebyFive, Bitters Old Men, and Hella Bitter. Yes Bitter. I just tasted a maple bitters from Urban Moonshine in Vermont that blew my socks off in a Manhattan. I also savored another series of bitters from my Bittered Sling in Vancouver. These bitters are a plane ticket to another planet.
Syrups are especially important. Royal Rose is a must with their Rose Simple Syrup leading the pack. Wilkes and Wilson are gorgeous- their ginger syrup went on the road with me this year for book signings of Apothecary Cocktails. I also used Sumptuous Syrups of Vermont’s young ginger syrup. Their Mole syrup is ethereal. Seek it out.
You are going to need cream liquor, so seek out 300 Joules. This is truly unique stuff, like liquid silk against your tongue. The new cinnamon flavor is like drinking the Fall. The lemon is a trip to Lake Como in Italy and the ginger makes some of the other ginger liqueurs on the market pale in comparison.
I always have a bottle of Campari so I can make a Negroni. No, you don’t have to finger stir it like Gary Regan does. (Inside joke)
Juices must be freshly squeezed. Let me say that again. All juices MUST be freshly squeezed. Lemon, Lime, Orange, Grapefruit – you can grill the grapefruit first then juice.
If time is of the essence, try Perrier Sparkling Natural Sparkling Water in Pink Grapefruit. That, with the Vodka of your choice, a splash of simple syrup and a hit of Angostura Bitters is a cocktail of mind erasing capacity.
Polar makes a bartender series of fizzy water. I think they just rock the house.
Did I say fresh squeezed juices? Sure I did. And great ice.. YOU MUST USE GOOD ICE… sure ice comes bagged from the grocery store but the best ice comes from an icehouse. Buy a 5 pound block and cut your own slabs, then break it down into chunks, and then finally into cubes. Your guests will think you went crazy, but they’ll never stop talking about the ice.
It’s like those fruit juices. VERY important! Happy New Year!
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