It’s that time of year again, a chance for us all to start afresh. While many of you have already gone through your bar, replacing what you have run out of (I know you helped finish off those last drops of single malt!) and replacing any missing tools (like that barspoon), now is time to also go back to the basics when it comes to the cocktails you are serving. There are so many new choices available to us, from new liqueurs to creative infusions, but I like to keep with the spirit classics.
While any well-stocked bar should have vodka, gin, scotch, and rum, I would also be sure to stock tequila, to make yourself that margarita when you need to mentally escape to somewhere warm. Bourbon is another basic I find helpful to always have on hand, whether you need something strong after a crazy week, or to use when working in the kitchen. I choose top shelf liquors, wherever possible, especially if I am drinking the spirit straight up or on the rocks. And don’t forget to stock both tonic and sparkling waters, and any other mixers you might frequently use.
Tips to Remember Before You Sip
1. When it comes to ice cubes, the bigger the better.
2. Measure everything.
3. Use fresh ingredients — especially citrus — wherever possible.
4. The best drinks are achieved by establishing a beautiful balance of strong (the base spirit), the sweet, and the sour.
5. Experiment! Most of the classic cocktails are created with fewer than five ingredients. The martini and Manhattan have only two! I encourage you to play with your drinks and create new flavor combinations.
Beyond the classics, for me, this winter has been all about Amaro, a classic, herbal, Italian digestif. And while most folks drink it neat, it is very mixable. Orange juice or tonic water is a good place to start. Here is a delicious Amaro recipe inspired by the classic drink the Negroni. Serve it along with nibbles like salted nuts and sheep's milk cheese when your guests arrive and your party will get off to a great start!
Another great winter mixing tip: Try Monin flavored syrups. They have all these flavors, from gingerbread to rosewater, that I'm sure there will be some you like. Although some bar chefs might think these syrups are a bit of a cheat, I think they’re wonderful. Add a few tablespoons of gingerbread syrup to your brandy and you have a delicious flavor combination (it’s sumptuous with chocolate truffles). I love serving their cinnamon flavored liqueur with bourbon — truly a great combination.