The Cocktail Pantry
Your Guide to a Well-Stocked Bar
Building cocktails at home is a breeze once you have the right tools and ingredients on hand. This glossary outlines the essentials you’ll need to mix craft cocktails in style. Begin by stocking your bar with your favorite base spirits and plenty of ice. Factor in at least one pound of ice per person if you’re entertaining. Invest in a paring knife and a wine key with both a bottle opener and a foil-cutter, and you’re on your way to happy hour.
Fresh Citrus: Stock fresh lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits for garnish and fresh-pressed juices. Slice lemons into wheels and limes into wedges for classic cut garnish. Use a channel knife or paring knife to zest lemons for Martinis, Cosmos, Sazeracs and Sidecars.
Simple Syrups: Combine local honey, maple syrup or sugar with equal parts boiling water and stir until entirely dissolved. Cool and store in a clean glass bottle or Mason jar for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Infuse fresh herbs into your simple syrups to use in Gimlets, Daiquiris, Juleps and fresh lemonade.
Fresh herbs: Lavender, mint, rosemary, sage and thyme are ideal for muddling, making simple syrups and garnishing cocktails. Muddle fresh herbs with sugar for a botanical spin on a Collins. Garnish cocktails with fresh herbs for aromatic and aesthetic pop.
Bitters: Considered the salt and pepper of mixology, bitters add depth and complexity to cocktails. Angostura Bitters are integral to building Old-Fashioneds and Manhattans, while Peychaud’s Bitters are an indispensable ingredient in the Sazerac. Bitters are strong infusions of bittering agents including dried edible roots, barks and citrus peels combined with fruit, spices, nuts or seeds in glycerin or high-proof alcohol. Bitters add extra spark to classic highballs, sours and plain soda water.
Sea Salt & Sugar: Use coarse sea salt to rim the glass of a Margarita or a Salty Dog and sugar to rim a Sidecar or a Lemon Drop. To “salt” or “sugar” the rim of a glass, coat the outer lip of a glass with a slice of citrus and then roll it in salt or sugar.
Cocktail Cherries: Garnish Manhattans, Old-Fashioneds and Whiskey Sours with a cherry. Skip the fluorescent red maraschino cherries and opt for brands like Luxardo maraschino cherries or Les Parisiennes cherries and you’re in for a real treat. Quality of garnish is just as important as the quality of the base ingredients of a cocktail.
Bar Tools: Choose a jigger that clearly marks ½ ounce, 1 ounce and 2 ounce increments to measure liquids. Most mixed drinks measure to 3 ounces before they’re shaken or stirred. You’ll need a metal bar shaker set or a Boston shaker with a 24- ounce metal tin and a 16-ounce mixing glass to build cocktails. The advantage of using a mixing glass is being able to see the proportions in each style of cocktail. A 12-inch stainless steel bar spoon is perfect for handling garnish and stirring drinks and a Hawthorne strainer is clutch for straining cocktails into a glass. A muddler is a must for building an Old-Fashioned and muddling fresh herbs, and an ice scoop is helpful for adding ice to a glass.