How to Stock Your Bar Cart Like a Pro

Here’s a guide to everything you need to make quality cocktails at home.

Frye two-tier bar cart from Crate & Barrel

Stock the Essentials

Spirits: Bottles of vodka, gin, rum, tequila, and whiskey. Depending on your taste, the whiskey can be sweet (bourbon), spicy (rye), or astringent (Scotch).

Liqueurs: One bottle each of sweet and dry vermouth, one herbal spirit such as Campari, and an orange-based liqueur such as Cointreau

Set of bar tools for cocktails, accessories and utensils for bartender for making alcohol beverage, shot and long drink. Copy space background

Mixers: Club soda and tonic

Bitters: One bottle of Angostura

Fruit: Oranges, lemons, and limes

Equipment: A two-part Boston shaker, a Hawthorne strainer, a juice press, a bar spoon, and a double-sided jigger (either .5 and .75 ounces, or 1 and 1.5 ounces). We assume you have knives, cutting boards, and ice. Don’t worry about glassware; it’s not wine, and it will all taste just fine regardless of the glass.

Books: A basic guide such as Dale DeGroff’s The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks or The Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender’s Craft by Gary Regan

Tip: The axiom “garbage in, garbage out” rings true, so buy high-quality ingredients across the board. Seek out mixers such as Fever-Tree and Q Tonic. Make your own sour mix using fresh fruit and simple syrup. Your body will thank you the next morning.

Bartender using a shaker in cocktail preparation

Mix the Drinks

Long drinks: While nothing might seem easier than making a Scotch and soda or a vodka tonic, remember that the amount of mixer will determine the strength and flavor of the drink. Four ounces of mixer to 2 ounces of spirits will yield a tasty drink with roughly 12 percent alcohol by volume.

Short classics: One of the ironies of mixology is that the simplest drinks are the hardest to make properly. When mixing a martini or Manhattan, follow directions as precisely as you would if baking. There’s no margin for error, and this is where the quality of the ingredients will really shine through.

Punch: Looking for the ultimate quarantine libation? Punch can be made in large batches, and it only improves over time. Remember the adage: “One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak,” i.e. one part lime juice, two parts sweetener, three parts rum or another spirit, and four parts water. Unlike with a short drink, feel free to improvise until you find a mixture that suits your taste, and use fresh fruit to get a dose of vitamin C.

Toddies: A hot toddy may not cure the coronavirus, but it’s good for whatever else may ail you. Mix 1.5 ounces whiskey in a mug with hot water, add several teaspoons each of honey and lemon juice, and garnish with a cinnamon stick. For a cold toddy, use rye whiskey, oranges, lemons, cinnamon sticks, cloves, honey, Earl Grey tea, and bitters; serve with ice.

Tip: Keep a separate ice tray filled with bottled or purified water.

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