The Ultimate Stay-At-Home Bar
A guide on how to serve drinks to guests like a boss
By Leo Petaccia
Like your car and the contents of your closet, your selection of libations says a lot about you. And as the truculent little things we are, humans judge everything by their appearances. So when people come over, they had better see a well-stocked cart. That doesn’t mean skimping on the tequila because of some bad memories from your college days. Rule #1 about having the best home bar: It’s not so much for you as it is for everyone else. Let’s get to work.
The Good Stuff: So you want to show everyone your inner Tom Cruise circa 1988. Ambitious, but that’s always a good thing. Here’s what you’ll need, hotshot.
1. Bitter: A bouquet of Asian spices lends this Vancouver-made bitter a veritable kick, which makes it ideal for livening up your cocktails. Tip: A good bitter can change the taste of any drink, thanks to its bold floral and herbal notes. This makes it perhaps the most contentious of boozes to stock, but you’ll only need one if you know what you’re doing. Bittered Sling Denman, $27
2. Scotch: The perfect every day whisky! Highland Park 12 Years Old is recognized for its balanced flavour profile as well as impressive complexity. A truly 360-degree scotch that will please any amateur or neophyte. Highland Park, $75
3. Vodka: No one's doubting the Vodka-making capabilities of the Poles and Russians. It's just that Beamsville, Ontario's Dillon's does just as fine a job thanks to the divine grapes they cull from Niagara's famed Fruit Belt. This spirit is distilled from said grapes, making for an ideal cocktail mixer. Or, you could just sip it. People do sip vodka, you know. Dillon's, $40
4. Gin: There are always merits in detailing the smoothness and fresh hints of citrus that make this guy so ubiquitous, but as if you were going to grab some other gin anyway. Tanqueray, $28
5. Rum: Easy, now. No one’s got anything against the Cubans. It’s just that sometimes people tend to forget that Barbadian rum can be just as divine, particularly the blended variety. Mount Gay’s 1703 Old Cask has a mix of rums that range from 10 to 30 years old, imparting it with a rich, complex fusion of spices and mocha flavours. Mount Gay, $125
6. Tequila: Of course no one likes gimmicks, like a tequila reposado marketed by a famous Hollywood thespian. Only this one from Casamigos, George Clooney’s brand with friends Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman, is the real deal. What with it’s divine caramel undertones and 100 percent agave label, it is indeed real tequila and not the blended crap some folks will try selling you. Casamigos, $70
7. Vermouth: For an exemplary version of the stuff, go no further than the Parisian legend. Think fresh and citrusy on the nose, with a beautifully bittersweet base that will get you thinking of dinner. Lf Dolin Vermouth De Chambery Aoc Dry, $14
8. Bourbon: Once you get past the slight spiciness and fruit-based notes at the top, there’s a heavenly world of sweet vanilla and oak aromas that finish everything off in the Maker’s Mark 46 — the pride of Loretto, Kentucky. Maker’s Mark, $59
Tools of the Trade: When it comes to the instruments with which you concoct your sinful creations, remember: Quality and craftsmanship are of the essence. That means some top-notch glasses, a fantastic shaker, and a badass ice bucket. And it wouldn’t hurt to have a nice jigger, too. Just read.
9. Ice Bucket: There’s nothing worse than finding out all your ice has melted. This one is made from nickel-plated stainless steel, and the handles of saddle leather, both of which make for a respectable balance of elegance and functionality. Ralph Lauren, $175
10. Cocktail Shaker: Each one of these shakers is handmade in Lombardy, Italy by pewterers who use the finest kind of tin around (the kind that takes pretty much forever to rust, in fact).
Kaufmann Mercantile, $300
11. Beautiful Glassware: Scotch’s best friend. But really, you can use a tumbler for anything—it's an all-purpose tool. By the way, you should have four of these. No more, no less.
12. Bar Utensils: Just picture how brilliant a set of these will look in your personal collection. It comes with a jigger, a strainer to catch seeds, bar spoon, classic bottle opener, and a bar knife for when it’s citrus-slicing time. Pottery Barn, $50
13. The Bar: There’s no need to make a statement with this, considering the size of a cart that’s needed to hold all your booze. Something streamlined and classic is in order. Something that’ll look just as appropriate under your signed Gilmour jersey as it would next to your chaise. All good reasons for why this mid-century solution from Wes Elm is the one. And then there are the details: it's constructed from a solid Euycalyptus wood frame, finished in a warm, walnut veneer surface. It’s also got two shelves to hold all the goods, plus the rails and casters are plated in a charming antique brass. And yes, it would look as good at the office. West Elm, $350