Get ready to elevate cocktail hour with everything from a tricked-out armoire to handy tools that build the best drinks.
Building a ‘barmoire’
Begin with a basic linen-closet-style cabinet that has been painted inside and out, and given a stylish backsplash with smoky mirrored tiles. The closet should be unfinished and have adjustable shelves. Outfit it with clever details, including a pull-out shelf for slicing limes or serving drinks.
Want to dress it up a bit more? Add wineglass racks (brass bar-glass hanger racks, 16 inches, $3.25 each, webstaurantstore.com); a slide-out shelf (under-the-counter drawer slides, 16 inches, $22 for two, mcmaster.com) and upgraded knobs (Lido Crystal, in French Antique, $19 each, rejuvenation.com).
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Stocking the bar
No need to clutter your cabinet with obscure liquors you’ll use once. Here are some essential bottles for drinking neat or on the rocks, and mixing in cocktails.
1. Gin: You’ll want one with botanicals that don’t overwhelm for martinis and gin and tonics. Try Plymouth, which has hints of citrus, cucumber and vanilla.
2. Vodka: It’s one of the most commonly used spirits in cocktails. Imperia, one of my favorites, is pure and crisp.
3. Tequila: Choose the silver variety, which is light and versatile. Espolón Tequila Blanco has a clean flavor with a touch of spice.
4. Rum: Unless this is your spirit of choice, you only need to stock one. Appleton Estate Reserve Blend, with hints of caramel and tropical fruit, is neutral enough for mixed drinks but has enough depth to be sipped on its own.
5. Orange liqueur: The secret to a delicious margarita, mimosa or cosmopolitan, it’s also nice in baked goods or drizzled over fruit. Try Grand Marnier and Cointreau.
6. Amaro: This liqueur adds bitterness and balances out sweet cocktails. Campari is great for one simple reason: It makes a sublime Negroni.
7. Whiskey: Many prefer rye for its flexibility (bourbon can be too sweet in cocktails, scotch too assertive). Bulleit is smooth enough for both sipping and mixing.
Tip: Store sweet and dry vermouths (critical ingredients in many cocktails) in the fridge after opening.
Tools of the trade
These accessories, plus a shaker, complete a well-outfitted bar.
Jigger: For measuring liquor: 1 1⁄2 ounces on one side, 3⁄4 ounce on the other.
Tongs: For grabbing ice and garnishes without using your fingers.
Strainer: To keep ice and muddled ingredients in the shaker and out of the glass.
Paring knife: The small size — and extra-sharp blade — are designed for slicing citruses.
Spoon: For mixing drinks that are stirred, not shaken.
Opener: A long handle provides extra leverage for popping off bottle caps.
What’s the point of having a nice bar if you aren’t whipping up fabulous drinks? Consider adding these seasonal cocktails (all new spins on classics) to your repertoire. They’ll warm you and your guests from the inside out. Each of these recipes makes one drink.
Lazy man’s cocktail
The simplest refresher: liquor with a splash of something bubbly (think Campari and soda, or gin and tonic). Single-serve bottles (Q drinks, from $40 for 24, qdrinks.com) ensure freshly carbonated drinks.
Fill a shaker with ice; add 1 ounce dry vermouth, 1 ounce rye whiskey, 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup and a dash of angostura bitters. Shake vigorously until frosty and cold on outside, 30 seconds. Strain over ice; garnish with a lemon twist and a bourbon-soaked cherry.
Fill a martini glass and a shaker with ice. Add 1 1⁄2 ounces gin or vodka, 1⁄2 ounce dry vermouth, and 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 ounce tomolive brine to shaker. (Tomolives — small pickled tomatoes — are available at amazon.com.) Shake vigorously 30 seconds. Remove ice from glass. Place a few tomolives in bottom; strain in martini.
Winter Cadillac margarita
Fill a coupe and a shaker with ice. Add 2 ounces silver tequila, 1 1⁄2 ounces fresh tangerine juice, 1 ounce fresh lime juice and 1⁄2 ounce Grand Marnier to shaker. Shake vigorously 30 seconds. Remove ice from coupe. Wet half of rim with tangerine juice; dip in kosher salt. Strain in margarita. Serve, with a frozen tangerine wedge.
Place 1 egg white in a shaker (with no ice); shake vigorously 30 seconds. Fill with ice, 1 1⁄2 ounces rum, 1 ounce Campari and 1⁄2 ounce sweet vermouth. Shake 30 seconds more. Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice; serve, with a lime slice.
Address questions to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 11 W. 42nd St., New York, NY 10036. Or go to www.marthastewart.com/contact-us-form. Please include your name, address and daytime phone number.
Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate
A drink topper is more than just decoration — each adds its own flavorful flourish.
- Citrusy: Twisting zest over a fruity drink imparts its oils onto the surface for a pleasant aroma and a slightly bitter edge.
- Salty: These briny garnishes lend a savory, lip-smacking bite to martinis. Try caperberries, cocktail onions, stuffed olives or tomolives.
- Sweet: Perfect for a Manhattan, old fashioned or daiquiri. Use bourbon-soaked cherries, or sour ones in syrup — anything but maraschinos doused in red dye #40.