Stocking Your Bar
“How do I stock my liqueur cabinet?”
If you are very wealthy, you can simply go to your liquor store and buy one of everything. However, that is hardly practical. Besides you will miss out on the adventure of discovery as you try new base spirits and liqueurs and watch your bar slowly grow. My advise is to pick out a few recipes that look interesting and get the ingredients to make them. Then pick another recipe with the same base spirit but a different liqueur and make that. Not sure if you will like a particular product or unsure which brand to buy? Go to your favorite bar and have them make you something. You can also buy the little sample bottles like the ones you find in a hotel minibar trying, say, a couple of different gins or whiskeys. This will not work with most liqueurs, so you will have to bite the bullet on those. Read reviews of the different products and any recommendations you see in cocktail recipes. So pick your favorite spirit, an interesting recipe, and have at it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go see a man about a dog.
Juices and Syrups
All juices should be freshly squeezed. Period. The only exception is pineapple juice which can be difficult to do yourself. In that case, buy a good unsweetened pineapple juice.
Many of the syrups called for in cocktails can be made at home. Some are easier than others and you will have to decide whether it is worth your while doing it yourself. If you decide to buy them ready-made, be sure to take a close look at the ingredients. If pomegranates are not part of the ingredient list on that bottle of Grenadine, put it back and find one that is made from real pomegranates. Artificial sweeteners should be avoided at all costs as they will completely ruin a cocktail. Save your calories somewhere else. Speaking of sweeteners, you will often see recipes that call for simple syrup. This is something that is very easy to make at home. Simple syrup is [simply] one part sugar and one part water. Bring the water to a simmer on the stove, add the sugar and stir it until it is completely dissolved. Once it cools, put in a bottle and store in the frig. If you put a bit of vodka in the bottle it will help preserve it. You can use white sugar or demerara to make your simple syrup. Demerara will give you a darker, slightly more complex taste. Rich simple syrup is made the same way but with two parts sugar to one part water.