28 Days of Classy and Fabulous Things: Day 27 – Stock a Proper Bar

27/02/2011 § 1 Comment

**QC’s 28 Days**
In February I will be bringing you daily tips
to cultivate more classiness and fabulousness in daily life!
Image via LIFE, taken in 1940 by Hans Wild.

Day 27: Stock a Proper Bar
I have a confession to make, cherie.  I am a girl who prefers to order drinks, rather than make them myself.  As such, yours truly needed a little help in putting today’s tip together.  My dear friend Jake from the (mostly) menswear-obsessed Tumblr Downeast and Out, has stepped in to provide you with a helpful guide how to stock a proper home bar from scratch.  Without further ado:

Stocking a bar from scratch can be a somewhat daunting task for some. Luckily there are a few basics to nail down that will have you and your friends a few sheets to the proverbial wind in no time. While home bars can vary from dorm room ‘chic’ to Hamptons class, there are a few guidelines that can be followed to create a basic, fully functional watering hole in no time.

The first step in this process is to take a look at the space you have available for your home bar. This will create a context in which you can plan out the next few steps in the process. The worst thing that can happen is for you to come home like a kid on Christmas with a box chock full of liquor and have no suitable space to store it – bottom line: buy accordingly. I personally like the silver tray as a simple way to display your sins, but each to his/her own of course.

The next two steps are somewhat interchangeable and can really be accomplished according to personal preference or convenience. I believe in instant gratification and will choose to buy the centerpiece first: the liquor. Now, for a complete bar there should be present at least one bottle of the following: bourbon, vodka, rum, scotch, whiskey, tequila, gin, and brandy. The whiskey/scotch/bourbons are fairly transposable, but a purist would have one of each – buy as much as space allows. While one should obviously choose according to taste and space, here are a few bottom and (relatively) top shelf favorites that won’t necessarily get scoffed at. (for the record, I am sticking mostly to the mainstream brands for easier cop-ability)

Bourbon
Bottom Shelf:  Evan Williams – while Jack is a Tennessee whiskey and EW is a Kentucky Bourbon, they are similar. EW tastes better and is at least a third of the price.
Top Shelf: Woodford Reserve, Elijah Craig 18yo – can’t go wrong with either. Some like Bulleit and Makers too, but I prefer the formers.

Vodka
Bottom: Svedka, Russian Standard- these are both great values. Buy Svedka if you want to break the stereotype
Top: Stolichnaya Elit – top shelf has to be Russian
*note: Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head is apparently pretty decent if you are looking for a conversation piece

Rum
Bottom: Probably Bacardi…although I have a soft spot for the Captain’s spiciness
Top: El Dorado 15yo – don’t often drink high end rum…but this is tasty

Scotch
Bottom: Cheap Scotch can get sketchy…so try and get the scratch together for a decent single malt…Macallan 12YO or Glenmorangie 10YO (maybe Crawford’s if you can find it)
Top: Lagavulin 16YO or Tallisker 10YO – two delicious scotches  that people certainly won’t scoff at…The Macallan or Glenmorangie 18YOs are primo

Whiskey
(Irish, Canadian, Japanese, etc.)
Bottom: George Dickel, Black Velvet, or Early Times – have much personal experience with Dickel – it’s a good fairly cheap sippin’ whiskey. Black Velvet is hit or miss depending on who you ask
Top: Tullamore 10YO or Bushmills Black Bush – enough said

Tequila
Bottom: Just make sure you are buying 100% agave (Cuervo and Sauza are only around 50% agave and are 100% gross). Cazadores or Herradura silver are both good

Top: Herradura Seleccion Suprema and Don Julio Real are primo but very expensive. Look for the Anejos: Herradura, Cabo Wabo, or Don Julio ’42

Gin
Top: Seamgrams or Beefeater get much love for folks looking to make budget g&t’s. Gordon’s is also decent but most stick to the previous two
Bottom: Hendrick’s is the consensus choice for mainstream top shelf gin

Brandy
Don’t have a ton of experience with brandy, armagnac, or cognac (for the french), as I am not a huge dessert drinker…

Bottom: Christian Brothers or Korbel maybe…but cheap brandy is mostly for cooking…
Top: stick with the VSOPs and XOs as a basic rule. Remy Martin, Hennessey and Germain-Robin are well-regarded

Beer & Wine
For another time…Stick the favorites and definitely cop some for parties- many shy away from hard liquor

Other
While it is most important to lay down the foundation of your home bar with the choices above, many mixed drinks require other types of liquors and liqueurs. This is perhaps even more of a personal preference than the above selections, but it’s generally a good idea to have some mix of the following: amaretto, schnapps, bitters, triple sec, sambuca, vermouth, etc. Kahlua and Irish cream are two of my other’s favorites to keep around. It is also important to have a few cold mixers in the fridge – tonic, club soda, cola, (milk) etc. Garnishes are always a welcome addition, but must be kept fresh (limes, lemons, olives, mint, Tabasco, Worcestershire)

Once you have a good selection of liquors and the various accoutrement, you are nearly finished (narrowing down the selection process above is clearly the hardest and drunkest part). The next step is stocking the necessary equipment, and these purchases should again be based on your plans/drinking style. For instance, if you plan on having company over weekly, you should definitely buy an ice bucket and tongs; if you want to make margaritas, you are going to need a solid blender, etc., etc. For the most simple of bars you really only need a mixer/shaker and a good selection of glasses (tough guys need only the glasses). The two main categories of drinking vessels are tumblers and stemware – get a decent mix of both and you can’t go wrong – purists are fussy about specific glasses but most don’t really care. Corkscrews and bottle openers are obvious but key inclusions as well.

After amassing the bar itself, the liquor, and all the accessories, you just need a few good friends and/or a dog or two to keep you company. Liberal pours and never-empty glasses will guarantee a good time.

Jake enjoys English shoes, wet dogs, and parties with bonfires, if you couldn’t tell from the awesome selection of images he curates at Downeast and Out.  We’ve bonded over a shared appreciation for British sports cars and tattoos.  Do stop by and check him out.

Earlier: Quite Continental’s 28 Days of Classy and Fabulous Things

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