The beginning of a new season is a great time to reassess your home bar. To help us survey our inventory and ensure that we have all the necessary tools and components on hand, we asked the experts at Corks Wine and Spirits in Knoxville, Tennessee, to break down the basics of the well-stocked bar. Here are their recommendations:
- Reserve a clean, organized space designated for your bar. It doesn’t have to be massive, but a kitchen cabinet isn’t going to cut it.
- It goes without saying that all of your spirits and ingredients should be high-quality (which doesn’t necessarily mean expensive). Aged spirits to have on hand:
- Bourbon (we like Bulleit, E.H. Taylor Small Batch, W.L. Weller, and Buffalo Trace as inexpensive but quality whiskeys) and Rye Whiskey (Willett Rye, E.H. Taylor, Bulleit Rye)
- Dark Rum (Not spiced. Use Pusser’s, Zaya, Diplomatico, Ron Zacapa)
- Scotch (if not for you, then for your Scotch-loving guests).
- Clear spirits to have on hand:
- Vodka (skip Smirnoff and instead grab Tito’s as it’s made from corn, Russian Standard, or Reyka from Iceland)
- Gin (Death’s Door, Uncle Val’s, Sipsmith, Hendrick’s, Fords)
- Tequila (skip Jose, go for the value-priced Espolon for drinking straight or mixing), and a Joven Mezcal if you’re feeling adventurous.
- Be sure to have all the basic tools, including a shaker, a strainer, a jigger and pony, a swizzle stick, and a quality muddler.
- Use quality ice. Don’t count on your fridge’s ice maker. Make your own from distilled water, which has zero impurities. Also, the bigger, the better; a bigger cube melts more slowly and won’t dilute a quality spirit as quickly.
- Use fresh fruit, herbs, and syrups in your cocktails. Premade can be convenient, but home-made simple syrups and fresh-cut fruit are easy to execute and will make a world of difference.
- Add-ins like orange liqueur (Cointreau, Patron Citronge, not just Triple sec), Vermouth (sweet and dry), herbals (Herbsaint, Pernod, Genepi), and bitters (Peychauds, Angostura, Regans’, or make your own—it’s incredibly easy!) will elevate your cocktails, so be sure to have some on hand.
- Invest in proper, well-made glassware. Rocks, collins, and snifter glasses will make a solid foundation.
- Make sure to print out some fundamental cocktail recipes and know how to make them.
Expert tip from Corks Wine and Spirits in Knoxville, TN.