Recently, while inspecting my collection of spirits, I found myself a bit disappointed at the state of affairs. By any standard measurement, I suppose it would be passable, but not befitting of a Gear Patrol crew member, much less a man who appreciates a fine drink or understands the meaning of a proper home bar. I jotted down my inventory for this article:
Knob Creek x 1, Basil Hayden’s x 1, Woodford Reserve x 1, Johnnie Walker Black x 2, r(1) x 1, Jim Bean x 1, Jack Daniels x 1, Glenmorangie 15 Year x 1, Glenlivet 18 Year x 1, Maestro Dobel Tequila x 1, Canadian Club 25 Year x 1, Crown Royal x 1, Disaronno x 1, Pernod Absinthe x 1, Bacardi 151 Rum x 1, 10 Cane Rum x 1, Tanqueray Gin x 1, Plymouth Gin x 1, Jose Cuervo 1800 x 2 (huh?), Kahlua x 1, Gray Goose x 1, Smirnoff x 1, Absolut 100 x 1 (seriously?), Red Wine x 6 (5 Malbecs, 1 Bordeaux), White x 3 (2 Reislings, 1 Cabernet Sauvignon), Champagne x 2, Hoegaarden x 2 Six Packs, Guinness x 1 Can
You might be saying, “hey that’s a pretty stout collection you’ve got going there,” but you (and I) would be woefully mistaken. What you see in the aforementioned collection goes against several principles of a well-stocked bar. In Day 9 of the 30 Days of Upgrades Initiative, we discuss the basic reason why and what essential spirits you do need to have a properly stocked bar.
Take Inventory and Learn BBCRGSTRaV
From nearly all my recent readings and understandings of what a properly stocked man’s bar should be, I seem to fail several practices. I’ve learned what makes a properly stocked bar is not how many differing categories of spirits you own, but rather the ingredients to prepare and mix several essential spirits and cocktails.
After (or while) reading this, take a mental or written inventory of the items currently gracing your liquor cabinet. You do have a cabinet dedicated to spirits, don’t you?. Follow this little acronym: BBCRGSTRaV. (pronounced: bee-bee-see-registrãve, or BBC Registrave… yes, I just made this up). Before you comment “WTF”, allow me to elaborate.
BBCRGSTRaV stands for: Bourbon, Brandy, Canadian Whiskey, Rum, Gin, Scotch, Tequila, Rye Whiskey, and Vodka. These are the essential “every-day” alcohols that will keystone your bar. Of course, you’ll want to substitute top shelf or higher caliber spirits in any of those categories to meet your preferences. I’m a Bourbon man myself, so I keep Knob Creek and Woodford Reserve, in full-ready complement.
Widely Available Well-Priced Suggestions
To note, a good bar doesn’t require expensive alcohol. It requires the right kind of alcohol. Below, I’ve put together some suggestion of widely available spirits most any liquor store will carry. They’re not guaranteed to be the best since tastes are highly subjective, but rather a general breakdown you can base your purchases off of. We’ll discuss a variety of essential drinks and bar accessories in later posts.
- Bourbon – Woodford Reserve ($35, for sipping), Knob Creek ($25, for yourself), Evan Williams ($12, for mixing)
- Brandy – E&J ($15), Korbel ($15)
- Canadian Whiskey – Canadian Club 6 Year ($14, for sipping), Pendleton ($20, for mixing)
- Rum (spiced, light) – Matusalem ($17), 10 Cane ($35, for sipping), Cruzan Estate Light Rum ($24)
- Gin – Gordon’s London ($10), Hendrick’s ($30)
- Scotch – Chivas Regal ($27, for mixing), Laphroaig 10 Year ($32, for drinking), Glenmorangie 18 Year ($125, for celebrating)
- Tequila – Herradura ($50, for sipping), Jose Cuervo 1800 Reposado ($24, for mixing)
- Rye Whiskey (<51% rye mash) – Thomas H. Handy or ri1 ($50, for sipping), Wild Turkey ($20, for mixing)
- Vodka - Smirnoff ($12, for mixing), Grey Goose ($30, for mixing), Abolut ($29, for sipping)
To purchase the above mentioned basic mixing spirits, you’re looking at a capital outlay of roughly $150. That’s not bad (about a few nights out) and there’s a strong likelihood you’ve got one or two of those spirits sitting around in your home already . The key thing to remember is that you want to cater your bar stock towards the drinks you enjoy drinking (and serving) most (e.g. Manhattans, Martinis, Gimlets, Scotch neat).
Accoutrement & Mixers
With the proper spirits in place, it’s time for you to consider what mixers you need. Below is a basic list of the essentials and ingredients to making a variety of drinks.
- Cracked Ice or Large Cubes (use this tray)
- Tonic Water
- Soda Water
- Sugar Syrup (or make by cooking the following blends over low heat until clear, then boiling for a minute – 2 Parts Water to 1 Part Sugar)
- Lemon and Lime
- Cointreau – an orange liqueur ($20)
- Dry Vermouth – Noilly Pratt ($8)
- Angostura Bitters ($6)
The Spirit of Spirits
Remember, the spirit of “having essential spirits” is the enjoyment of a drink, created by yourself, in the comfort of your own home. Your bar, or cabinet, should be a stronghold of those spirits you can rely on, like a good friend, to make you one (or two) drinks that turn an evening into an occasion, if only for a moment.
As a man, you’re always on the quest of advancement, but what are we without our constants? Experimenting is great, but you should know what you like to drink and how you like it prepared. If it’s a Gin & Tonic, so be it – just make sure it’s prepared properly, right down to the number of ice cubes. If it’s Scotch (with a splash), so be it – just make sure it’s your favorite brand that’s being poured. If it’s a Manhattan, so be it – just make sure you know how to make it.
Let’s continue the conversation. What other spirits to you consider essentials in a man’s home bar?