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Thirsty Thursdays: Building your home bar, part IV

Jul 11, 2013
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The drink cart in my apartment is cooler than yours. It’s gold and features two glass shelves and looks like something Tim Roth would’ve been pushing around in that movie where he played a bellhop. 1 The best part about my drink cart, aside from the aesthetics, is that the two shelves allow for plenty of room for everything I need to make cocktails.

Right now the shelves are woefully understocked, owing to the fact I drink too much and I’m poor. The space, however, provides for ample expansion. Now that we have gathered plenty of clear booze, rum and tequila, and my favorite brown waters, we’re ready to store it. I suppose this whole process is like putting the cart before the horse. But the way I figure it you don’t really need a drink cart. You could put your booze under the bathroom sink for all I care. As long as it’s there for your enjoyment should be all that matters.

There’s nothing like showing off your collection, however, and there are plenty of ways to do so. Your drink cart doesn’t have to be as cool as mine. 2 You can fashion some shelves in your kitchen or you can hollow out an old television set if you’re looking to win a challenge on the DIY Network. 3

Once you have an idea of how and where to put your booze, you’ll need to choose vermouths, liqueurs, and bitters to round out the table. Don’t fret about tools. Everything you need you can find at The Boston Shaker. A good bar spoon, mixing glass, and shaker with a strainer will get you started. You don’t need all the frills to make a great drink. Bartenders that carry around their own set of “tools” are probably the same morons who believe Michael Hastings was killed in a car “accident.”

But why get political when we have alcohol to drink?

Vermouth

I am tempted to list but one vermouth here, Carpano Antica, as everyone who reads this column—does anyone read this column?—knows is the only vermouth I use in my Manhattans. You’ll need others though, so I can’t endorse only using it. Remember that vermouth is complex and you can read all about it here. And always remember to refrigerate it after you open it. It will oxidize and it won’t taste pleasant.

Dolin Dry- You know what is really confusing? When someone says they want an “extra dry” martini that does not mean they want more vermouth. You’d think it would be like “not dry,” but the English language can be tricky. Like when I say “Are there cameras in the champagne room?” to a stripper from Kazakhstan I actually mean “Is there sex in the champagne room?”

Punt e Mes- It’s not essential to have two sweet vermouths, but Punt is distinctly different from Carpano since it has more bitterness. Also, I often drink Carpano on its own and having Punt for Manhattans is not a bad idea.

Liqueurs

Honestly this could be a post by itself, but I’m going to restrain from typing too much, despite my opposition to brevity. You can add Kahlua and Bailey’s and some of the favorites, but these are my go-tos when bartending and at home.

Cynar- Hands down one of my favorites. This artichoke liqueur is so bitter you’ll have flashbacks to that pill you take every time you get too drunk and have to send out apology emails. It is delicious on its own or as a substitute for a vermouth in a Manhattan.

Galliano- Because you have to make this.

Green Chartruese- Herbal and earthy this is one of my favorite shots to take. It’s sort of like fresh cut grass with a hint of A.J. Green.

Cointreau- So I did a blind taste test of orange liqueurs and guess what won out of six bartenders? Not Grand Marnier or Combier.

Bitters

Bittercube Bitters- You’ve heard me mention pimp them before and I’m here to do it again. Handmade and delicious, there are loads of flavors to choose from. Despite the expense, you’ll be happy with the decision.

Angostura- A classic Manhattan or an egg white whiskey sour isn’t complete without them.

Peychaud’s- You can’t make a Sazerac without them and you better believe I’ll judge you on how your Sazerac tastes.

 

Notes:

  1. Mostly that reference was an excuse to show that scene, which is amazing. Speaking of amazing have you checked out the #BroKnowsFilms character draft? You should.
  2. My girlfriend actually bought it for me as a birthday gift. She paid barely anything after searching for it on Craigslist for “food trays.” An art deco cart can cost upwards of $300.
  3. How terrifyingly tragic is it that there is an entire channel devoted to DIY projects? One more reason to drink.

Kenneth Griggs is a writer and bartender living in Chicago, IL. He has hitchhiked through the Australian Outback; lived in a small fishing village in Japan; climbed Mount Kilimanjaro; and ran with the bulls in Pamplona. He spent six years as a feature writer for a daily and weekly newspaper and has two unpublished novels to his name. But his finest accomplishment is not yet sprouting a gin blossom nose.