Know Your Classic Cocktails: Part I

It’s no secret that a nice glass of wine can really complement a online culinary school quality meal. However, an expertly made cocktail can do the same. For a while, it seemed as if the well-stocked bar and the apertifs and digestifs had been traded in for liquors mixed with various sodas or juices, but a recent surge in “craft cocktails” shows that that may not be the case.

Most of the drinks currently marketed as craft cocktails are actually classic cocktails and have been favorites for practically a century. That’s right, people were taking the time to measure and mix during Prohibition, so you have no grounds to just pour some whiskey in your soda and call it a cocktail. If you’re looking to begin stocking a well-crafted home bar, here is where to begin.

Shots in nightclub

Liquors to stock
There is no need to run to the nearest liquor store and buy a dozen bottles of liquor in one trip. Not only will that be ridiculously expensive, but you won’t use it all. Think about your favorite cocktails, and start off buying the necessary liquors to craft those. Why have two bottles of gin when all you drink is whiskey? Slowly work your way up, purchasing another couple of bottles when you have some extra cash on hand, and by the time you have a party, your bar will be ready to go. Here are some essential liquors to pick up:

  • Gin: London dry, Plymouth, Old Tom and Genever are the common gin varieties.
  • Vodka: Always have a bottle of basic vodka. If flavored vodkas are your thing, keep your favorites on hand, but you can always infuse your own.
  • Whiskey: Bourbon, rye and scotch are the common whiskey varieties.
  • Rum: Rum isn’t the kind of drink that you sip on on the rocks. Think about what kinds of drinks you’ll be preparing. Dark rums are best for punches, and light rums are best for cocktails. Spiced rums are best mixed with sodas.
  • Tequila: The most common tequila-based drink is a margarita. If you’ll be using your tequila for those, go with gold, as it’s cheaper. Silver tequilas are agave-based and taste good on the rocks.
  • Vermouth: You can’t have a classic martini without some vermouth. Go for a sweet and dry variety.
  • Orange liqueur: Do not go for a bottle of orange vodka and call it a day. A classy dash of orange liqueur can enhance just anything from your old fashioned to your margarita.


Mixers to stock
While just mixing some orange juice and vodka is technically a screwdriver, there are so many doors you can open by having access to a variety of mixers. Here are some ingredients to stock up on:

  • Club soda.
  • Orange juice.
  • Cranberry juice.
  • Simple syrup.
  • Angostura bitters.
  • Ginger ale/beer.
  • Cola.
  • Lemon/lime juice.

Garnishes to stock
While you may not be garnishing your evening cocktails, they’re a nice touch to have available if you’re entertaining. Keep these simple garnishes on hand:

  • Mint leaves.
  • Maraschino cherries.
  • Orange peels.
  • Olives.
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