When you’re the host it’s important to cover all of your beverage bases. You want to have something for every guest. Right now, that might just be you and your significant other, but pretty soon, hopefully, it’s going to be your friends and family. You definitely want to have one representative from every major type of liquor handy. That’s whiskey, rum, tequila, vodka, and gin.
When building your home bar it is definitely not necessary to go out and buy a lot of whiskeys, vodkas, rums, or any other spirit. Start with one bottle in each category and slowly add others as you find ones that you really love. This will allow you to make many different types of cocktails and usually will make all of your guests happy.
Once all of those are accounted for, layer in what you like. For example, if you’re a whiskey fan enrich the offerings with a rye, a bourbon, and a scotch. Or if tequila’s your thing, round things out with an Añejo and a Reposado. The sky is the limit.
Whiskey is made from fermented grain mash. Mostly corn, barley, wheat, and rye. It’s primarily aged in wood and is usually a dark brown spirit. Every home bar needs at least a bottle of Tennesse and Bourbon Whiskey, but choose ones that you like.
Common whiskeys are:
- Canadian (Crown Royal)
- American (Southern Comfort)
- Scotch (Glenlivit)
- Rye (Whistle Pig)
- Irish (Jameson)
- Tennessee (Angel’s Envy)
- Japanese (Hibiki)
- Bourbon (Four Roses)
I’m a huge rum fan. Rum is made with sugarcane and is really sweet. It’s definitely the drink of the Caribbean so it always gives me those awesome beach vacation vibes. I personally think every home bar needs a bottle of light rum, dark rum, and spiced rum. You can make just about any type of delicious tiki-inspired cocktail with these spirits. I’m a huge fan of Bayou Rum (because I always like to support Louisiana and it’s amazing.)
Oh tequila, you are definitely my favorite. The smokier and darker the better for me. Most tequila cocktails are made with crystal or Blanco tequila (try Casa Noble), but if you want a sipping tequila, try an Añejo (Roca Patron) or a Reposado (Esperanto Selección). Tequila is made in one place–around the city of Tequila, Mexico. That’s it. Nowhere else can we get this amazing spirit. I included Mezcal (Zignum) in this category because it closely resembles tequila.
Vodka is probably the most used and most popular spirit out there. It’s so neutral. Pick up a good bottle of vodka and you can make so many types of drinks. A lot of bartenders are actually a little snobbish about vodka and claim that vodka absorbs the flavors of the cocktail instead of enhancing it. I disagree completely. That’s one of the things that I really like about vodka. Each one has it’s own unique flavor, but with it being so mild, you can enhance the other flavors of the cocktail with the perfect vodka. Vodka can be made from sugarcane, corn, wheat, potatoes, rye, soybeans, grapes, molasses, sugarbeets, and rice. Really anything that has starch and a sugar-rich plant matter.
Vodka is another one of those “the sky is the limit” when choosing a vodka. I really love Yellowfin, which a Louisiana exclusive, but if you are outside of the Bayou State, try Grey Goose, Ocean, Chopin, or Belvedere. These, in my opinion, are really smooth with no aftertaste. All do have their own flavor components.
It’s really fun to taste and determine which would be best in a cocktail. Yellowfin and Ocean are on the sweeter side and perfect for sweet mixed drinks. Grey Goose is neutral and really good in classic cocktails such as a Vodka Soda or Vodka Tonic, while Chopin and Belvedere are a little bit drier and perfect in a good Dry Martini with olives.
I’m a relatively new gin drinker even though gin dates back to the 12th century. It was first used medicinally and I completely get it. The commonality of all gin is the distinctive juniper flavor and to me juniper tastes a little like medicine. People that love gin, really love gin and the rest of us either hate it or are slowly becoming a fan (I fall into this last category.). Every once in awhile, as I am crafting a cocktail, I think to myself that gin would be the perfect spirit for this cocktail. I prefer a gin that has less juniper profile and a more floral flavor.
A few of my favorite gins are Citadelle (my favorite–slight flavors of lemon, pepper, and juniper), Empress 1908 (for floral flavors), Aviation (more botanical flavors such as lavender and orange), Hendricks (when I’m wanting more cucumber flavor), and Malfy (for more intense lemon flavor). (I also like a Sloe Gin for a fruity flavor.) I’m slowly learning about different gins and will definitely update you as I discover more.
So what are your favorite spirits? I would love to know. I’m always on the lookout for a new spirit for creating my next favorite cocktail.
Enjoy and Happy Cocktailing!!