Ahhh, the sound of a working cocktail shaker—a soothing and happy distraction to frayed nerves. To me, it’s the adult equivalent of a baby rattle, indicative of Friday nights, which is what brings me to today’s post. Instead of highlighting a single cocktail that you must try this weekend—there are plenty of those to come—I’m focusing on how to create your own cocktail oasis at home. Who doesn’t want that? To help with the task, I’ve asked the advice of O.C. cocktail guru Gabrielle Dion, owner of OC Mix’s The Mixing Glass. Here are her tips on building a perfectly stocked bar cart at home, making it easy to enjoy cocktails any night of the week. Cheers to that!
What’s your first piece of advice?
To start, any two-tiered bar cart will work, but I recommend repurposing a buffet that has drawers and lower cabinets. Utilize the wall to hang a shelf that can be dual-purposed—to hang glasses and highlight your most prized spirits. Next, set it up with tools and spirits that both fit the look you’re going for, but are also functional.
What should we start with?
I divide my tools into two categories, shaken and stirred cocktails. For shaken: a proper shaker (I prefer a two-piece Boston shaker that consists of two weighted metal tins), a Hawthorne strainer with a tight coil, a fine strainer, and a good hand juicer. For stirred: a flat-bottomed mixing glass, bar spoon, and a julep strainer.
We’ve got the basics, what’s next?
I would include a jigger, a muddler, a peeler, ice molds, and a Lewis Bag and mallet for crushed-ice drinks, and a good ice bucket depending on where your freezer is—no sense in running back and forth while making drinks for friends. Lastly, get a good basic cocktail book with recipes that are practical for you.
Now to the good stuff! What spirits for a nice array of options?
You want to build a good foundation of both base spirits and modifiers. Your base spirits are the workhorses.
Gin a London dry and a western style
Agave Blanco tequila and mezcal
Whiskey American (bourbon or rye)
Blended Scotch They are generally better priced to mix with—brands like Bank Note or Famous Grouse fit this purpose well.
Rum white and aged agricole
Cognac or Armagnac—Armagnac offers more bang for your buck.
Vodka a good mixable, non-flavored one—Aylesbury Duck is a great brand
Modifiers these are the spirits used in smaller quantities to highlight your cocktails. Buy half bottles when possible: a quality sweet and dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, Green Chartreuse, Campari, an orange liqueur, Absinthe, and a versatile Amaro. Bitters are a must—every bar should have at least an aromatic orange, and Peychaud’s. This selection is a great foundation.
The Mixing Glass
3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa