Stocking your bar cart? You clearly like cocktails – but if you’re like us, you aren’t a master mixologist. You probably know a bit more about drinking them than actually making them. And with the amazing innovation that’s happening in the cocktail industry, it’s no friggin wonder you’re a bit intimidated. We’re here to help you through it with our list of cocktail ingredients to always have on hand (in addition to your favorite spirits).
1. A few great pieces of glassware – Okay so not technically an ingredient, but this really is step one. You don’t have to shell out either. Go to your local thrift shop – they are bound to have some amazing snifters or glassware with some awesome detail that you can make into your treasure.
2. Bitters – What are cocktail bitters anyway? Don’t worry, we had to Google it first too. Bitters are alcoholic flavor extracts made by infusing botanicals like barks, flowers, roots, and berries with booze. They pack a punch, so a cocktail really only needs 1-2 dashes. There are plenty of different ‘types’ of bitters including aromatic (balances a range of flavors), citrus, herbal, fruit and nut. The most famous of them all are Angostura and Peychaud’s but there’s a lot of innovation in the craft bitters space, so we recommend checking out some smaller brands like 11th Orchard Bitters or Bitter Ex. Bitters are used in many a classic cocktail including the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Martini.
3. Tonic Water – Tonic water is a carbonated water with dissolved quinine – a medication used to treat malaria. It was originally created to treat against malaria but is now just used for its bitter taste in cocktail recipes…or on its own if you’re into that. As with bitters, there’s plenty of innovation in this category. We’re big fans of Fever Tree and Jack Rudy. Tonic water is a core ingredient in more than just the hero gin and tonic. Other great cocktails with tonic are The Witch’s Coffee House, Cucumber Cooler and Elderflower Fizz.
4. Liqueurs – Liqueurs are a great complement to the base spirit. We realize stocking your bar can be expensive so if you’re looking for the essentials we recommend them in this order:
- Dry and sweet vermouth (especially if you enjoy martinis)
- Coffee liqueur – add some kick to any drink with a coffee liqueur like Kahlua or Mr. Black.
- Orange liqueur – add a citrus flavor profile with a liqueur like Grand Marnier or Triple Sec.
- Floral liqueur – A floral liqueur like St. Germain’s Elderflower Liqueur or Fruitlab Hibiscus Liqueur can add a nice complexity.
5. Syrups – Syrups are awesome because you can go crazy and make your own without spending too much money. Wondering how to make cocktail syrups? The ratio is 1: 1 sugar to water – heat the water, then add the sugar and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved (don’t boil). You can add ingredients like jalapenos, lemongrass, or orange peels while heating to create an amazing flavor profile.
6. Garnishes – We’re suckers for garnishes. Mint leaves, orange peels and olives are classics. But we say go crazy – lollipops, flowers and marshmallows are just a few ideas.