Last time, we looked at the essential spirits for your home bar, including gin, rum, vodka, tequila, and whisky. Now let’s take a closer look which liqueurs and mixers you will need to complete your set up. As with the spirits, it’s a good idea to invest in the best quality you can afford, but there’s no need to buy the most expensive top shelf products.
Think about which cocktails you are likely to make the most, and plan your shopping list accordingly. There’s no need to buy everything, but bear in mind that skipping ingredients on the list will impair the flavour of the cocktail and reduce the enjoyment of your guests.
Whether you are aiming to bag a mixology degree or just want to treat your family and friends, here are some of the best liqueurs and mixers to stock up on.
Liqueurs (not to be confused with liquor, which is another term for spirits such as gin and vodka) are sweetened spirits with extra flavourings added. They are intended to enhance the taste and texture of the drink, and can also add a pop of colour. Although not all cocktails call for a liqueur, they are often the magic ingredient that elevates a drink above the ordinary.
Liqueurs do increase the alcohol content of the drink, making it more potent. However, this is not the primary purpose of the ingredient as it is usually added in relatively small quantities because of the intense flavour. The alcohol content also varies greatly, from 15% ABV to 55% ABV.
There’s a huge variety of liqueurs to choose from, so if you are new to cocktail making it’s best to invest in a few popular classics rather than buy dozens of different types. Good staples to buy include Amaretto (an Italian almond flavoured liqueur used to make amaretto sour, cherry bakewell cocktail, marzipan old fashioned, and more.)
Campari is another popular Italian liqueur with a beautiful red hue and a distinctive bittersweet flavour. It’s used in many classic cocktails such as the negroni, the americano, or to make highballs and spritzes.
Triple Sec is an intense orange flavoured liqueur that has a tangy flavour and a signature pink colour. It’s used in many classics such as the cosmopolitan, the margarita, the sidecar, plus hundreds of other variations. Unless you really object to the taste, triple sec should be a mainstay of your cocktail cabinet. You’ll find it sold under various brand names.
Vermouth is a fortified wine with strong botanical overtones and is available in various blends. It’s an essential ingredient in classics such as the negroni, the boulevardier, and of course the martini.
Most cocktails call for mixers to add volume, dilution, and extra flavour. Therefore you should stock up on basics such as soda water, simple syrup (you can make this yourself with sugar and water), crushed ice, and fresh fruit juices such as lime, orange, pineapple, and cranberry. Some whole fruits and herbs are also useful for garnishes and extra flavour.