Whether you are studying for a mixologist degree or just want to enjoy experimenting with creating delicious cocktails for your family and friends, it’s essential that you have the right ingredients to hand in your home bar. There’s no need to gather a huge range of exotic liqueurs and so on, but investing in some good quality staples will be necessary.
Here’s a guide to the essential spirits you will need to enable you to mix and shake your way to some perfectly crafted cocktails.
These days, there’s a huge variety of spirits on the market, as gins, tequilas, and rums have all soared in popularity over recent years. This means that there’s more choice of brands, styles and flavours than ever before. However, as long as you have a few decent staples, there’s no need to splurge on a huge amount of spirits.
Spirits have a long shelf life so where you can, buy a good quality product rather than a budget version, as this will greatly enhance the overall flavour of your cocktails. However, there’s no need to buy the most expensive bottle on the shelf; do some research beforehand and read reviews to find brands that meet your expectations and budget.
Gin is the workhorse of any home bar and the basis of many classic cocktails from a simple gin ‘n’ tonic to a Tom Collins or a martini. It’s distilled from juniper berries, which give it the distinctive botanical flavour. There’s plenty of variations with added flavours, but it’s best to stick with a neutral dry gin so that it doesn’t fight with the other cocktail ingredients.
Rum is a molasses based spirit that is used in many types of cocktails, such as daiquiris, pina coladas, mojitos, and mai tais. There are two basic types of rum: light and dark. Light rum is aged in steel barrels for a shorter period of time, while dark rum is aged in oak barrels for longer and this produces a stronger flavour.
Light, sometimes also called white, rum is generally used in more cocktail recipes than dark rum, so if you are on a budget, invest in this first.
Tequila is made from the agave plant that is mainly farmed in South America. It is used to make cocktails such as the margarita, the honey trap and the tequila sunrise. There are different categories of tequila depending on the production and maturation process. Most tequila based drinks call for silver or blanco tequila, so this is a good place to start.
Vodka is traditionally made from distilled liquid from potatoes or cereal grains. It is used in white Russians, screwdrivers, vodka martinis, and sea breeze to name a few recipes. Choose a good quality neutral with no added flavours that will fight with the other ingredients in your cocktails.
Whisky is the most varied of all spirits, with a variety of flavours and types. The best quality single malts that have been aged for several years can cost thousands of pounds! However, as a cocktail ingredient a good start is to invest in a mid-priced Bourbon whiskey.