A toast to style: Here’s how to set up a super cool home bar
Ever since Mad Men popularised 5pm cocktails, there’s been greater interest about the world of whisky as well as the idea of an at-home bar.
One cannot really deny the delicious thrill of adulting we get from owning our very own home-bar, especially in the times we live in today.
Just close your eyes and imagine. At the end of a work-day, when you crack open your favourite dram of scotch, there is nothing quite like the pleasure of seeing golden liquid flow onto crisp ice in a beautiful glass, topped with some bitters for extra flavour.
For the uninitiated though, it might seem a daunting task to set up your little corner of heaven at home, so here are a few ways in which I think you can achieve your perfect home bar with a few simple elements and a few must-haves.
What makes a good home bar?
A good home bar is both stylish and well-stocked (Pic credit: Shutterstock)
There is little that adds to the charm of an aesthetically led life as a well-stocked home bar.
The ideal spread includes a choice of spirit in each category: Scotch for special occasions, Whisky for occasional consumption, Vodka for when your inner mixologist is out to play, Gin for a scorching hot day, Rums for when the rain gods pour and a smattering of other spirits as tequila, wines and thereon as suits your palate.
And while you choose the liquid gold that adorns your bar, what turns them into beautiful cocktails are modifiers like an amaro, a term for bitter Italian spirits. Amaros are very trendy in the cocktail world at the moment. Pick classics like Aperitif or Vermouth or explore as available at your local stockist.
It is wise to invest in a selection of flavour accompaniments like syrups, cordials, or tarts. Peach, Passion Fruit, Cranberry, Coconut, Mint and Elderflower are great beginner choices that can be purchased off the shelf.
There are increasing number of speciality producers who make great additives. My personal choice is SWA Syrups, based out of Bengaluru, an enterprise that works on a farm to bottle concept.
Creating the elements around your home bar
To create your unique home bar, that best suits you: it’s always wise to set aside a budget first. Think about the kinds of spirits you enjoy best, the cocktails you like best and the ingredients and paraphernalia required to recreate them. Say you love Scotch, and the idea of a tall crisp whisky Highball or a stiff Manhattan is your preferred choice, well, that there, is your starting point!
The right equipment is required for a well-designed bar (Pic credit: Shutterstock)
Now that you have your products, think of the making. Investing in a good quality bar kit today is an expense under Rs 5000. A full set consists of a two-piece cocktail shaker, two to three types of strainers, a bar spoon, a mixing glass, a muddler and a measure. Additional equipment includes a pourer to ensure you don’t spill your hard-earned dram and a stopper to ensure your modifiers and syrups stay fresh for a longer period of time.
A professional home bar set adds to the charm and décor of your home bar, so make an investment in a design that suits your aesthetics. Same goes for glassware as well: match it to your aesthetics and the kind of cocktails that you enjoy.
Time to rack up the liquids
Cocktails have long been the playing ground of white spirits, but whisky has steadily made inroads with classic and contemporary offerings, making it the latest trend in the category.
Experiment with different kinds of juice and liquor (Pic credit: Shutterstock)
My bar currently stocks a beautiful selection of scotches: Johnnie Walker Black Label, Black & White, Black Dog Triple Gold Reserve, in addition to some beautiful Indian wines, vodkas and home-grown craft beers.
Let me help you be inspired to create your home bar with examples of how I maximise mine.
If you were to check out my home bar, you would immediately notice that I have a range of scotches on hand. Now what differentiates one Scotch from another you ask? Well almost everything! Despite the fact that they are made with the same basic ingredients of barley, yeast and water, the treatment of the master blenders who are distilling the legacy is the stuff of legends.
These blends create unique distinctions that you will come to appreciate one dram at a time.
The absolute classic of course is Johnnie Walker Black Label. Made with single malts sourced from the four corners of Scotland this exquisite blend has a combination of over 30 single malts creating a flavour profile that ranges from fruity to smoky and creamy to tropical.
What this means for you as someone creating cocktails at home is that you can create a stunning drink with Johnnie Walker Black Label, in under two minutes with seriously limited effort but spectacular results.
Here are some of my favourite cocktail recipes that you can try after you set up your home bar…
Johnnie Berry Crush
Johnnie Berry Crush (Pic credit: author)
Here’s my take on a Whisky Highball. This drink is best suited for relaxed days like those mornings when you are pottering about your garden on a Saturday.
- 45 ml Johnnie Walker Black Label
- 10 ml lime juice
- Ripe raspberries / strawberries
- Soda water to top up
- Mint to garnish
- Take an old-fashioned glass, add 3-4 strawberries and a sprig of mint
- Use a muddler to gently crush the berries and mint
- Pour in 45 ml of Johnnie Walker Black Label
- Add crushed ice to the top and add soda water until halfway
- Wiggle your bar spoon right to the bottom of the glass hitting the base, give it a proper stir
- Top with soda
- Agitate your sprig of mint, by slapping it against your palm
- Garnish with mint and slurp it up! That's a fabulous way to go highballing' into the weekend!
- Adding all the soda and then giving it a stir will cause fizz to reduce and also take away the beautiful gradation in your drink.
- Use a tall glass as a Collins (which fits more liquid) to further dilute your drink with soda if desired.
- The colder the soda, the crisper the fizz. Ice is one part, but also make sure your soda is very cold.
Yes, We Cran!
Yes, We Cran
There are days when you feel the need for comfort and companionship. Some Scotches taste best when shared, and Black & White to me is that perfect Scotch that makes for great accompaniment to food, friendships and shared fun!
I enjoy mine with a slice of pizza and a rerun of a familiar sitcom for a cosy evening in.
- 45 ml Black & White Blended Scotch
- 45 ml Cranberry Juice
- 15 ml Lime Juice
- Soda Water to top up
- Orange peel to garnish
- Take a tall glass, pour in 45 ml of Black & White Scotch
- Add 15 ml of lime juice and give it a good stir
- Add crisp ice all the way to the top
- Add in 45 ml of cranberry juice or until you hit the level of ice
- Wiggle your bar spoon right to the bottom of the glass hitting the base, give it a quick stir
- Carve out an orange peel, twist over your drink to release the orange oils onto your cocktail
- Run the peel over the rim of your glass for an extra oomph & drop the orange peel into your glass.
Pairs well with a classic Margherita pizza, the richness of the Italian bufala, paired with fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil matched with fruity Black & White adding to the crisp cranberry and orange notes of your cocktail.
- Adding all the soda and then giving it a stir will cause fizziness to reduce and also take away the beautiful gradation in your drink.
- Use a tall glass as a Collins ( which fits more liquid ) to further dilute your drink with soda if desired.
- The colder the soda, the crisper the fizz. Ice is one part, but also make sure your soda is fresh off the refrigerator.
Add the right flavour
Your home-bar is the perfect place you’d want to go back to at the end of a hard day to relax with a dram or two on the rocks. You can lean back in this favourite corner with a glass of Black Dog Triple Gold Reserve scotch, and just savour that pause.
With flavours of fruits, spices, nuts and closely resembling a Christmas plum cake, I best enjoy this dram poured simply over rocks and highlighted with a dash or two of bitters.
Keep all the above tips in mind and you would have created your own wonderful interpretation of a classy home-bar.
(All representational pics: Shutterstock)