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Build a Better Drink at Home: How to Craft High-End Cocktails

October 23, 2015
Build a Better Drink at Home: How to Craft High-End Cocktails

Cocktails have returned to the bar scene. Whether influenced by popular ad-biz television drama “Mad Men,” or by the artisan and hand-crafted movement that seeks to elevate all that we consume, more Americans have embraced elaborate mixed drinks. Again.

But you don’t have to go out to a bar to imbibe, unless of course you want to. By investing in select bar ware, quality liquor, and fresh ingredients, a fine drink can be made at home. Yep, the dressy cocktail party is back, too.

In fact, a “well-stocked” home bar can be as simple as two glasses and a good bottle of scotch for many households, says Matt Hunnel, bar manager at JIMMY at The James Hotel Chicago. For others, we’re talking about a wide selection of liquor and its accoutrement.

Stock That Bar

Mitch Einhorn, owner of Lush Wine and Spirits, recommends that home bartenders start with a jigger, shaker, a hawthorne strainer, and a bar spoon. All can be purchased at good housewares stores, he says. Bar glassware might include a rocks glass, a Collins glass, pint glasses, and red/white/sparkling wine glasses.

For Champagne cocktails, Einhorn likes the design of Schott Zwiesel’s glasses, which are narrow at the bottom, flare out, and then refocus at the top with a smaller opening.

“Glassware makes an enormous difference,” Einhorn stresses. “There’s a reason why historically they’ve been used and now, scientific reason to use them” for the best taste experience.

Basic spirits to have on hand might include tequila, vodka, gin, rum, and whisky. Of course, whisky is broken down to bourbon, rye, and scotch, Hunnel reminds. Don’t assume your discriminating guests won’t care. And, many cocktails call for bitters. A bottle of classic bitters, such as Angostura, “can last forever,” he adds.

Fruit and Veggies, Too

Fresh ingredients have become a hallmark for popular craft cocktails, Einhorn says.

“It’s similar to cooking, using seasonal ingredients when making cocktails, bringing in fresh herbs, and making your own infusions for syrups,” he says. “The real key ingredients, from my perspective: fresh juices—fresh anything—and flavored syrups. A lot of cocktails call for simple syrups; doing your own infused syrups adds such complexity.”

Don’t be afraid to ask a bartender how to make your favorite drink, Hunnel and Einhorn say.

“Absolutely. We’re happy to do that,” says Hunnel, who has shared JIMMY recipes.

Stirring Up the Industry?

The rise of the cocktail also means more local companies are making unique and flavorful small-batch spirits, including Few, Koval, Belle Meade, and others.

The big spirit brands are well aware of the craft cocktail scene, too. One industry example is Diageo (traded as American depository shares under ticker DEO). It now owns small-batch whiskey brand Bulleit as part of its high-end liquor brands that include Ciroc and Don Julio. Pernod-Richard’s Irish Distillers Group (best known for Jameson), is opening a new micro-distillery for small-batch production, according to The Irish Times.

In an interview with CNBC in July, Ivan Menezes, Diageo chief executive officer, said he expects the company to benefit from American interest in higher-end booze. (Read our Stock Sector Focus: Can Sin Pay Off?)

Whether you enjoy a fancy drink at home or want to add spirits to your portfolio, it’s much easier now to raise your glass to a better drink.

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