The holiday season is jam-packed full of events! And more than likely, you will find yourself hosting an event at some point or another. Some people insist on playing the latest and greatest board game, while others spring for crafty events like pumpkin carving contests or gingerbread house-building parties. No matter what road you travel, one thing is constant– holiday parties are more fun with booze! Just remember to let Uber drive you home.

IMG_1895To get ready for the holiday season, here are five quintessential home bar picks to ensure you are ready to serve fabulous cocktails.

1. Perhaps this is a no-brainer, but no home bar is complete without a great shaker set. Please don’t go to Target or your local liquor store purchase this. If you truly are enthusiastic about cocktails, buy online. For a great “starter set,” I recommend going for the “Shaken Set” from Cocktail Kingdom – it comes with Japanese shakers, a silicone ice cube tray for those perfect whiskey rocks, a Hawthorne style strainer, a hand juicer and Japanese 1oz/2oz jigger – the only jigger I EVER use. Purchase this kit, care for it properly, and add to it as the need arises.

2. Bitters – I use bitters in at least half of my cocktails. Adding bitters to a cocktail is similar, at least in my mind, to finishing food with a pinch of high quality sea salt. Bitters are an ever growing market, and these days you will find dozens of bitters at a premium spirit store. However, there are three bitters that every home bar should have:
Regan’s Orange, Angostura, and Peychaud’s Bitters. For recreating the classic cocktails, these should be more than sufficient. As your experience grows, you may begin acquiring a new bottle or two, and even look at making your own. Regardless, start with the three and understand how they work in cocktails, and go from there (Click the image to the right to purchase).

3. A Punch Bowl – this is a big ticket item that you may use once or twice a year, but it makes a huge statement and saves you from playing bartender all night. For me the best part is about buying a punch bowl is the hunt. Remember to explore your favorite antique malls and estate sales for a unique opportunity that may also save you some big dollars. Be certain it comes complete with cups, hooks, and a big serving ladle. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of punch recipes out there—but all you really need is some variety of citrus juice, sparkling soda, and a spirit(s) of your choice. The fun begins creating and trying recipes that you like! Last word of advice is to make a few large blocks of ice a few days prior to your event. A medium size Tupperware usually works. One big block of ice doesn’t melt as quickly as standard size cubes.

4. A Bar Spoon – not all bar spoons are created equal. Look for one with a coil that runs the length of the spoon– for sinking tonics or showing off, it also helps in the stirring process. You can go one of two ways with the top of the spoon: a trident for picking garnishes like olives/cherries or one with a fat knob that can be used for cracking ice or muddling mint or fruit. To a bartender, a bar spoon is the equivalent of a chef’s knife and is a very personal choice. For the sake of this article, I am going to recommend the spoon with the muddler – hey it’s one less thing to clean at the end of the day!

5. Glassware – I hate to break it to you, but martini glasses are on their way out. Sure they still have their purpose (a proper martini), but it is much more stylish to use a traditional champagne coupe or a Set of 6 Nick & Nora Classic Cocktail Glasses that are served “up” these days. You don’t want to serve an old-fashioned in a candy striped plastic tumbler either. Again, one of my favorite things to do when traveling is to shop in antique stores to look for seasonal, unique glassware. I think it completes the home bar and provides a wonderful opportunity to express some personality. I have quite the collection myself, and for the true cocktail aficionado, glassware makes a fantastic gift!

(written by Cameron Cook)