Glassware

Glassware

One of the most important elements of a home bar is glassware. There are several styles of glasses you will find, and each of them fits with a particular drink. Of the absolutely necessary glassware, there are 2 to start with: old fashioned glasses and cocktail glasses.

Old fashioned glasses, also known as rocks glasses, are small and stout, much like the three glasses in the foreground of the photo above. These hold a volume of about 7-13 ounces and are best for serving whiskey straight and for cocktails like Old Fashioneds and  Sazeracs.

Next are cocktail glasses, sometimes called martini glasses. These are tall, stemmed glasses that hold 2 to 8 ounces and are used for drinks like Martinis, Negronis, and many other “martini-style” cocktails. Traditionally, the glassware used for these drinks was the old-style champagne coupes like those in the middle row above, which only hold about 2 1/2 ounces. These can almost exclusively be found used nowadays as glassware manufacturers have discovered that champagne holds it bubbles better in a long, tall glass.

As far as shopping is concerned, glassware can be found anywhere from Target to antique stores and most places in between. Because I like for my glassware to be unique and traditional, I look at thrift shops and antique stores almost exclusively. Here’s what I’ve discovered: Most glassware at Goodwill and other thrift shops will be between 15¢ and $1 each. You will often find multiples of the same glass, but it’s hard to find sets of 6 or more (usually those are missing at least one glass). Even the most ancient glassware can usually be totally redeemed with a good dishwasher and some Jet Dry.

Below is some of my favorite glassware in my home bar. Most of these I have in sets of 3-6 glasses and only one of these was purchased new (from World Market). The “free” glasses were gifts from friends.

Glassware

Pisco

Pisco

Pisco is a unique liquor distilled from grapes in Peru or Chile, and it’s a close cousin to brandy, which is distilled from wine. Peruvian Pisco is not aged, and Chilean Pisco is usually aged in barrels, which means that Peru’s Pisco is colorless and Chile’s is a faint yellow/brown color.

I tried two types: Pisco Portón from Peru, and Don Quixote “Pisqo Brandy,” in the style of Chilean Pisco, from here in New Mexico. When tasted straight, Pisco Portón reminded me of stems and reeds, earthy and aromatic. It has a flavor that I haven’t really experienced yet in spirits – falling somewhere between tequila, vodka, and grappa. Don Quixote Pisqo was more similar in flavor to brandy, with a desert spiciness to it and a really crisp and clean finish.

I made Pisco Sours with both types of Pisco:

Pisco Sour

  • 2 oz pisco
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • shake all ingredients hard in a cocktail shaker with no ice to froth the egg white
  • add ice and shake again to chill
  • pour into an old fashioned glass and top with 3 drops of bitters (exclude the bitters when using Chielean piscos)

Pisco sours

Pisco Portón was the best fit for this particular cocktail. The intense flavor of Don Quixote’s Pisqo overpowered the  ingredients, so I think Pisco Portón is going to be a better fit in mixed drinks, while Don Quixote’s Pisqo Brandy is better to sip unmixed, and it’s spicy character makes it a great complement to a cigar.

Pisco Portón will run you about $40 a bottle and Don Quixote Pisqo is available at the distillery or online for $42.

Punt e Mes

Punt e Mes

Punt e Mes is an Italian sweet vermouth that’s been made for over a hundred years in Turin. I tend to cheap out when I buy vermouth, and usually just stick with the Trader Joe’s $4 variety, only occasionally splurging for a $10 bottle of Martini and Rossi. Punt e Mes is high-quality stuff though, selling for about $20 a bottle. It’s name implies a point-and-a-half of something, and in the case of Punt e Mes, it’s 1 point sweet red vermouth, 1/2 a point of bitter liqueur (like Campari). So while this tastes mostly like an excellent sweet vermouth, there’s a great, bitter finish to it.

Vermouth is one one of the few liquors I keep in the fridge to preserve it’s life, and my Punt e Mes lives there now, ready to be served on the rocks. Punt e Mes also works well in a Negroni:

Negroni

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz Campari (a bitter liqueur)
  • 1 oz red vermouth (I used Punt e Mes)
  • stir on ice and either strain into a chilled cocktail glass or serve on the rocks
  • garnish with an orange peel

I’m surprised how much I liked a more bitter Negroni, and maybe it was just the quality increase from using Punt e Mes, but I fear that every Negroni I make from here on out will require Punt as the vermouth. It’s really excellent, and will run you about $18 a bottle. The Negroni and more recipes can be found in my ebook, available as a free download when you register for my newsletter.

Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry

Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry Coke

If you’ve never tried it, Southern Comfort is a low priced ($15) whiskey-flavored liqueur that’s easy to mix with simple ingredients like sodas or juices. In may ways, Southern Comfort is a ready-to-drink cocktail, so it totally qualifies for this site. Outside of the original SoCo, there is also SoCo Lime and Firey Pepper, and for 2012, they’ve introduced the Bold Black Cherry flavor.

I wasn’t expecting to be wowed by Bold Black Cherry, but I found it to be surprisingly tasty and not overly sweet. I really enjoy it on the rocks after dinner, or mixed with soda in this simple cocktail:

Southern Comfort Cherry Coke

  • 1 1/2 oz Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry
  • 4-5 oz Coke of choice. I prefer Mexican Coke (with sugar instead of HFCS) or Coke Zero.

Fernet Branca

Fernet Branca

Fernet Branca is an Italian liqueur that is nothing short of legendary. People either love it or hate it, but most of what I see is unbridled love. One tweet I saw just said “Fernet Branca…My Religion!!!!#AMEN”  Its ingredient list is mysterious, though legend holds that Fernet Branca might contain codeine, echinacea, coca leaves, saffron, ginseng, or my favorite: ground-up fly wings.

Fernet is herbal, minty, syrupy, and finishes pretty dry for a liqueur. It’s 80 proof, which is as strong as a vodka or gin, and mint is by far the most prevalent smell and taste. I’ve been enjoying Fernet and the flavor is unique enough that I want to make sure I keep the home bar stocked with it. Fernet’s legend adds to the fun of the drink, but you should try a glass before you commit to a full bottle, because it’s a very intense herbal experience.

Because of its distinctive flavor, Fernet Branca is typically accompanied by a soda. In Argentina, Fernet and Coke is the rage. In San Francisco, who consumes 25% of all US Fernet Branca, it’s taken as a shot with a ginger ale chaser. I found that Fernet tastes like Fernet regardless of it’s mixture, and I have been enjoying it over ice after dinner or late at night. Fernet Branca will run you about $20-30 a bottle.

Aviation Gin

Aviation Gin

From the great state of Oregon comes Aviation Western Dry Gin, a $30 bottle with quite a bit of character. When I taste gin, I always have it stirred on ice and strained into a chilled glass, like a 100% dry martini. I’ve found it helps me nail down the stand-out flavors of each bottle, and with gin, there’s always a stand-out flavor. Juniper may seem the obvious choice, but depending on the distillery, citrus, spice, or some other botanical may lead the way.

Aviation says that Western Dry gin takes its cues from London Dry gin, but also lets another flavor “share the stage” with the juniper. With Aviation, it’s lavender, and this is the most floral gin I’ve tried yet. So what do you do with a floral gin? A martini is always a great way to enjoy the subtle differences between gins, and making one with lavender flower garnishes instead of an olive is great. Beyond that, though, is the classic cocktail that shares it’s name with this very gin: the Aviation.

Aviation

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz maraschino liqueur (like Luxardo)
  • 1/4 oz lemon juice
  • Shake and strain into a cocktail glass
  • Garnish with a cherry

Drambuie and the Rusty Nail

Drambuie Famous Grouse Rusty Nail

Because scotch is one of the finest beverages in the world, there are very few cocktails that contain it. The general opinion is that you should use lower quality booze for mixing drinks and higher-quality, more expensive liquors should be drunk straight.

Drambuie (dram-byoo-ee) is a liqueur that contains scotch, heather honey, herbs, and spices. It has a bit of an anise flavor and the spices taste great, but it’s too sweet to sip it straight. The signature Drambuie drink is the Rusty Nail, which is one of the few scotch cocktails:

Rusty Nail

  • 1 oz Drambuie
  • 2 oz scotch (I used The Famous Grouse)
  • Serve neat or on the rocks

The nice thing about cocktails like this is that the ingredient ratio can be adjusted easily for the drinker’s preferences. Want a sweeter Rusty Nail? Use less scotch and more Drambuie. Drier? Have just a splash of Drambuie in your scotch. Drambuie will run you about $30-40 a bottle.

Gran Centenario Añejo Tequila

Gran Centenario Añejo Tequila

Proximo Spirits, responsible for importing Three Olives, Maestro Dobel, and Kraken Rum, imports Gran Centenario Añejo tequila as well.

Tequila must be distilled in Mexico generally comes in these varieties:
Blanco: White/silver, unaged.
Resposado: “Rested,” aged 6 months.
Añejo: aged more than 6 months, usually about a year.
Extra Añejo: aged more than a year.

Añejos are usually aged in American whiskey barrels, so they can take on some whiskey-like qualities. They are usually smoother than unaged tequilas, so they’re great for sipping straight. Gran Centenario surprised me with an apple flavor that’s joined by the whiskey barrel/woody taste. It retails for $20-30, and particularly if you like the traces of apple it has, this tequila is a good buy. Because Fall is in the air, if you’re not drinking Gran Centenario straight, add a shot to a pumpkin ale or try it in a T.A.P.:

T.A.P. (by Greg Mays)

  • 1 1/2 oz of Gran Centenario Añejo Tequila
  • 2 oz of unfiltered apple cider
  • Stir and serve over ice in an old fashioned glass

Old Fashioned

This is simple in it’s ingredients, a little fancy in it’s preparation. Oh and it’s the best cocktail ever.

Rye Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned

  • Add 1 sugar cube (or spoon of sugar) to an old fashioned glass
  • Douse with 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Add a splash of club soda and stir well
  • Fill glass with ice, add 2 oz of rye whiskey, stir until cold
  • Take a piece of orange peel, squeeze over the glass and rub it around the rim
  • Top with another splash of club soda
  • Garnish with the orange peel and a cherry (I wrap the cherry in the peel)

Gin Old Fashioned

Gin Old Fashioned

  • Add 1 sugar cube (or spoon of sugar) to an old fashioned glass
  • Douse with 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Douse with 2 dashes of orange bitters.
  • Add a splash of club soda and stir well
  • Fill glass with ice, add 2 oz of gin, stir until cold
  • Take a piece of orange peel, squeeze over the glass and rub it around the rim
  • Top with another splash of club soda
  • Garnish with the orange peel and a cherry (I wrap the cherry in the peel)

Still Waters Whisky and Vodka

Still Waters Whisky

I’ve hated the sour, watery Canadian whiskies that I’ve tasted previously (Crown Royal, I’m looking at you). When I poured my first glass of Still Waters Blended Canadian Whisky, that changed. As you drink it, you’re met with a pretty complex mix of sweet and spice. The grain base for this whisky is corn (sweet), rye (spicy), and malted barley (earthy), and it works through your mouth in that order. On your first tasting, you could mistake it for a bourbon, and I’ve found it to be really tasty every time I pour a glass. Still Waters Blended is light and refreshing, extremely easy to drink straight, and should run you about $35 a bottle.

Still Waters Single Malt Vodka

Still Waters Single Malt Vodka is a good buy as well, similar in price to the blended whisky. It’s base is 100% malted barley (the stuff scotch is made from) which gives it a smooth, earthly, sweet finish that I initially experienced in Don Quixote Blue Corn Vodka.