Tag Archives: home bartending

Podcast 113- Blade & Bow Bourbon and Disco Ball

steven westman simple cocktails podcast

We’re joined by Steven J. Westman. Steven mentions 505 Faces. We talk about Latitude 33. Letters from the Jack Daniel’s Distillery? We taste Blade & Bow bourbon. A shameless book plug for NM Cocktails. We also mention Shake. Stir.Sip by Kara Newman. We make a Disco Ball cocktail from her book. Greg talks Chartreuse. “I usually carry body glitter…”

Download Episode 113.

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The Future of Craft Cocktails is…

home bar

It’s rare that I wax philosophical at Simple Cocktails, but occasionally I see something that so aligns with our mission here, I have to share it. A few years ago, I established our mission with a post called Why We Need Each Other, discussing the lost art of home bartending and the ways we can personally help to revive it.

Today, I read an interview with Jim Meehan that stirred my desire to see the resurgence of home bartending. In the interview, Meehan, who is one of this century’s most influential bartenders and the founder of PDT in New York, discusses the direction that bartending is headed in the next decade.

He says home bartending will play a big role.

According to Meehan (emphasis added), “If history is inclined to repeat itself, I predict the cocktail will be domesticated by enthusiasts who can’t get a seat and congenial face time with the busy bartender at their local.” He says that quality bartending tools that are readily-available now help to supply us with what’s needed to outfit our home bars well, and in turn, better home bartenders will create a better craft cocktail scene overall.

From my perspective, we are on the right track. Our target audience at Simple Cocktails is amateur home bartenders, and it’s you (our readers) who Meehan suggests will help to “buoy the craft of the cocktail.”

4 years ago, we issued a call to you to start bartending at home. Now the revolution has begun, and the tools and resources are in place to help you here at the blog (see our buyer’s guides and free recipe book) and from many other great cocktail enthusiasts as well.

It’s easier than ever to enjoy a drink at home, so cheers to the next decade and the rise of the home cocktail enthusiast!

Update: 2 months after I wrote this post, I had the opportunity to speak with Jim about his comments. You can hear what he had to say in our Tales of the Cocktail podcast # 4.

How to Make a Cocktail For Someone Who Doesn’t Know What They Want

home bartender. photo by matt and tish

Now that I’ve spent a few years as a home bartender, I’ve picked up some tricks on how to make drinks for people who aren’t quite sure what type of cocktail they like.

Whether a new drinker (just turned 21), or simply an intimidated bar drinker, I’ve found that the majority of people that I make drinks for haven’t tried enough cocktails in their life to know exactly what they like, so here are 5 questions I always ask people before I make them a drink:

  1. What flavors do you like – especially citrus, even foods, etc? If they love oranges, make an Orange Blossom Special or Screwdriver. Or avoid the Cucumber Martini if they hate cucumber.
  2. Do you have a liquor preference? Often, people will know enough to say “I hate gin,” or “I love gin,” (both of which I hear pretty regularly). If they like rum, make them a tiki drink. I once heard, “I’m allergic to juniper,” which as well all know, is a curse worse than death, because gin is awesome.
  3. How sweet do you like your cocktails? This one is huge, because even if they say the like Margaritas, for instance, but don’t like sweet drinks, you can just ease up on the Triple Sec a bit. If they love sweet and love vodka (see #2), then I’ll make them a simple 2 oz vodka + 1 1/2 oz liqueur cocktail like this one.
  4. What are some cocktails you already like? Here’s a specific one I do a lot: when people tell me they love Gins and Tonics, I tell them “let me make you the best G&T you’ve ever had,” and I get out the Jack Rudy Tonic syrup. Making upgraded versions of drinks they already love is an awesome route.
  5. Do you like it? At a commercial bar, this is nearly impossible, but one of the biggest advantages of a home bar is that it’s a lot easier to say you don’t like something. I always ask people if they like the drink I made, and I let them know it’s ok if they don’t, I’ll gladly pour it out (or maybe drink it myself) and make them something else.

 Special thanks to Matt&Tish for the photo.

7 Essential Bartending Tools

home bar tools

While there are dozens of bar tools available from liquor stores to housewares, there are really only 7 tools that you need to get your home bar started (other than liquor and ice). Here’s what I recommend.

  1. Measuring cup. Measuring your liquids for cocktails is essential for making balanced drinks. While I have jiggers and other fancy measuring tools, I use these 4 oz measuring glasses all the time. They’re dishwasher safe and I’ve had them for years.
  2. Mixing glass. Some cocktails should be shaken and some should be stirred. For stirred drinks, a standard pint glass will be fine, though something with a wider base is better in the long run. A Yarai Mixing Glass is elegant and professional, but they’re also $40. I bought a six-pack of 600ml beakers for $14 that I use to stir my cocktails.
  3. Strainer. You really can’t stir drinks (see #2 above) without a strainer to pour the finished product through. The best strainers I’ve found are usually the cheapest. I bought this one for about $4.
  4. Shaker. While most professional bartenders use a Boston Shaker, I’ve found a 3-piece shaker (also called a cobbler) like this one has worked best for me at home. These will run you $10-20.
  5. Knife. You’ll be cutting lots of citrus to pour into your cocktails, so make sure you have a knife to do it with. I have 5 or 6 Kuhn Rikon paring knives, and I love them.
  6. Squeezer. I realize that you can just use your hand to squeeze the citrus for your cocktails, but you’ll get way more juice if you use a squeezer like this one.
  7. Glassware. Using the proper glassware for your cocktail is essential. Save plastic, paper, or other vessels for the frat house. Now that you’re making great cocktails, use the proper glasses.
Photography by Jasmine Nicole.

Why We Need Each Other

why we need each other

NPR recently ran a story called “What America Spends on Booze.” They say “out of every $100 American consumers spend, about $1 goes to alcohol. That hasn’t changed much over the past 30 years.”

So people spend the same on booze that they always have, but they found out that the vast majority (76%) of booze purchased in 1982 was bought to be served at home. That number is now approaching half, though, and I imagine it will continue to drop. Thirty years ago people primarily drank and served drinks at home, but that’s not true anymore.

Our cocktail making is increasingly falling into the hands of bartenders. Now, if every bar were Canon or Clyde Common, I wouldn’t be as concerned. But they’re not. Applebee’s and Chilis have bars, too, and I’m certain that folks are increasingly drinking poorly made cocktails from poor ingredients, like the high-fructose nightmare “Sour Mix.” That crap is $7 a gallon.

Let’s get back to home bartending, which my area of expertise, and it’s clearly where the crisis lies. When was the last time someone served you a martini or old fashioned at their house? I realize that as readers of this blog, you’re probably the exception to the rule. I started thinking, though, and I am willing to bet that in the 5 miles surrounding my house, there may only be 2 or 3 people (including me) that have a bottle of cocktail bitters in the cabinet. When I buy bitters at the grocery store, they’re on the bottom shelf and covered with dust. Doesn’t this mean that no one who lives near me can make a proper Manhattan or an Old Fashioned at home?

I started Simple Cocktails because I believe strongly that serving people drinks in our homes is becoming a lost art, even though it can provide massive joy. The graphic and story above tell me it’s true! As a culture, we are losing the community that once accompanied the cocktail party. I’ve found dozens of books at thrift stores about how to party, how to drink, when to drink, how to serve, but you know what? They’re all from the 60’s.

Here’s where we team up, dear readers: as I teach you how to do this stuff, will you commit to do it at home? Don’t spend $30 at Applebee’s – spend $30 on a bottle of bourbon and consider it an investment in your community. Then invite some whiskey lovers over and drink it! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.