by Harmony Boyer
Do you remember your first “cocktail”? Not counting my young love of Shirley Temples, my first experience in a bar consisted of my first ever cocktail decision. After perusing the extensive menu, I ordered an ….. APPLETINI. YES, AN APPLETINI. A “jolly rancher” emulated cocktail of delicious measure. After the first, I never had another.
For the sake of nostalgia, I recently googled the cocktail and it literally reads:
“The principle ingredients of an appletini, as it came to be known are vodka and Sour Apple Pucker, radiant, possibly radioactive green schnapps that gives the drink its signature hue and melted jolly rancher taste. More than 20 years later, the drink has fallen out of fashion.”
THE DRINK HAS FULLY FALLEN OUT OF FASHION?
I guess you could say that my “palette” has greatly improved over time and knowledge. Also, I guess it hasn’t hurt that over many years I have accumulated amazing bartender friends and even some bartender crushes (long live SWEET Sam from Anina!). Maybe some of it is also because when I was younger, I had aspirations of being a bartender. And while I never made that bartender aspiration come to fruition, I guess instead I have worked really hard to master an “intoxicating” personality. One of my favorite things about living in the cities that I have, has always been the seemingly endless bar and restaurant options. But when the weather turns colder, going out definitely loses its allure; after all, it’s basically dark at 3pm, the best places get crowded, and sometimes, the last thing I want to do is leave the comfort of my couch.
My favorite nook in my house; my bar cart that I’m slowly trying to make rival even the swankiest cocktail bar. Who knows, at some point maybe I’ll never leave my house? A girl can dream.
So in an effort to create more “harmbodies,” here’s how I’ve built my own little “cocktail bar”, paired with perfect lighting, an ideal distance from my bed.
Depending on your space or lack thereof, you can go from a small collection of spirits, built around your favorite cocktail or a more expansive selection of spirits collected over time. I currently have a physical bar cart of my own, but always love to see the different and unique ways that people display some of their favorite bottles. So whether it’s a small tray, cabinet, table top or the back of an old piano -- use whatever space you have available (that’s not in direct sunlight).
These are some of my favorite purchases! From unique vintage decanters to little shortie champagne flutes to funky hi ball glasses, I love adding interesting glassware to my collection. I see an interesting or kitschy glass and imagine what drink would be amazing served in it.
(Case in point: After purchasing a beautiful vintage punch bowl I made a Gin Punch that served 6… for myself)
So, the direct deposit has hit, and you’re ready to live off Top Ramen for a week or two to get your home bar to peak potential. Where do you start?
Honestly, I’d start with the ingredients for YOUR favorite cocktail and build from there! My original “three amigos” that I always stock are Campari, Sweet Vermouth and Gin -- to make MY favorite cocktail: a Negroni.
Pro Tip: I recently had a conversation with someone who also is equally obsessed with Negronis and he used to make a full decanter, keep it in his fridge so he could have an instant negroni whenever he felt the urge. I am stealing his lifehack, immediately.
I’ve accumulated a few more bottles over the course of my travels and interests, but one bottle of each of the six base liquors will create the base of a well-rounded bar. (And will allow you to mix up most classic cocktails)
My absolute favorite (growing) collection and “MUST HAVE” to any bar cart.
Campari is my absolute favorite Spirit (animal). You can drink it straight up, over ice, with soda, in cocktails, or however else you can slam it down. Herbal, fruity, and bitter, it’s not everyone’s favorite, but it’s completely mine. I encourage you to keep trying it. Or try...
Aperol: Similar to Campari but slightly sweeter. Also, the namesake of everyone’s favorite summer drink to hate - the “Aperol Spritz”.
Sweet Vermouth is something you tend to hear a nice older lady order straight up before a meal, but it’s a great ingredient that adds botanical flavors to cocktails as well. Garnering its name from the German word for wormwood, “wermut,” vermouth has been around for centuries and is a staple in Martinis, Manhattans and Negronis.
Other additions that I love in the Amaro family are: Bruto Americano, Fernet Branca, Suze, Averna and Cynar.
RENEWING MY GIN MEMBERSHIP: A Versatile Gin, or Two, or Three
Gin should be the first ingredient in your martini. Full stop. Hell, sometimes it should be the only ingredient. With that said, there are a few styles to choose from for your inevitable James Bond costume party. London dry gin is the most prolific type of gin. It has a flowery aroma, dry taste and doesn’t have to be made in London (go figure).
Currently enamoured with: St. George Botanivore Gin
TEQUILING ME SOFTLY = TEQUILA
The most versatile style is a blanco (or silver) tequila. If you'll only be stocking one tequila, that is your best option. If you want a little upgrade, add a slightly aged reposado as well (I personally would add a nice Mezcal here, too!).
Currently enamoured with: Pueblo Viejo Blanco - fantastic agave notes...think toasted honey with peppercorn.
Espolon Silver Tequila, Leyenda San Luis Potosi Mezcal (it has aromas of bell peppers and jalapeno!).
INSTANT PIRATE = JUST ADD RUM
A well-rounded bar is best with at least two bottles of rum; a light rum will be your workhorse for most cocktails, from daiquiris to mojitos. If you really like to explore tropical or tiki cocktails, a dark rum is essential.
Currently enamoured with: Plantation Grande Reserve Barbados Rum
In the interest of versatility and mixability, consider stocking a bourbon and a Canadian whiskey. The bourbon will give you that robust whiskey flavor while the Canadian blends tend to be very smooth (just like their human counterparts) and the most versatile for cocktails.
Currently enamoured with: Michter’s Rye, Weller 107 Bourbon
ICE, ICE BABY (Yes, Ice)
Ice is (actually) the most important ingredient for good, quality cocktails. As it melts, it becomes part of the “personality” of whatever drink you have made. Invest in some nice ice molds and replace the ice monthly (at least)
These should not be an afterthought. Stock Club Soda, Tonic Water, Topo Chico and Rosewater
I always romanticize the garnish, but having finishing-touch ingredients stocked in your kitchen or your bar cart make the whole experience that much more fun. Some of my necessities are good quality citrus and (my favorite) Amarena Cherries.
Buy what you like to drink and enjoy the process. Just remember: Wine should be kept on its side, Vermouth should be kept in the fridge and Peach Schnapps should definitely be kept in the trash
HARMONY IS A LONG-TIME LOVER OF ALL THINGS BEAUTY, MUSIC AND COCKTAILS. NOW THAT DRY JANUARY IS OVER, YOU CAN FIND HER ENJOYING A CHEEKY DRINK OR A GOOD LAUGH WITH SOME FRIENDS. SHE IS ALSO A CONTENT-CREATOR & BEAUTY INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE. FOLLOW HER JOURNEY @SOMEFAMOUSCHICK