Want a surefire way to impress your guests at a cocktail party? Invest in glasses that aren’t sold in bags of 50. Another hint: Nobody prefers keg beer. Nobody. Herein, your quintessential guide to fabulous libations.
Choose one of the best Pantry Supplies to find out what you’ll need to stock your bar: glassware, hardware, liquor, condiments and mixers.
A good guideline for selecting glassware is to choose in accordance to your and your friends’ drink preferences. My experience shows that a slightly larger glass actually causes people to drink more slowly — without having to put much more alcohol in the glass. Regardless of what you choose, always keep your glassware clean and sparkling.
Rocks/double/old-fashioned glasses range from 6-12 ounces and are usually used for straight pours or a mixed cocktail such as a Black Russian (vodka and Kahlua).
Highballs are the 12-ounce glasses used for all your standard mixers — gin & tonic, rum & coke, bourbon & 7-Up.
Beer glasses are great to have on hand, be they tall pilsens, hefty mugs or standard pint glasses. A classy atmosphere dictates that your guests sip their suds from glasses.
The cocktail (or martini) glass is essential, even if only because everyone looks good with one in hand. This glass represents all that is elegant, and is a must for both classic and newer hip drinks.
A Glass Act
You may be a connoisseur and have wine glasses for each varietal, or you may go for separate red and white glasses (red is more like a balloon; white is skinnier and taller). In either case, it is often easier for entertaining to have a simple, standard wine glass, which you can often find in classy styles for not too much money. If you are planning to pour bubbly, champagne flutes are a must; they keep your sparklers cool and preserve the bubbles.
Brandy snifters and cordial glasses (smaller than snifters) are a great touch if you plan to provide brandy, cognac, fine scotch or assorted after-dinner liqueurs.
A standard coffee mug will suffice, but Irish coffee mugs (with a small foot, usually made out of glass) are fun and festive for Irish Coffee, hot mulled wine and many other steaming beverages.
Hardware The well-stocked bar should have all of the following accoutrements (you can often find them sold in sets):
Bottle opener, corkscrew, can opener: Make sure these are easy to use — it’s so embarrassing to struggle with a bottle.
Long spoon or stirring stick
Ice bucket and scoop or tongs
Cocktail shaker/mixing glasses with a coil-rimmed strainer
Small, sharp knife with a cutting board (a paring knife is a good idea as well)
Muddler: These look like miniature baseball bats or billy clubs. They’re a necessity for mashing fruit and are strangely empowering to hold.
Juice extractor/squeezer: Fresh juice is the key to great drinks.
Shot glass/jigger measure: Unless you have pour spouts and are really comfortable and trusting, it’s a good idea to have these around.
Swizzle sticks or straws: as simple or fancy as you wish
Bar mop/rag/towel: for those inevitable dribbles
Pick Your Poison
Pick your poison Selecting your liquor depends on several factors: your budget, your and your guests’ preferences, and any thematic scheme you may have for your gathering. Going with cheap booze is going to give you marginal cocktails and a nasty hangover — so if your wallet allows, stick with trusted brands. If you have to fully stock your bar, try a large, chain-type liquor store; buying larger sizes ensures that you don’t run out, and also that you get the best price. Do, also, pay attention to what your friends order when you’re out — does Suzy like Skyy? If your boyfriend only drinks Dewars, that’s the way to go.
Vodka (hint: keep it in the freezer)
Rum (light and/or dark)
Whiskey (Irish and/or blended)
Any other liqueurs according to taste (peach schnapps, Kahlua, Crème de Cassis)
Vermouth (sweet and dry)
On the Side
Maraschino cherries: Everyone loves ’em, so buy lots.
Olives: green, and preferably stuffed with pimentos, but anchovies are a fun twist for the daring (and patient!)
Cocktail onions: They’re vile, but the bold few love them.
Bitters: A dash here and there livens up certain cocktails (Manhattans, old-fashioneds, champagne cocktails); the next day, try a bit in soda to help an ailing tummy.
Sugar: Cubed helps for measurement, but keep some granulated around for rimming glasses.
Course salt: a must for margaritas
Lemons, limes, oranges: Cut into wedges.
Lemon twists: Cut lemon peels long and curly for an artsy look.
Half and half: It works well in place of both milk and cream for all your needs.
Mixing It Up
Here are the basics for great cocktails:
Cola (personal preference says Coca-Cola rules for mixing)
Lemon-lime soda (personal preference here goes with 7-Up)
Concentrated lime juice
Fresh lime/lemon/orange juice