The Divine Miss Marleigh has an occasional cocktail blog in which she has stated in a heroic post her advice for a great personal bar. She then made the inexcusable mistake of telling me she posted it. My response (after ignoring the “be gentle” part) is almost as long as the original subject so I thought, why waste this in a comment form? I mean I get paid by the letter at Martini Republic, so why not take the cheap shot where it’ll do the most good?
Read Her post here and then my comments follow below:
OK, I feel entirely empowered to quibble as I have taken you out for said drink, and I may not be the expert I am either, but close.
Quibble #1: Spending money on a bar. Oh, nonsense. One simply requires 4 to 5 old tires (per side, depending on tire size) and several planks of indeterminate wood and/or salvaged laminate. You can hold the planks together with duct tape. You can keep the laminate firm to its particle board (since days and weeks in the alley can promote de-lamination) with duct tape. Then you get some filing cabinets from the alley or behind Goodwill. You’ll store your hooch in them. Top drawer whiskey, next tequila, next grain neutral spirits…get the idea? The genius is the other inhabitants of the flop house would NEVER go anywhere NEAR a filing cabinet. It would remind them of their mothers’ weeping - of who they could have been. Make sure you secure the filing cabinets to the wall - it’s earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire, and civil unrest season. Or you might just stumble, lose your balance, and imagine the mess. I recommend duct tape for this purpose. Some might say a filing cabinet drawer isn’t tall enough for your hooch bottles. Balderdash. Always buy everything in pints. They are easier to transport in case of earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire, or civil unrest. Electric extension cords help supply cozy illumination if your neighbor happens to have electricity.
Quibble #2: Whiskey. Rubbing Alcohol is underrated. Oops, sorry that’s for another section. Bourbon: Regular old 1.5 liter Even Williams is even cheaper and in a blind test is generally thought to be much more thoroughly aged than it really is. It’s good, really. In order of price, my Bourbons always on hand: Evan Williams Black Label, Old Charter 12 year, Woodford Reserve. Rye: Old Overholt rules, you be affirmed. Consider Sazerac 6 year too. Inexpensive and tastes EXACTLY like pre-Prohibition rye. That’s enough unless you get really frisky and track down some of Fritz Maytag’s 120 proof Potrero rye. So smooth you can drink it straight - and at $80+ a pop you’ll want to. Canadian; Bleh. CC, I suppose. You don’t need blended whiskey at all. Just mix cheap vodka and Evan Williams if you get a craving. Irish: I’m a Black Bush feller and I’ll brook no comments. Always have a bottle of good ole skunky John Power too; why? ‘Cause it’s the workin’ man’s Irish wuskeh, whot? Scotch: Pinch, Grouse, Macallan, Balvenie, and Cardu! It really isn’t a quibble at all, just advice.
Quibble #3: Gin. You need 3 different kinds of London Dry if you expect to gain the respect of your world-class alcoholics: Dry and light of juniper (Bombay, Beefeater) dry and heavy of juniper (Boodles,) sweet and heavy juniper (Tanqueray.) Why no sweet and light of juniper? That’s WINO gin, young’n. Then you’ll need Plymouth for total satin, and Hendricks for “look at me I’m dancing around in half a horse costume! It’s the front half!” Then you’ll need Dutch gin. Actually you won’t. It’s like aquavit: unnecessary, but fabulous (UBF). I like to keep Bols Genever (jonge genever) and Bokma (oulde genever) sa-mooth, baby!
Vodka. No quibble there, ya gotta have it. It’s the cheapest, swankest way to clean nasty cuts. Best not to let those things fester. That’s what happened to Jack Daniel and he’s DEAD. You must choose carefully. Avoid Aristocrat vodka. It’s a tad sweet and will attract ants to the wound. Ketel One is especially soothing on abrasions, whereas I prefer 100 proof Smirnoff for lacerations. Stay away from the French Brands: the terrorists clear THEIR cuts with THEM.
Quibble #4: White rum - see vodka. Unless it’s Havana Club Blanco, in which case, see my liver. Mount Gay: Good, try Brugal from the Dominican republic. Amber fabulocity - and cheap! Bacardi 8 is from Bermuda and beriberi nize. You need a Jamaican dark rum, preferably not Myers’s, but lacking any others, Myers’s. Good ole Myers’s. I just like writing s’s.
Huh?: Are you saying it is now legal to produce spirits under the Tequila name that are not Cuervo Gold? Golly.
Liqueurs: You’re right don’t need anisette for much, but it ain’t a pastis anyway: Pernod is, Ricard is, Herbsaint is, etc, etc and Ricard coined the term. Pastis is an absinthe substitute, anisette is a mere anis liqueur.
Benedictine - right ON, and you can make your OWN B&B in like 5 milliseconds with 1\2 shot of Hennessy, 1/2 shot of Benedictine. WAY better than bottled.
Bitters aren’t liqueurs but since we are storing our hooch in filing cabinets I’ll let it go. Add Peychaud to the list, and Fee’s Peach bitters too! Cheap Cognac-Hennessy ok and though in the 30’s they called ‘em liqueur brandies, that didn’t make ‘em liqueurs, same as blow jobs rarely require expelling air forcefully from one’s mouth.
Calvados is a must-Trader Joe’s has it once a year at $10 a pop., applejack, an utter must.
OK, Campari: this is an aperitif bitters: wanna be a sophisticated tosspot? Campari.
Cointreau: what she said.
Cacao: what she said. In the 112 years I’ve been practicing medicine without a license, I don’t think I’ve EVER touched the dark cacao.
Scroll from Creme de Menthe to Grand Marnier: yep, inclusive. Very insightful.
Heering: Yep, or cherry-flavored brandy. No “schnapps” and kirschwasser is a dry distillate of cherries. It is dead clear, completely devoid of sweetness, akin to moonshine and will knock you on your ass. It is NOT a liqueur substitute, but you want it anyway. Eau de vie de woo hoo!
Pimm’s: On its own with 7-Up IS a Pimm’s Cup - though it becomes incredible with spicy ginger beer. Mix it with any sparkling non-alcoholic mixer no darker than Scotch and it is STILL a Pimm’s Cup. Mix it with Coca Cola it’s called a Regurgitation.
Sloe Gin: Did you know that there are winos who insist on Slow Gin? It’s true, and if it’s good enough for discriminating winos…well, there I am! Best is Plymouth brand. You can really taste the sweet/tart flavor of the blackthorn plums. Let’s try and force them to export it to Bushrovia!
Syrups: Make that POMEGRANATE Grenadine (I know, that’s like saying pomegranate twice, but if you don’t say it you’re getting cherry cough syrup - and not the good kind, either.) Yes, yes, raspberry a must, just as important as grenadine -Smucker’s or Knott’s Berry Farm, please. Simple, orgeat - you bet, add falernum.
OK, we’re down to vermouth so I cry HALT! Here are the other liqueurs you’ll be glad you’ll have: Apricot (flavored) brandy: Marie Brizard Apry is best. Orange Curacao: way orangier than Cointreau or Tripe Sec: I bet you thought that was a typo. Again Brizard is good; I like Bardinet, but then I ordered it from Germany. And you MUST have at least one Chartreuse. If it is new to you, make it the yellow. It isn’t cheap, but it keeps forever, you’ll only use it as a small portion of a bunch of cocktails, so drink by drink it is quite cost effective. These additions are, to my spongy mind more important that creme de menthe. Also you’ll want either Amaretto or creme de noyeau, they are both almond. the former is more expensive and better as a sipper, the latter is cheaper and suited just fine to cocktails. And a coffee liqueur: I haven’t tried the Starbucks entry into the market, but otherwise I prefer Tia Maria to Kahlua - and I like that both are rum-based. Speaking of rum based, my FAVORITE orange liqueur is the rhum-based Clement Creole Shrub. Available in the U.S. after a long hiatus, it is el superbo. That’s Spainish. Sexy No?
Vermouth: Our dear correspondent, Marleigh is again exactly right on again. An additional bottle of Carpano Antigua Sweet Vermouth is ample indication that you are a farce to be reckoned with.
Oh one more thing about the bar. Some may say cinder blocks stolen from a construction site make a far classier bar. I say have you ever tried to ROLL a cinder block? Besides, you need the cinder blocks to crack nuts on. –Doc.