Guide For The Best Drink Cabinets

I tried my hand at selecting the five essentials for every home bar. Please accept my apologies if you did not make the cut — it is not a personal matter.

1. An excellent vodka or gin

These two spirits are quite adaptable. Vodka is one of the most popular spirits in the world since it can be mixed with nearly anything (Vodka & Coke is another story). I don’t think I need to inform you about the global gin boom of the last decade or two. Both can be served simply in a large glass with plenty of ice, a slice of lemon, and a good quality tonic – the traditional “sundowner.”

Martinis are a thing of exquisite beauty when correctly made and chilled. All you need is vodka or gin and plenty of ice if you want to sip it ‘bone dry.’ If not, a splash of vermouth (more on that later) and a few stirs of the mixing spoon will yield a cool, crisp, alcoholic delight.

2. A good “white” or “aged” rum.

Rum is a fascinating liquor with a wide range of flavors. No alcohol cabinet is complete without at least one rum, which is produced all over the world in a variety of styles (https://www.conscious-cubby.com/product-category/dining-room-furniture/drinks-cabinets-cocktail-bars/). Try a dry, lighter kind of white rum from Cuba or Puerto Rico, a bolder, fruitier style from Jamaica or Martinique, an aged rum, or a blend of rums from several Caribbean countries. Combine it with a squeeze of lime and a pinch of sugar, and you’ll thank me later!

While rum is the foundation for many famous cocktails, like the daiquiri, mojito, mai tai, and Caribbean punch, the best rums aren’t just mixers. If you choose wisely, you’ll have a fine sipper to appreciate, similar to a well-aged whisky or brandy.

3. Whisk(e)y of exceptional quality

Any spirit collection, no matter how little, must have something to drink. At the end of the day, I frequently go for one of my favorite whiskies. Grain and wood are two common denominators in all whiskies. Two significant aspects determining style and flavor are the type of grain(s) used as a raw material and the type of wood in which the spirit is aged. Look for anything that has been aged for at least 14 years if it comes from Scotland, Ireland, or Japan, and at least 8 years if it comes from the United States. This allows for more oxidation of the aromatic chemicals inside the cask, resulting in increased richness and depth of flavor and a more intriguing and memorable experience for the drinker.

Your whisky collection should also be able to serve as a foundation for simple mixed beverages. A whisk(e)y highball (whisk(e)y and soda) is a simple and elegant drink. Something with a floral, fragrant smokiness, such as a peated or wood-smoked malt, can benefit greatly from being served long with very effervescent soda (particularly on a hot summer day!). Whisky can also be transformed into a classic Old-Fashioned, Manhattan, or Boulevardier with a few easy ingredients from your closet or pantry (see sugar, bitters, and vermouth).

4. astringents

A bitter liqueur is a key ingredient in several cocktails, including the Negroni, Boulevardier, Americano, and Hanky Panky, despite not being strictly a spirit. There are a variety of flavors and ‘bittered’ components to pick from, including bitter orange, gentian root, and wormwood. These liqueurs are generally drank as an aperitif (before a meal) or as a digestif. They are often Italian in origin and are known as Amari (Italian for bitter) (after a meal). Digestion is aided by the herbs, roots, and spices used to flavor them. If you go to any section of Italy nowadays, you’ll notice that the meal is always finished with an alcoholic spirit or liqueur, whether it’s Limoncello or Mirto. Having a bottle of bitter liqueur on hand brings the European holiday eating experience to your house!

5. Aromatized wine or vermouth

While Vermouth is technically not a spirit because it is made from wine, it is fortified with distilled alcohol and is used in many traditional cocktails such as Negronis, Manhattans, Clover Clubs, and Martinis.

But, if you had to pick just one, which would you pick? Is it better to be red or white? Is it better to eat something sweet or dry? Without white, dry vermouth, your Martini may be ‘bone dry’ (simply store your vodka or gin in the freezer), but because Dry Manhattans are the devil’s labor, I recommend using a sweet red vermouth from France or Italy. Typically, and somewhat unexpectedly, these ruby-colored liquids are made from fairly unremarkable white grapes, resulting in a fairly ordinary white wine. Macerations, distillates, and caramel coloring are used to provide color and flavor. One of these flavorings must be wormwood in order for the vermouth to be labeled as such. This gives the beer a floral, almost hoppy scent, as well as a characteristic, drying bitterness on the taste, which is balanced out by sugar and the maceration of sweeter spices like liquorice and cinnamon. Other herbs including rosemary, thyme, and savoury are also common.

Vermouth’s complex flavors add depth to cocktails, but it also works well in basic long drinks, especially when blended with soda or tonic for a lower ABV alternative to Vodka or Gin. Simply use the same steps for building and garnishing!

So there you have it: five essentials for any spirits cabinet. However, unless you have a very tiny pantry, you should be able to try different rums and expand your whisk(e)y collection with styles and samples from all over the world. Keep turning the pages since the narrative of spirits is encyclopedic.

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