Mixing cocktails at home? These are the five bottles you need in your cabinet to get you started.
The base spirit for so many popular cocktails — Tom Collins, Martini, Negroni, Gin and Tonic, Gibson, to name a few — this floral, aromatic spirit is the compulsory first purchase in building your home bar. Gin comes in four varieties (London Dry, Plymouth, Old Tom, and Genever) but London Dry is your best starting point, so pick up a bottle of Gordon’s, Bombay Sapphire, or Tanqueray. Australia has a number of great homegrown gins on the rise, too, including Four Pillars.
You mightn’t have fond memories of choking down petrol-smelling vodka with some warm mixer in your teenage years but the Russian favourite is found in so many crowd-pleasing drinks (Bloody Mary, Cosmopolitan, screwdrivers, vodka-soda, etc.) that you can’t go without it. It’s worth investing in a bottle with a little more quality than that cheap stuff you drank in your youth — Grey Goose is free of that harsh taste and mixes nicely with everything.
The spirit that sings summer in a Caribbean accent is a staple of light, summery drinks that showcase refreshing, fruity flavours. Dark rum is great for punches but if you’re a beginner at the whole home bar caper, a bottle of white Bacardi is what you’re after — that’s what you need for an authentic Cuban mojito or daiquiri, or even just a simple Cuba Libre with Coke and a squeeze of lime.
Made from malted barley and produced in Scotland (duh), Scotch is often sipped on the rocks or occasionally used in cocktails like the Rob Roy. Famous Grouse is a good blended Scotch to start off with, but it’s worth having a single malt whisky like Glenfiddich — a bottle with a dry finish and a fruitier flavour — in your liquor cabinet, too.
A style of whisky from the American south distilled from grains, Bourbon is non-negotiable if you’re trying to live out your sepia-toned 1960s Don Draper fantasy, because it’s the base spirit of the Old Fashioned. Jim Bean and Wild Turkey are both affordable and drinkable Bourbons to get you started.
The bottles you use to expand your home bar depend on your personal taste — you’ll need Tequila if you’re planning a trip to Margaritaville, Dry Vermouth for a Martini, aromatic bitters for a Manhattan, Campari for a Negroni . . . you get the picture. Stock your bar with the liquors that make up the cocktails you’re into.
Mixers and garnishes
Coke, lemonade, orange juice, tonic water, club soda, ginger ale — that’s enough to get the party started. And always keep your fruit bowl well stocked with plenty of fresh citrus — lemon, lime, and orange cover 80 per cent of the garnishes you’ll need when mixing drinks at home.