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Sep 17, 2009 10:21 AM

Where to go from here?

As a novice home cocktail tinkerer new to the game, I seek your humble advice. I set forth at your mercy my current bar, in the hope that you might suggest a few items that could be acquired/substituted that would afford the maximum number of additional drinks--or maybe some essential ones--given what is already in stock. Many TIA.

Chartreuse (green)
Brandy (Raynal VSOP)
Gin (Aviation...nearly gone, what to try instead? Am in SEA, so like the idea of local Dry Fly)
Vodka (Crater Lake..OR local)
Rum (Barbancourt 5 Star; Gosling's Black Seal)
Bourbon (Maker's Mark)
Rye (Old Overholt)
Absinthe (Absente)
Maraschino (Luxardo)
Seagram's 7 (never touch it)
Vermouth (Dolin Rouge and Dry)
Lillet (Blanc)
Bitters (Peychaud's; Fee Bros. Orange; Anagostura)
Simple syrup (homemade)
Grenadine (Rose's)

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  1. You have a great selection that gives you a lot of options. Obviously, what you buy will depend on what you want to make, but here are some suggestions.

    Tequila is the most obvious missing spirit (I like Herradura Blanco for drinks, Reposado or Anejo for sipping).

    Absente is not Absinthe; it is an Absinthe substitute. It works fine in cocktails, but if you want to serve Absinthe to people, you should invest in a real one. I like Lucid, Obsello and St. George.

    Old Overholt is probably my least favorite rye because it lacks the characterisitic rye spiciness. To really pick up your rye cocktails grab Rittenhouse 100, Sazerac, Wild Turkey 101 or Pikesville. All very affordable.

    I have recently been experimenting with Genever Gin (Dutch style gin) which makes some great cocktails, you may want to add a bottle. The two brands I know of are Genevieve and Bols. This would be in addition to a bottle of London Dry gin.

    If you add creme de violette, you will have the ingredients for an Aviation. Other spirits you could add that would open up more cocktail possibilities are Pisco, Pimms and cachaca.

    5 Replies
    1. re: sku

      Is this real absinthe?

      Thanks alot for your input. I live in a state with a totalitarian liquor policy, which sometimes presents an obstacle. Our rye selections are very limited--and the state reports that the suppliers of sazarac and rittenouse are out of stock. I don't believe the Genever gins you suggested are sold here, but I have been interested in trying them.

      1. re: equinoise

        Yes. I haven't had it, but it hasn't received great reviews.

      2. re: sku

        If you haven't had it before, try Plymouth Gin.

        Like everyone else, I also use St. Germain. But if you are looking for something less "over-used," Soho Lychee Liquor adds a similar difficult-to-identify, fruity-floral component to your mixed drinks.

        Falernum is a good addition to your bar, if you want to make Tiki drinks, especially with rum. You may find Taylor's Velvet Falernum at the liquor store, or order a non-alcoholic version online. Orgeat syrup also is common in Tiki drinks.

        Here is another vote for Tequila.
        For everyday mixed drinks I use Sauza white tequila, but 100% agave is better if you have the money to spend. Herradura is a good brand.

        Here is another vote for Cachaca.
        Leblon is the easiest brand to find. With limes and sugar it makes a Caipirinha, a fabulous summer drink.

        Here is another vote for Pisco.
        A Pisco Sour is a thing of beauty.

        You live in a state with a totalitarian liquor policy?
        Try messing around with home infusions. I infuse fresh fruit into rum, brandy, vodka, whatever... Play around with combinations of seasonal fruit and your favorite spirit - or whatever you think compliments the fruit. Start in small quantities, using clean canning jars. Let things sit for a day, or a week, or a month, and experiment. Strain with coffee filters. Take notes, so if you come up with something you love, you can reproduce it in larger quantity. It is very easy and economical to do, and you can come up with flavors you might not find at the liquor store. Do a web search, there are a lot of instructions for doing this on the web.
        Can't find Hendricks Gin in your state? Add cucumber to Gin for a half hour.
        Add a fresh mango to gold rum for a week.
        Add peaches to bourbon for a month.
        Add cherries to brandy for two.
        Can't find Limoncello? Add lemon peel (no juice- no white pith) to 100proof vodka with simple syrup.

        1. re: sku

          I bought some Dutch Gin (young, the clear one) the last time I was in Amsterdam. I'd love any cocktail suggestions!

          1. re: Produce Addict

            The gin cocktail is a very classic genever gin cocktail. It's basically a gin old fashioned. muddle a sugar cube with a teaspoon of water (or use simple syrup) and a few drops of bitters. Add two ounces Genever Gin and crushed ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.

        2. I'd add some potable bitters (Campari, Aperol, etc.)

            1. re: MGZ

              I have begun trying potable bitters. I found Amaro Nonino excellent. When I tried Campari (several years ago), I found it so astringent as to be undrinkable. I think Aperol is much cheaper than Nonino, less bitter than Campari, and it seems more suitable for cocktails.

              I've had some good scotches, but not great ones, and I haven't really enjoyed them. I imagine that scotch conniseurship is a long road, and I'm saving it for later in life. That being said, I should ditch the Seagram's and have an affable bottle on hand for guests that won't bankrupt me...any thoughts? I'm also interesed in getting an armagnac. That i would drink myself.

              1. re: equinoise

                I think describing Aperol as a bitters is pretty farfetched. It's very sweet. Not bitter.

                Campari is wonderful if you like the bitter taste (try adding a little to some sweet sparkling wine). But it's still pretty mild. If you wanna be a big boy, grab a bottle of fernet branca.

            2. You seem to live in the PacNW (references to Dry Fly and Crater Lake).

              Given that, I suggest you try Rogue Spruce gin as your next gin. It has a slightly different flavor profile but we've found has enormous respect among the various judging competitions. It's local, good, and they also make great beer. (Avoid their rum.)

              You also seem to like to experiment with liqueurs in general. There's a local distillery in Oregon called "Loft Organic Liqueurs." They have ginger, lavender, and other exotic flavors that are very, very interesting. If you're into organic liqueurs, there's also Organic Nation traditional gin and vodka also out of Oregon.

              In general though, I agree that you need a scotch and perhaps an Irish whiskey in your bar. Just a nice blend like Johnnie Walker Black is perfectly appropriate and maybe Jameson's 12yr.

              --Neal (Proof66)

              1. Tequila and scotch have already been mentioned.
                But to me the big thing missing is at least one Amaro (Campari, Aperol, Cynar, Averna, etc.).
                Yellow Chartreuse. We actually use it more than the green at home.
                St. Germain is a bit overused these days, but it's popular for a reason.
                Applejack or Calvados.
                If you make enough drinks with sweet vermouth, I'd consider branching out with Punt Y Mes.
                And of course Fernet Branca! But find out first whether you can stand it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: dfan

                  Ha, I have heard St. Germaine refferred to as "the bartender's ketchup"...overused, but so loved, I haven't found much that I can't mix with it...

                  1. re: aurorakat

                    Hah! Yes, that stuff is so incredibly good it's hard to not use it. It's the bacon of cocktails... everything is better with it.

                    I hope that they're able to keep producing it wth the same taste and quality. I'm terribly concerned about it now that it's so popular.