From the barware you need to the items to add to your basket when buying alcohol in Dubai, read on for the five tips you need to know for setting up a home bar.
1. Have the right barware
If you want to have a usable home bar, then you need to have some equipment and accessories to master your cocktail making. In the beginning, you don’t have to have too much fancy equipment or variations of glasses, but some essential items need to be stocked.
For starters, a jigger is necessary to measure your liquor. You don’t want to make a cocktail without knowing how much of each ingredient you are including! A cocktail shaker is also useful as it means the drink will strain faster, producing less dilution and a more enjoyable drinking experience. Once you have used your shaker, you will then need a high-quality strainer to get the drink out of it.
Moreover, you must have an ice bag as this will help ensure that you are making the coldest shaken cocktails possible. For similar reasons, ice cube trays are useful so you can have big, dense cubes to add to your stirred drinks. Finally, if you like to make Martinis or Manhattans, then you are going to want a bar spoon to stir the mixture up and ensure it becomes smooth and silky.
2. Stock up on alcohol
Of course, you can’t have a home bar without a wide selection of alcoholic beverages. If you aren’t sure where to start, there are five basic liquors that your bar should include. These are vodka, gin, bourbon or rye whiskey, rum, and tequila. Having this variety of spirits will ensure that you are able to make the majority of basic cocktails. Then, over time, you will be able to grow your collection of liqueurs, mixers, and aperitifs.
As putting together a liquor collection can be quite an expensive endeavor, you want to make sure you are always looking for the best liquor deals. Stores such as African + Eastern regularly have some fantastic deals that will help you build an enviable alcohol collection.
That being said, there is no point in buying anything that you don’t want to drink, so make sure you are spending your money on liquors that you are excited about consuming. As you continue to build your collection, opt for a top shelf and bottom shelf option of each alcohol. This means having an “everyday” option and a “fancy” option. You can then decide when it is appropriate to drink either one.
3. Line up your mixers and garnishes
Additionally, no bar is complete without the right assortment of mixers. Once you have your spirits sorted out, you then want to think about what mixers and garnishes are required to create your chosen drinks. Generally, to begin with, your mixers should include fresh juice (such as orange, pineapple or grapefruit), tonic water, soda, and ginger ale. Sweet vermouth, Campari, and Cointreau are also very useful for making tasty cocktails.
In recent years, bitters have become a mainstay of bars around the world. These delicious, alcoholic extracts are ideal for your home bar cart as they provide a simple way to create a lot of variety in your drinks. From spicy tastes to herbal notes, you can find a wide array of bitters on the market. What is more, their small bottles don’t take up too much room on your bar cart, ensuring you have space to build up quite a collection!
Garnishes are not as necessary as mixers, but they are certainly a welcomed addition to any cocktail as they can completely elevate the drinking experience. Fresh fruit such as lemons, limes, and cherries can be added to almost any cocktail glass and are a must-have for any well-stocked bar. Other fun garnish options include spices, watermelon balls, mint sprigs, infused strawberries, and apple slices.
You can keep these stored behind your bar cart so that you always have them on hand when they are required to make a drink. Keep in mind that the best-tasting cocktails are always made with fresh ingredients!
4. Make sure you have the right storage
To maintain your home bar for a long time to come and keep your alcohol pristine, you want to ensure you have the appropriate storage. Most liquors can be kept for a significant amount of time as long as they are kept in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Regular distilled spirits (such as whiskey, vodka, gin, and tequila) can be kept at room temperature.
Unfortunately, a higher temperature is going to cause the alcohol to expand, which, in turn, will make it evaporate quicker. The lower the liquid level in the bottle, the more quickly you want to drink it, as the air in the bottle will filter down the flavors.
Keep in mind that some spirits do need to be stored in the fridge. Fortified wines, including vermouth and port and cream-based liqueurs, always need to be kept cold. That being said, gin and vodka taste better when they are drunk chilled, so you always want to put these bottles in the freezer for about an hour before you serve them.
5. Practice making drinks
Now that you have all the basics for your home bar, you can start practicing making drinks. If you are new to cocktail-making, begin by choosing one or two drinks that you want to learn and spend time perfecting those. Classic cocktails such as a mojito, martini, mint julep, and margarita are easy-to-make using simple, common ingredients.
Once you know how to make these basic cocktails, you can expand your repertoire with recipes such as a whiskey sour, gin fizz, French 75, and a manhattan. Whatever you do, keep in mind that the most important thing is to experiment and have fun!
Do you have a home bar? If so, do you have any additional tips to add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!
Valentina Chessa is the Retail Marketing Manager at African + Eastern, the largest alcohol retailer in the Middle East with a network of 29 stores in the UAE, 5 in Oman, and a team of over 400 professional staff. The company boasts an extensive portfolio of beer, wine and spirits, and customers can shop online or at one of its conveniently located stores.