Raising the Bar
Stocking your bar for the winter is as important as having the right jacket or sweatshirt to wear around the house on a Sunday morning. What you choose should be able to warm you up and keep you and your guests comfortable and cozy, no matter what the weather.
Good bar tools are the little things that can make a big difference in your drink making. My favorite source is CocktailKingdom.com.
Here are some essentials:
• A proper bar spoon. It may take you a bit of practice to get the technique down, but the rewards are great. Stirring helps give the drink a smoother texture and doesn’t dilute the drink as much as shaking will. Just be sure while you’re stirring to keep the back of the spoon in contact with the glass itself, and that your ice isn’t making a lot of slushy noise and you’ll be off to a great start. The quieter the stir, the smoother the drink will be.
• Ice trays. The larger the cube, the less dilution you’ll have. The less dilution, the better your drink will be at keeping the cold away. I love the 1¼-inch cube trays from Cocktail Kingdom.
• A great mixing glass. Don’t get me wrong, a pint glass will do. But if you’re one of those, like myself, who tries to have the nicest bar in the world at home, you need a Yarai mixing glass. They do help you stir better, and they are really durable. Also, they are beautiful.
In a word, whiskey. Plenty of it. Scotch, bourbon, rye or Irish—it’s your call. I’ll be buying these:
• Glenkinchie “Distillers Edition” Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky. One of the few lowland Scotch distilleries, Glenkinchie is light-bodied and has a green grassy note that I really enjoy. The Distillers Edition has been aged a second time in Amontillado casks, which adds a bit more vanilla and walnut to the whisky. A dram of this and a few drops of water will definitely do the trick.
• Rowan’s Creek Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. This is just such a smooth bourbon. It sips well. It mixes beautifully.
• LOCAL PICK: Journeyman Ravenswood Rye Whiskey. An impressive balance of sweet and spicy, with the hometown advantage of being made in Three Oaks, Michigan. It makes a great Manhattan.
• No matter what I say about whiskey, I do love gin. And sometimes you just need a martini. My choice in gin is Tanqueray 10, which has a fantastic blend of citrus and fruit notes. Also, you can find it nearly everywhere.
Holiday Classics to Keep the Cold at Bay
My favorite winter cocktails tend to be spirit-forward. Keep it simple. Use good ingredients, and stir them slowly. Here are three drinks everyone should know how to make this winter.