Good to know: Raise the bar
Here in the South, a properly stocked home bar has always been a staple of holiday entertaining. From Tennessee Williams’ Ramos Gin Fizz to Faulkner’s mint julep, cocktail concoctions and a self-service station can add just the right amount of creativity to any gathering, large or small. “Just think of the type of party you’re having and plan accordingly,” says Scott Gremillion, owner of Olive or Twist, a specialty cocktail bar on Perkins Road. Below, Gremillion gives his tips for a sophisticated setup.
Keep a little of a lot, focusing on basic spirits like gin, vodka and whiskey. You never know what someone likes or dislikes, so having a bit of everything on hand is a good idea. In terms of favorites, Baton Rouge is especially keen on vodka, but don’t fuss about which bases are most appropriate for the season. Instead, just remember that heavier spirits complement colder weather, like eggnog with bourbon at Thanksgiving or hot buttered rum at Christmas.
Mixers and garnishes
Juicing fresh fruit at home makes a huge difference. As far as which fruits and citruses to keep on hand, think of the crowd you expect to entertain. For example, if you’re hosting a margarita night, you certainly want lemons, limes and oranges in stock. But if the season calls for heavier spirits like bourbon, think of cocktails like the Old-Fashioned and the Manhattan, which are often cherry oriented. Tonic waters and carbonated sodas also come in handy.
A word about wine
If you plan to host a dinner party where meat will be served, be sure to buy red wine. If the main dish consists of seafood, chicken or pork, buy a white wine. That said, someone may not want the appropriate wine traditionally served with each type of entrée, so keep at least one of each kind on hand, just in case.
A jigger is one of the most important tools for a home bar, since it will help you measure pours correctly when mixing drinks from a recipe book. Keep a muddler for crushing fruit and a shaker for combining citrus drinks (non-citrus drinks are stirred). Ice is also a necessary component of a lot of drinks, so make sure to have the appropriate-size pieces. And always keep the right glassware nearby, even if it’s made of plastic.