With the growing popularity of craft cocktails thanks to bars like the Varnish and the sight of Ryan Gosling’s panty-dropping Old Fashioned making skills in last year’s Crazy Stupid Love, it was just a matter of time until your need for the perfect cocktail infiltrated your home bar. But as your bar, aka the spot on top of your toaster oven, currently consists of bottle of Jack, a dusty bottle of margarita mix and a shot glass you got from Cabo, the thought of where to begin can be a bit overwhelming.
Fortunately, local cocktail author/longtime cocktail geek Dave Stolte took it upon himself to write, illustrate and publish Home Bar Basics (and Not So Basics), a handy-dandy guide on how to stock your home bar and which 25 cocktails to begin with. And surprise, you don’t need to drop a fortune to build an impressive home bar.
Here are some tips on how to begin.
“There are some tools that you need. You need either a Cobbler shaker [a three-piece shaker with a built-in strainer in its top] or a Boston shaker, whichever one doesn’t matter. If you don’t have a mixing glass you can get away with using a pint glass. If you don’t have a barspoon you can use a chopstick. You don’t have to spend $500 to set up a bar. You can spend $50 to $100.
“Pick a drink that you’re interested in, get the stuff for that one drink. Like, if you want to make a margarita or a daiquiri, just get those ingredients but get the top-shelf ingredients. Don’t skimp on things. Learn how to do one really well and just go from there.”
If you want to impress your friends, a good cocktail to make is the Old Fashioned. “Historically, it’s probably the first cocktail. It doesn’t require a lot of tools. You just need one bottle [Stolte uses Maker’s Mark or Bulleit bourbon], Angostura and the rest you can come up with at home. You can make the basic drink in the glass, you don’t need a shaker. Everyone needs to know how to make a good Old Fashioned or appreciate one. It’s an American craft. It’s something that we’ve contributed to the world culture with baseball, jazz, barbecue.”
And why cocktail geeks get their panties in a twist when you start to shake a Manhattan? “If you shake it, it gets aerated, the Vermouth gets foamy and it takes on a really unpleasant texture. Spirit-only drinks are supposed to feel silky and smooth and velvety and they’re supposed to be sexy. Pond scum isn’t sexy.”
The pocket-size 112-page spiral-bound guide with its waterproof, tear-resistant pages is meant to be carried around with you everywhere, either to your friends’ parties, to the bar at the Macaroni Grill or to your date’s place when you feel like whipping up a classic cocktail a la Ryan Gosling. Swoon!
Stolte has been interested in cocktails for over 20 years and served as the go-to bartender for many a friend’s cocktail party. This book was just a matter of time. He collected cocktail recipes, which have been fact-checked by the likes of Eric Alperin of the Varnish, and illustrated the cute little cocktail people himself. Not wanting to endanger the concept of his book, he sought funding through Web site Kickstarter, which helps folks with ideas find financial backing for their projects.
Having reached his pledge goal, the book, which has just been nominated for a 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for best new cocktail/bartending book, is now out and available at Bar Keeper in Silver Lake, the Wine House in West L.A. and Lindy & Grundy in Mid-City West.