The following is an excerpt from The Bar Cart Bible:
Marines, Boy Scouts, and bartenders should always be prepared. Stocking a bar cart should be a matter of personal taste, lifestyle, and finances. But unless having a drink is always going to be a solitary pleasure, you should be prepared for guests. That means keeping them in mind as you stock the ingredients for your party.
For many, planning a cocktail party can be downright nerve-racking. But if you’ve stocked your bar cart with the basics, and you have the right tools, glasses, and mixers, the refreshments, at least, should be a breeze.
Don't Miss A DropGet the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.
You can never fully anticipate what your guests will want to drink, but they will tend to be satisfied with a basic variety—after all, this is your home, not a bar. That said, a thoughtfully curated bar cart can handle a cocktail party of most any size.
THE BAR CART BASICS
A basic bar for a bar cart includes:
Blended Whiskey or Rye
You will, of course, need to know the number of guests you expect to calculate the amount of liquor you’ll need to have on hand. Cocktail party guests typically consume about two or three drinks each. One bottle of wine will fill between three and four glasses, and a 750ml bottle of liquor (often referred to as a fifth) will yield between twenty and twenty-five shots. If you decide to provide a specialty drink, count on every person trying at least one.
If you have beer drinkers and/or wine drinkers in your crowd, you may want to delete some of the spirits (such as brandy) and refine the similar spirits (bourbon, scotch, whiskey, blended whiskey) into just one or two choices in total.
Mixers provide the flavor and balance that combine with liquor to give a drink its distinctive taste. Mixers range from plain water to club soda, and from flavored sodas to fruit juices.
Popular mixers include orange juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, grapefruit juice, lemon and lime juices, olive juice, V8 vegetable juice, tomato juice, simple syrup, grenadine, coconut cream, honey, gomme, orgeat, lime juice cordial, hot sauce, Worcestershire, beef bouillon, Clamato juice, clam juice, milk, cream, half-and-half, ice cream, hot chocolate, unsalted butter, eggnog, egg white, all sodas, coffee, espresso, tea, and hot water.
You can buy prepared mixes for Daiquiris, Margaritas, and Bloody Marys, among others. They come in bottled and powdered form. Some are excellent and some are not. Try a few out and select your favorites.
Your curated bar cart could include a few select sodas, one or two fruit juices, and a cocktail mix or two.
CONDIMENTS: THE LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE
Condiments make all the difference. Stocking the bar cart with them should be as basic as buying the liquor, and most of them won’t take up much room on your cart. A collection of condiments is dependent on personal needs, but here are some condiments you can try:
Cayenne or chili pepper
Sugar—brown, raw, or cubes
Salt—kosher or celery
Pepper—black or white pepper
Sugar is a powerful partner in many drinks, but its presence should be behind the scenes, never tasted distinctly, and never felt as granules. Unless granulated sugar is specified, confectioners’ sugar, referred to in this book as fine sugar, should be used.
A Gibson is not a Gibson without its pearl onion garnish, and a Martini is just not the same without the olive. The most popular garnishes are the lime, lemon, cherry, and olive. Keeping these available at your bar cart will satisfy most drinkers.
Cutting garnishes can be intimidating for some people, but it’s really easy. Just make sure you always wash your hands well first or wear rubber gloves when handling garnishes. After making a cut, always lay the flat side of the fruit down to create a stable base for cutting.
To cut the essential wedge, slice a lime (or lemon) in half lengthwise and cut each half into four wedges. When serving, squeeze the juice into the drink, rub the fruit side around the rim of the glass, and drop the slice in.
THE SLICE: If you prefer to set the fruit on the edge of the glass, cut it into eighths and make a slit in the meat of each slice.
THE QUARTER: Quarter cuts work best when muddling. Cut the fruit in half through the middle. Lay both pieces flat and then cut twice, making a cross. This will yield four quarters per piece.
THE WHEEL: Cut off the ends of the fruit, then cut a 1/4″-deep slit lengthwise (this slit makes it easy for you to set it on the rim of the glass). Hold the fruit firmly and cut 4 or 5 wheels.
THE ZEST: The zest is the cut that really helps you show off. It’s an oval shaped rind slice from a piece of citrus. The zest can be squeezed over a drink, or it can be combined with a flame to make an attention-getting burst. This burst happens because the oil of the rind meets the flame. Most often the zest is made from an orange. Don’t confuse this with the kind of zesting done to citrus fruits in cooking and baking. That type of zesting results in bitty shreds of peel that nobody would want floating in a drink.
While the sound of bitters is not appealing, the little bottles contain a wonderful witch’s brew of roots and barks, berries, and herbs. Bitters add a kick of flavor to the mixed drinks they accompany, always in small amounts—dashes, to be approximately exact. The most common type of bitters is Angostura, made in Trinidad.
Two that are sometimes used are Peychaud’s, from New Orleans, and Regans’ orange bitters. Bitters do have an alcohol content and should not be served to anyone who abstains totally. Tasting them plain is not recommended, either.
THE TWIST: There are a few ways to make twists (usually lemon). One is to cut off both ends of the fruit so the inside meat shows. Make a slit in the fruit from end to end. Squeeze a bar spoon beneath the skin and scoop out the fruit. Cut the peel width wise into 1/4″ strips. Another technique is to cut slits all around a whole citrus fruit and cut off one end. You can then peel off a twist to order. The proper way to garnish with a twist is to twist the peel, colored side down, over the drink, so the oils will release. Then, rub the colored side around the rim and drop the twist into the drink. You can use a zester to make a long curly twist. Simply set the zester on the fruit’s peel, apply pressure, and slice off a long piece.
Test out these variations so you’re ready to show your skill and add a bit of style to your cocktails, no matter what’s on order!
Glass rims can be dipped in something wet or sticky and then dipped into something edible. Rimming always makes a great presentation. Margaritas look better with kosher salt around their rims, and Chocolate Martinis are more appetizing in chocolate rimmed glasses.
Since the metric system measures the world, except in the United States, here are some equivalents and charts to help you avoid confusion. When measuring ingredients for a drink, remember that the balance is important. To make weaker or stronger drinks, adjust all of the components accordingly.
Bar Measurements Standard Metric
1 dash 0.03 ounce 0.9 milliliter
1 splash 0.25 ounce 7.5 milliliters
1 teaspoon 0.125 ounce 3.7 milliliters
1 tablespoon 0.375 ounce 11.1 milliliters
1 float 0.5 ounce 14.8 milliliters
1 pony 1 ounce 29.5 milliliters
1 jigger 1.5 ounces 44.5 milliliters
1 cup 8 ounces 237 milliliters
1 pint 16 ounces 472 milliliters
1 quart 32 ounces 946 milliliters
1 gallon 128 ounces 3.78 liters
METRIC SIZES FOR SPIRITS, BEER, AND WINES
Name of Container Standard Metric
split 6.3 ounces 187 milliliters
half 12.6 ounces 375 milliliters
fifth 25.3 ounces 750 milliliters
quart 33.8 ounces 1 liter
magnum 50.7 ounces 1.5 liters
jeroboam 101.4 ounces 3 liters
Nebuchadnezzar 3.96 gallons 15 liters
keg 7.75 gallons 29.3 liters
These measures are great to look up when having a cocktail party. The main things to keep in mind are that you can get three or four servings from a bottle of wine, twenty to twenty-five shots of alcohol from a fifth (750 ml), and thirty to thirty-five shots of alcohol from a liter.
Here are a few Valentine’s Day themed recipes to get you started:
- 4 ounces Beaujolais
- 2 ounces cranberry juice
Combine the ingredients in a shaker half filled with ice. Shake, then strain into a red wine glass.
Between the Sheets
- 3/4 ounce light rum
- 3/4 ounce brandy
- 3/4 ounce triple sec
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 1 lemon twist, for garnish
Combine the liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with lemon twist.
- 1/2 ounce passion fruit liqueur
- 1/2 ounce Alizé Red Passion
- 1/2 ounce DeKuyper Cheri-Beri
- Ginger ale to fill
- Maraschino cherries, for garnish
Pour the first three ingredients into a highball glass, then add ice. Fill to the top with ginger ale and garnish with maraschino cherries.
Kiss from a Rose
- 1 ounce rosé wine
- 1 ounce Tequila Rose
- 2 ounces cream
Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass.
Excerpted from The Bar Cart Bible Copyright © 2017 by Adams Media and published by F+W Media, Inc.