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At Home Bartending: Bar Cart 101


I find the world of mixology to be totally fascinating. One of my favorite things to do when exploring a city is sit at the bar of a great restaurant & watch the bartender make drinks. Luckily for us, the tri-cities have a few great craft-cocktail spots, but I want to help you elevate your cocktail game at home. Cocktails are equal parts art and science, which means there is both tangible structure to follow as well as a healthy space for creativity. Not only will a great bar cart make you look seeewww sophisticated to your friends, but it also adds a certain je ne sais quoi to your kitchen, dining, or entertainment space. And while there are truly thousands of ways to build a sexy bar cart, these are the basic elements to get you started:


SPIRITS: I’m going to do a deep dive in the future on the bottles I keep on my home bar & why, but it’s really about personal preference. I try to keep a variety so that there’s something for everyone. Generally, if you have one representative of each spirit, you’re in good shape: tequila (first and foremost because she’s my fave), gin, vodka, rum, bourbon, rye, scotch, brandy, and cachaca (Cachaca is similar to rum but distilled in Brazil from sugarcane juice, so she gets her own category. It’s really only used in one drink, a caipirinha, but it’s so refreshing you may want a bottle on hand at all times, so I included her in the line up.)

BUBBLES (the water kind): Club soda is not only great for your 0 proof friends, but also expands your options into the spritz & fizz category. You’ll never wish you had a can of pellegrino more than on a sunny Sunday afternoon, craving an aperol spritz.


CITRUS: This is a must for any shaken cocktail. Margaritas, daquiris, mojitos, etc. Lemon & lime are good to start with, but I like to keep oranges and grapefruits too to keep the party colorful.

BITTERS: The salt & pep of a cocktail! They simply make everything better. Angostura & Peychauds will get you through most of the classics, and make great substitutes if you don’t have a particular kind a recipe calls for.

APERITIFS / CORDIALS: These are ingredients like vermouths for manhattans and martinis, Aperol for Aperol Spritz, Campari for negronis, etc. There are about a million and ten bottles out there within this category, which makes it fun once you get a feel for them, but can be overwhelming at first. I suggest starting with a vermouth like Cocchi Torino, Aperol and good dry vermouth. You can find all these at both Ideal Party Store locations in Bay City and Eastman Party store in Midland.

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EQUIPMENT: A shaker to a bartender is like shoes to Carrie Bradshaw. Find one that’s classic but also makes you feel a little badass. Generally you’re going to want a shaker, hawthorne, julep & double strainers, mixing glass, mixing spoon, and a jigger to well prepare you for your elevated life as the at home bartender. West Elm has a nice kit that has everything you’ll need. If you really want to get specific though, cocktail kingdom has a ton of variety to choose from.


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