Part of my job is to describe certain liquors and answer questions about how people should make drinks at home. If we're busy at the bar, it's hard for me to go as in depth as I'd like to. A new feature in the bar newsletter allows you to ask any and all questions you'd like. Fire away! Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I always seem to end up hosting impromptu cocktail parties or gatherings at my place, what should I always have on hand to entertain?
-Nicole, Glover Park
A: I always recommend concentrating on the basics in situations like this. There's no need to go out and grab a bottle of the hottest new liqueur that is used in only one cocktail. You should stick with the classic ingredients and cocktails. Think of it this way, they're classics for a reason. Plus, do you really want to pour out your expensive single barrel bourbon for creepy Ken the copy boy? No.
So, what should you always have? For gin, let's go with Plymouth. It's easy drinking, easily mixable, and makes one great martini. Vodka? If you must stock vodka, go with Boyd and Blair. It's a potato based vodka out of Pennsylvania. Simply put, it's the best unflavored flavored vodka. Bourbon? Maker's Mark. Not overly pricy, and it's what I use in my Manhattans at Fiola. For rum there's many options. Track down a bottle of El Dorado Spiced rum as a nice alternative to Captain Morgan. For a sipper try Zaya 12 year from Trinidad. Tequila? Track down Milagro; inexpensive and half the price of some of the more overrated tequilas out there.
That's the base spirits for you. For mixers, there's plenty of inexpensive options. I think everyone should have a bottle of Campari and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino at home. These two knock out the Negroni (with gin) and the Manhattan (the vermouth plus Makers). You should probably have a bottle of dry vermouth for your martini drinkers as well. Grab a bottle of Dolin Dry for this and you'll see what vermouth should be added to your next martini. What else? Fever Tree produces a great tonic water for a mixer as well as a ginger ale. Of course, there's some obvious selections like club soda and a cola of some sort.