The first step in one’s adventure in the land of whisk(e)y is to determine what should be the makeup of his/her home bar. Everyone’s bar is going to look different from their neighbor’s. We each have distinct and unique preferences. Some are obsessed with Sherry-Bomb Scotches. Others prefer high-proof, hazmat bourbons. To each their own.
Still, there are some basic guiding factors which will help ensure you are prepared for all occasions. A handful of bloggers have contributed their opinions to this foundational undertaking. Bourbon of the Day has provided the world with a healthy list of recommended bourbons for the perfect bourbon bar. Whisk(e)y Apostle has given us all a comprehensive list from top-to-bottom for a healthy, varied, and worldly home whisk(e)y bar. Now that I’ve spent a good amount of time crafting my own home bar I thought I would share what makes my perfect home whisk(e)y bar.
In order to begin, I feel as though I should describe the type of whisk(e)y drinker in me. I’m primarily a bourbon drinker but like a good Scotch on a semi-regular basis. I like a mid-shelf pour on a nearly daily basis, a high-proof, smack-you-in-the-face dram on the weekends, and the occasional cocktail in the form of an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or Whisk(e)y Sour. If this describes you then the following will be the perfect outline for you to create your own home whisk(e)y bar. If you have different tastes, I hope the following will still provide you with some guidance on your path to crafting your very own home whisk(e)y bar. So, without further explanation or adieu…
HOW TO CRAFT YOUR VERY OWN, EVERYMAN’S HOME WHISK(E)Y BAR
First things first, we have to determine what we’re drinking.
I prefer to stock 3 premium, high-proof sipp’n bourbons/ryes and a fine Scotch on my bar. These are the bottles you will find on the top-shelves of your liquor store and will run you from $40-80 on average. I like to keep as much variety in this group as possible (i.e. a wheated bourbon, a rye bourbon, a rye whiskey, and a Scotch). The following is a good, standard go-to list:
- Maker’s Mark Cask Strength
- Four Roses Private Barrel Barrel Strength (V, K, F Yeasts)
- Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Rye/Bourbon
- Laphroaig 10 Year
The previous list is great for those evenings when you want to sit-back, kick-up your feet, and relax for a few hours. But, the reality is life is hectic and we are not always afforded those tranquil evenings. We are often gifted only a few moments to crack open a bottle for a quick tipple. For those days you want a healthy list of 3 to 4 mid-shelf whiskies. These should run you $20-40. The following is a good, standard go-to list:
- W.L. Weller 12 Year/Antique/Special Reserve
- Russell’s Reserve Rye or Bourbon
- Four Roses Small Batch
- 1792 Small Batch
The final grouping should consist of 2-3 mixers (maybe cheap sippers) for your cocktail days. These drams will likely run you $10-25. I prefer to keep them in the 100 proof range so they standup and standout in a mixed drink. The following is a good, standard go-to list:
- Very Old Barton 100
- Wild Turkey 101
- Rittenhouse Rye
Now, once you have your whiskies you need to have a way of getting them from the bottle to your mouth unless you are drunk uncle and simply drink straight from the bottle.
One really needs to have a different glass for every occasion. Rocks glasses are not suited for tastings and Glencairn glasses are not suited for sipping. The following is a comprehensive list of glassware you will need to effectively stock your bar and how they should be utilized:
- Glencairn – Tasting
- Neat Glass – Tasting/Sipping
- Snifter – Sipping
- Rock’s Glass – Sipping/Cocktails
- Highball – Cocktails
Now that you have your glassware the final step is the tools needed to create your favorite cocktails.
The following is the list of items I have and keep stocked on my bar in order to construct perfect cocktails:
- A Quality Barware Set – Shaker, Pourer, Double Jigger, Tongs, Stir Sticks, Cutting Board, Bottle Opener, Bar Knife
- Vermouth – Sweet and Dry
- Mixers – Bittermilk Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Fashioned & Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour
- Fruit – Lemons, Limes, Oranges, and Cherries
You’ve made it. A well-stocked home whisk(e)y bar is now in your possession. It’s time to crack open those bottles and get drinking. Cheers!
QUESTIONS: What whiskies are regulars on your home bar? What’s your favorite glassware for drinking whisk(e)y? What’s your favorite cocktail?