A gentleman entertainer — especially a bachelor — may host business partners, friends, family and potential romantic conquests within his well-apportioned lair. You have the accouterments of a great evening on hand: Smooth music, comfortable furniture, tasty finger foods. But what’s in your home wet bar? What adult beverages will help elevate your entertaining status from “respectable” to “exalted?”
Try stocking your bar with the following:
Wine & Spirits
- Vodka … this is a staple item, so stock up. Authentic Russian vodka “feels right.” Flavored vodkas can be fun but unnecessary except for specialty drinks, and among purists flavored vodkas may suggest that your testicles are floating around in an ex’s purse. Try Grey Goose as a reasonably good starter vodka, or Sobieski’s Polish vodka. For an interesting twist, try Bison Grass — it’s a smooth vodka with a very light infusion of bison grass, to add a faintly herbal aftertaste — a dirty Bison Grass martini is a well-nigh orgasmic experience, and likely to be a first for most of your guests.
- Rum (White) … you can’t go wrong with Bacardi. It’s cheap, smooth, and blends well with other spirits.
- Rum (Dark) … remember, *dark* not necessarily *spiced.*
- Tequila … go with an aged (añejo) tequila — Patron is an excellent choice — and avoid the white tequilas except as mixers. Tequilas come in several age cohorts, so shoot for the aged or the extra aged varieties of 100 percent agave for the best overall quality.
- Gin … London dry gins (e.g., Bombay Sapphire) are typical, but they’re not the only choice. Hendricks makes a delicate gin that tones down the juniper in favor of coriander and other herbs. There are plenty of gins on the market — experiment to find your favorite. For example, the New Holland Brewing Co. of Michigan makes Knickerbocker gin that’s well mixed with a slightly sour aftertaste that pairs well with a decent diet tonic water.
- Bourbon whiskey … An American classic. Maker’s Mark is a top-notch Kentucky bourbon. For a smoother alternative, try something like George Dickel Tennessee whisky. Not strictly a bourbon, but close enough and great for sipping.
- Scotch whisky … Oh, the joys of Scotch. If your wallet can afford it, keep a few varieties on hand — this is what you’ll offer to a prospective boss or father-in-law. For a decent blend, go with Ballentine’s 17-years-old or something in the advanced Johnnie Walker family (swing, gold, blue). For single malts, think through your palate. Speyside malts are often less peaty than Islay or Highland malts — try Balvenie or Aberlour, and pick a 12-year blend or older. For a good peaty burn, select something deliciously unpronounceable like Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Lagavulin or Laphroaig. Rule of thumb: Unless you find a value eagerly endorsed by a knowledgeable reseller of Scotch, avoid bottles that retail for less than $80 if you truly wish to impress. And yes, you really can taste the price of the bottle. Don’t cut corners with Scotch.
- Brandy … A nice brandy goes well with after-dinner digestion or a fine cigar. There are a lot of different brandies. Try a decent Cognac. Look for bottles with designations V.S.O.P., X.O., or hors d’age. Grab a bottle of B&B — Brandy and Benedictine, a lovely, sweet brandy mixed with benedictine — and store it in an elegant heavy crystal decanter in your office; it stores well and adds a dash of class.
- Red wine … a good cabernet sauvignon or Merlot works well on the dry side, or stock some port for a sweet dessert treat. Wine selection is all over the map. To impress without spending a fortune, pick local wines and learn something interesting about the winery. Michigan, for example, has some first-class, under-appreciated wineries in the western half of the lower peninsula.
- White wine … a few bottles of upper-tier riesling work wonders. If you can afford it, keep a few bottles of ice wine on hand for a summer dessert drink.
- Rosé wine … Avoid it, except at Mass or when being hosted by a woman.
Liqueurs & Mixers
- Orange juice … If possible, keep oranges on hand and squeeze fresh.
- Cranberry juice … Pick 100 percent juice with no additives.
- Irish Creme … Bailey’s is iconic.
- Triple Sec
- Vermouth (white) … Don’t go too cheap. The $5 bottle you get at the corner liquor store is guaranteed to turn your top-shelf vodka martini into something that approximates recycled mule piss.
- Vermouth (red) … As above.
- Coffee liqueur
- Créme de Menthe
- Créme de Cacao
- Peppermint Schnapps
- Peach Schnapps
- Ginger ale, cola, soda water, tonic water, club soda … Grab packs of single-serve portions to keep them fresher, longer. Diet tonic water has all of the flavor with none of the calories.
- Sparkling mineral water
Flavors & Garnishes
- Bitters … Angostura Bitters are the major player but Peychaud’s Bitters are essential for a well-balanced Sazerac.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Tabasco sauce
- Superfine and powdered sugar
- Sugar syrup or corn syrup
- Cocktail cherries
- Cocktail olives
- Cocktail onions
- Lemons, limes, and oranges
What good does it to to have ingredients without something to enjoy them in?
- Corkscrew and bar knife
- Bottle stoppers
- Glass stirring rods
- Toothpicks for cocktail garnishes
- Muddling stick (wood)
- Wine glasses
- Rocks glasses
- Martini glasses
- Highball glasses
- Shot glasses
- Brandy snifters
- Handbook of cocktail recipes
- Bar napkins and rags
The items on this list won’t be cheap — the total bill likely will run $1,000 or more — but the results will be worth it. You will be well-stocked to entertain to impress. Just be sure you don’t drink all your booze before the guests arrive!