Liquors and liqueurs are, of course, the foundation of the best classic and contemporary cocktails from the Manhattan to martinis. But these cocktails will be incomplete without the following ingredients that add flavor, color and beauty to them. Be sure to consider these ingredients, too, when building your bar.
Furthermore, these four ingredients are non-alcoholic fluids that will add both volume and flavor to your favorite cocktails. Many of these can be found in your pantry but be sure to check that these are still within their expiration date.
But even without store-bought mixers, the best non-alcoholic mixer is ice – yes, as in ice cubes! Nearly every cocktail use ice cubes, whether these are mixed in a cocktail shaker or placed on a glass over which the cocktail will be poured. In on-the-rocks drinks, of course, the drink like whiskey will be directly poured over the ice – no other mixers added.
Be sure to drink the cocktail as soon as it’s served, if possible. You don’t want to drink a too-diluted cocktail and take the enjoyment away.
These mixers add flavor, volume and a hint of sweetness to cocktails and, thus, make them more palatable to your tastes. Fruit juices are so easy to pick up that there’s no excuse to skip stocking them for your bar. Just pick up a bottle or two of the fruit juices that are most commonly used in your preferred cocktails.
Also, you can use freshly-squeezed fruits juices, if that’s more along your alley. But for convenience, the bottled fruit juices will do just fine.
- Lemon and lime juice are the essential in a bar because these are used as accents for nearly all cocktails
- Orange juice is a must for many cocktails from tequila sunrise to screwdriver
- Cranberry juice is a sweet mixer suitable for vodka cranberry cocktail and cosmopolitan
- Pineapple juice adds a dash of tropical flavor
- Grapefruit juice is a great mixer for summer drinks
- Tomato juice is a must for Bloody Mary
Most of these are available in small cans or bottles and we suggest getting them instead of the large ones. The reason: You want the juice to be as fresh as possible when mixed with your cocktails, especially for pineapple juice.
As with juices, it’s essential that the soda mixed with your cocktails isn’t flat so buying individual servings is best, if you like drinking a cocktail or two every day. If you’re throwing a cocktail party, then the 1-liter and 2-liter bottles make sense.
While 7 Up is an essential soda, you should expand your soda collection, perhaps even add a bottle or two of craft soda. Your collection should include club soda, ginger ale, tonic water, lemon-lime soda, and cola including diet cola. These can upgrade your basic cocktails and expand your repertoire.
Bitters and Others
You will be amazed at the way that bitters can enhance the flavor of your favorite cocktails. Just be sure to use a dash or two since too much can drown the flavors, so to speak. For starters, buy orange and aromatic bitters, which are used more than any other types of bitters; each can will last for years so you only need to buy one for a basic bar.
Grenadine is a red syrup that can be bought ready-made in stores. You can, however, make it yourself although it’s best to buy the stuff for longer shelf-life and ease of use.
Worcestershire sauce and tabasco sauce are must-have accompaniments for tomato juice in a bar. These are obviously used in Bloody Mary as well as in a wide range of cocktails that require a hint of either heat or savory flavor.
Cream, milk, and half and half should only be bought as needed because of their limited shelf life. Then again, you can just raid your refrigerator and use them as needed in relaxing cocktails like White Russian.
Coffee and tea are also essential for a bar but you don’t need to buy these items solely for the bar. You can also use your kitchen stock although we suggest buying certain types of coffee and tea for your cocktails. Keep in mind that cocktails taste best with a strong brew so using a French press is often required while black tea is highly recommended.
Other ingredients that you can DIY are simple syrup and sour mix.
While many cocktails don’t require a garnish, you may want to use it to enhance its presentation and flavor. The essentials are lemons, lime and oranges, which may already be in your kitchen anyway. If you can, add maraschino cherries; olives for dry martinis; cocktail onions for Gibsons; mint for mint juleps and mojitos; cinnamon for hot cocktails; nutmeg to complement creamy cocktails; whipped cream for sweet dessert cocktails; and celery or pickles for Bloody Mary.
With every addition to your bar, you’re building it up until such time that it’s suitable for parties – and that’s what a bar is truly for!