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Essential items for a home bar


Gin and whiskey are really the two pillars of a cocktail bar, and American whiskeys–rye and bourbon–are the spirits of choice. If it's necessary to choose between them, go for a good rye whiskey. It will see you through some of the coolest cocktails out there: the Manhattan, its cousin the Brooklyn, the Boulevardier (a whiskey-based relative of the Negroni), and the New Orleans legends the Vieux Carré and the Sazerac. Many people also like it in an Old Fashioned, although the traditional spirit there is bourbon.

Sweet vermouth

Otherwise known as red or Italian vermouth, this fortified wine is an essential ingredient in many of our favourite cocktails. Mix it with gin and Campari in a Negroni, or swap out the gin for whiskey in a Boulevardier. With rye whiskey it makes a Manhattan, but it's also the basis for low-alcohol cocktails like the Negroni's little sister the Americano. You can also sip it on its own or mix it with tonic for a light aperitif.

Orange liqueur

An orange liqueur is an essential for a wide variety of drinks, including Margaritas, Mai Tais, Mimosas, and Cosmopolitans. It provides a hint of sweetness in drinks that don't use straight-up sugar syrup. There are lots of orange liqueurs out there, but steer clear of sickly sweet cheap options and stick to Cointreau or Grand Marnier. For a low-alcohol cocktail, we also enjoy blending it with soda water and lime juice in a Cointreau Fizz.

Angostura bitters

Bitters are intensely alcoholic preparations of herbs and spices, and they come in a huge range of flavours. The best-known among them are Angostura bitters, originally created in 1824 in Venezuela and now made in Trinidad & Tobago. Although you generally only use a few drops of them, these bitters are key to many classic cocktails: they're what makes a Pink Gin pink, and they're essential for Manhattans and Old Fashioneds.

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