13 Must Have Cocktail Ingredients For Your Home Bar

We’re all about maximum deliciousness for minimum effort. With just 13 ingredients Vodka, Gin, Whisky, Rum, Tequila, Sugar, Ice, Dry Vermouth, Sweet Vermouth, Aperitivo, Bitters, Citrus, Water, you can make some of the best classic cocktails at home.

More than any other category, Vodka is often blighted by a need to show off. Bottles held aloft with sparklers blazing as the bottle is paraded through the club to the table that ordered it.

Now, much as some of our selections will have indeed been paraded through clubs around the world. Their social status, bottle height, design or artwork plays no part in making it onto our list. We’re all about the liquid, and that’s it! 

For neat sipping or cocktail mixing, you can’t go wrong with any of our Vodka choices.

Try making a Vodka Dry Martini
Whisky highball

Next to gin, whisky is probably the other biggest player in classic cocktails. Traditionally when we think of whisky cocktails there would be clear definitions between cocktails using Rye, Bourbon, Scotch, Irish and other whisky varieties.

However, as whisky production has surged, new areas of whisky production have been created and historical barriers have been crossed, creating a free-for-all in terms of what types of whisky can or even should be used in a particular cocktail.

The Old Fashioned, with its enduring popularity, and the modern explosion of the Whisky Highball are just two examples of cocktail behemoths that every whisky brand wants to be mixed into. Regardless of where they’re from, what grain(s) they’re made of or any cocktail historical norms. Whisky just wants to play in all the best Whisky recipes!

Therefore brands have versions of drinks such as these in their drinks strategies and communications, and we’re here for that! So, when it comes to picking your first bottle of whisky for your home bar, the best advice is to pick a style you like! Don’t get hung up with rules, just get mixing.

There are so many to choose from, but thankfully we have selected some of our absolute favourites in each category. Some are pricier than others, but they’re all delicious and good enough to sip and mix!

 

Gin is predominately a spirit flavoured with juniper and in Classic Gins expect to taste some juniper, a dry finish on the palate, more traditional botanicals and a base of neutral grain alcohol. These are the sort of gins that will work in any recipe where ‘Gin’ is called for, especially in classic cocktails and any of our Candra cocktails.

Modern Gins are all a little different from what we think of as a Classic Gin. So expect some more unusual botanicals, from savoury, to floral to fruity and everywhere in between!

Made by distilling fermented molasses, the byproduct of refining sugar. Some areas produce ‘Cuban style’ rums which are distilled in a ‘column’ still to a very high strength before water is added. This makes these styles of rum lighter and drier. Other production areas use  ‘pot’ stills and the spirit is not distilled to such a high strength, creating a heavier style of rum. There are also hybrid styles that incorporate a mixture of both pot and column still distillates. 

Any of these styles can be bottled white (unaged) as well as rested and aged in barrels. This smooths, rounds and adds more body to the rum. There are also Agricole style rums, distilled straight from pressed sugar cane ‘juice’ instead of molasses. Delivering a ‘funky’ vegetal style of rum

Our selection of Tequilas, come from the state of Jalisco, Mexico and are made from the Blue Webber Agave. They are all made from 100% Agave, with no other distillate mixed in and are either unaged or lightly rested in barrel, meaning that they are all fresh, light and perfect for mixing. 

There’s a bottle for every budget in our selection, but we stand by the quality of all of them. 

 

Sugar syrup, Rich Simple, Gomme, Flavoured Syrups. So many names, so many different options.

Whatever sweetening ingredient you use will have a profound impact on the drink you’re making. Yet, there’s so much confusion over this simple ingredient, but don’t stress, we’re here to help you. 

Yes ICE! Ice is vital to making great drinks. It opens up flavours with the power of dilution and makes them crisp and refreshing by making them deliciously cold. 

We’re here to guide you through the fundamentals of ice, the key varieties, how to produce them and how to use them. All so that you can make better drinks!

 

Wine fortified with (usually) grape spirit and infused with natural botanicals which must include Wormwood (the name Vermouth comes from the German word for Wormwood, Wermut). FYI, this regulation does not exist inside the USA, so fortified wines produced in the US will not include Wormwood. Minimal sugar added, hence ‘Dry’ in style, some brands are rested in barrels.

As with the Dry Vermouth, Sweet Vermouth is wine fortified with (usually) grape spirit and infused with natural botanicals but this style is sweeter, richer and heavier in style. More sugar or caramel is added than Dry Vermouth to sweeten, and gives them a darker colour than other Vermouths. It’s important to note that the red colour does NOT indicate use of red wine.

 

The most easily recognisable brand would be Campari, but there are many great ones to choose from these days. They all have their own particular character, but as a category, you expect them to be bright red in colour and bitter to the taste, with a little sweetness. Unlike bitters such as Angostura which are usually added by dash’s and drops, these ingredients are served or added to cocktails like spirits.

Aperitifs are great for recipes like the Negroni, Aperol Spritz and many many more!

Bitters are used in many of the world’s most iconic cocktails such as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Sours and so many more.

Aromatic style bitters such as Angostura are highly complex, incorporating spices and bittering agents such as clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, gentian and quinine, along with many others. This creates a ‘symphony’ of flavours that helps to bind together the different characters in a cocktail recipe, producing a more cohesive and a truly unified flavour profile on the palate.

Other recipes call for Orange, Lemon or Chocolate bitters, which although incorporate bittering and other ingredients, focus around one key flavour, or ‘soloist’ to punctuate a recipe with.

The OG of Aromatic Bitters are Angostura Bitters. There are others to choose from today, but there’s still nothing wrong with good ol Ango. If you do want to try an alternative, we’d recommend Bitter Truth’s aromatic offering.

Whatever you are using just remember you only need a dash or two. This may only be a tiny amount of liquid but the influence is mighty!

If you want to add a different twist to your drinks, try making our Strawberry Angostura bitters.

 

Citrus gives a backbone and a structure to a drink off of which other flavors can play. It brings a freshness and acidity that are essential for certain classic cocktails. In all but a few recipes, it needs to be balanced with something that is sweet.

When using citrus juice, squeezing your own is always the best bet unless you have a speciality juice supplier nearby. Avoid any shelf stable bottles of “fresh juice”, it’s not, and bad juice will ruin your cocktails!

Citrus isn’t just about the juice, the essential oils in the skin play a big part in cocktail preparation. It is the extraction of these oils that we call a ‘twist’. There are multiple other ways to prepare citrus for garnishing.

Water?! Water is vital in a cocktail for unlocking the flavours in the recipe. From opening up the flavours carried by the alcohol to giving acids (such as lemon juice for example) and sugar the lengthening ingredient they need become refreshing and bright on the palate and not claggy.

Often this water is added via shaking or stirring ingredients with ice, but sometimes we’ll need to add it ourselves as an ingredient. In this instance it’s usually of the sparkling variety.

Historically, recipes call for different styles of sparkling waters such as club soda or seltzer. Different styles have different levels of minerality and carbonation. Sparkling water like Perrier is fairly low in minerality, meaning it’s not going to add a lot of flavours to your recipes, and it’s also high in carbonation, which is excellent for cocktails.

Topo-Chico also has good carbonation but on the other hand has more salinity, so might not suit your taste in every cocktail, but it’s an excellent option in long citrusy drinks.

If you want complete control, just get a Soda Stream and control it all yourself. If you’re doing this, just make sure your water is nice and icy cold before you carbonate it. You’ll get better bubbles as cold water will absorb more co2 than warm

View more water’s

Great! So now that you have your key ingredients, how about getting those fancy (or not so fancy) pieces of cocktail equipment. Here is our guide to cocktail equipment you can use at home with some cheeky tricks and the pro choices.

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