13 Must Have Modifiers for the Discerning Home Bartender

Written by Seb  /  Edited by Natalia  /  Design by Andy

The Essentials

Once you’ve got a few of the essential base spirits for your home bar (If you’re in doubt what these might be, check out our selection of six essential base spirits) you’ll need to add on a few modifying ingredients.

This is a very practical selection of ingredients for you, and you can build up your selection slowly and depending on your preferences. However, none of the ingredients here are super expensive or obscure. You will use all of the ingredients in multiple and varied cocktails and none of them will break the bank.

Fortified Wines

Fortified wines are a style of wine that’s strengthened (aka ‘fortified’) with a distilled spirit. This was traditionally done to help preserve wines for longer periods. Some, like Vermouths, also include botanicals that impart additional flavours.

In Fact the name ‘vermouth’ comes from the German word ‘vermut’, meaning wormwood, the essential botanical used in traditional vermouths.

We’ve recommended 4 different styles of fortified wine to make a whole range of cocktails. The first two; Dry and Sweet Vermouth are likely to be your first stop. Essential for some of the world’s most famous cocktails such as Dry Martinis, Manhattans and Negronis.

As you build your collection you’ll want to add in a bottle of Lillet Blanc or Bianco / Blanco Vermouth. A fortified wine that sits in-between the dry and sweet varieties.

Finally you’ll want to explore the delights of sherry. From the very dry Fino and Manzanilla styles, perfect for replacing Dry Vermouth in your Dry Martini. The dry and nutty Amontillado variety is heavier in style and delicious in cocktails and makes a great riff on a dry Martini for the winter months, when you may enjoy something a little heavier on the palate whilst remaining dry in style.

One final point, although ‘fortified’, take care of these ingredients like wine for best results! Keep them with the lid on in the fridge, and if you have a vacuum pump, pump the air out of the bottle before storing in the fridge too! This way they’ll remain fresh and unoxidised when you rech for them to mix with.


Liqueurs are sweet alcoholic and highly flavoured ingredients typically not used as the base spirit in a cocktail, but what we call a ‘modifier’. This is fancy bar talk to refer to an ingredient that adds a kick of flavour. That affects the overall flavour and character of a drink but without necessarily being the star of the show.

We have quite a variety here, the household names of Campari and Aperol, the bittersweet essentials of Red Bitter Aperitivos. Through the light floral notes of elderflower, dry orange and the dry complexity of dry cherry maraschino. Of course, no modern home bar would be complete without a coffee liqueur for making an Espresso Martini or two!

We’d say all of these are ‘must have’ liqueurs, but as with the fortified wine selection, we’ve listed them in the order you’re probably most likely to invest in them. However, to further help you choose we’ve also listed some of the most famous and popular recipes to guide you to what you might look to buy first.

Some ingredients might not make a LOT of different drinks, but those few drinks might be VERY popular…we’re looking at you Margarita and Espresso Martini!


Angostura Bitters, Orange Bitters, Peychauds & Chocolate Bitters

There are many more to add, but the first, the OG, the one you start with, in fact the one you may already have in your house without realising how important it is, is Angostura Bitters. Aromatic bitters, which Angistuta is, are essential for many a classic cocktail. From the classic Pink Gin cocktail to Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, a few drops or dashes of Angostura bitters are called for in many classic cocktails. We’ve even infused it with strawberries to add a delicious twist on some old classics – Strawberry ‘Pink’ Gin & Strawberry Pink G&T.

After this comes Orange bitters. Widely accompanying Angostura in many an favourite Old Fashioned recipe and of course the deliciously dry and refreshing Pegu Club too! It’s even used in the oldest of Dry Martini recipes dating back to 1903 (The Marguerite – 2 parts gin (Plymouth Gin originally), 1 part dry Vermouth and a dash of orange bitters).

Then comes the New Orleans staple of Peychauds. Aromatic and bright pinky purple in colour it has a smack of aniseed and it’s essential in plenty of classics like the Sazerac for example. It’s a fun ingredient to play with in modern recipes too.

Finally you can start to go nuts with more unusual varieties of bitters. Chocolate bitters would be our next choice. Just a dash or two will add an interesting twist to some of your favourite dark spirit cocktails like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan. Try here in the Hyde’s Honey Old Fashioned for example.

As always, don’t forget to show us what you made by tagging us!
@Candra_Drinks  #MakeBetterDrinks  #CandraDrinks

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