5 Bottles You Need To Start Your Home Bar
Updated: Apr 30
For the last 4 weeks, we’ve been confined to our homes, and our lives have changed more drastically than ever before. In a lockdown world, the things which used to be so accessible are no longer available. A walk with friends, a spot of saturday clothes shopping, going out for dinner or even a crisp pint in a sunny beer garden.
With our treasured pints taken away from us, and more time on our hands than ever before, there’s never been a better time to become a home bartender.
"IT MIGHT SEEM DAUNTING, BUT BRINGING BAR QUALITY COCKTAILS INTO YOUR HOME IS SO MUCH EASIER THAN YOU THINK"
Making cocktails at home seems like a lot of effort. Bartenders always have hundreds of bottles, and all the fancy equipment. It might seem daunting, but bringing bar quality cocktails into your home is so much easier than you think.
You may not have all the equipment you see in cocktail bars. As always, be resourceful with what you have. We find a jam jar makes an excellent shaker.
Most people have some spirits kicking around - at the very least a bottle or two of gin, maybe some old whiskey or rum. It’s never been a better time to dust them off and pull them out from the back of the wine rack.
But you’re not going to drink them neat most of the time - so what’s the best way to make the most of them?
To make things a bit easier for you, we’ve put together a list of the 5 bottles we think you’ll need to get the home bar started, and make the most of the spirits you have lying around.
1. CAMPARI / APEROL
We may be biased given our love for Negronis, but we think Campari is an essential addition to any respectable back bar.
Negronis have shot up in popularity in the UK over the last few years, and Negroni variations are getting more and more accessible. They feature an irresistible equal-parts balance of bitter Campari, sweet vermouth and gin.
Simply stir all 3 parts together in a tumbler with ice, and garnish with a slice of orange. Perfectly consumed as an aperitif to serve before dinner with some light snacks.
Our newfound love for Negronis as a nation comes almost hand in hand with the unstoppable Aperol Spritz craze. The unmissable orange glow of Campari’s sweeter sister spirit has come to define our pub garden landscape almost as much as a pint of lager and a gin and tonic. We’ve truly caught the Italian cocktail buzz.
Both spirits, beyond their notorious emblematic features in these two cocktails, make excellent supporting actors in a handful of other cocktails. We find that both can add a new dimension to fun, fruity classics like margaritas and daiquiris.
At Creative Juices, one of our most popular serves (pictured right) has been a blood orange margarita featuring a shot of Aperol. Irresistible.
This one’s a total no brainer. Everyone needs Cointreau.
The list of classic cocktails with Cointreau (or some form of triple sec) is endless: Long Island Iced Tea, Margaritas, White Lady, Corpse Revivers and Sidecars to name but a few. Once you’ve got this stuff in your house, all these drinks are on the table.
3. A COFFEE LIQUEUR
We know the two words that have already popped into your mind: Espresso. Martini.
A coffee liqueur helps to complete this cult classic - either a Kahlua or a Tia Maria are the most famous versions. If you love the taste of coffee, Mr Black's (a less sweet, more coffee-forward liqueur) is also one to add into the mix.
We're still yet to meet anyone who would say no to an espresso martini: a perfect combination of three things which we all can’t get enough of - coffee, sugar and booze.
But coffee liqueurs can offer so much more than just the part they play in this iconic drink.
Coffee liqueurs go beautifully in White Russian variations - that is, a mix of some sort of cream, coffee liqueur and vodka. Nutty flavours like hazelnut and almond (amaretto) also make a great partnership with coffee, as well as caramel, vanilla and even banana liqueurs.
4. LICOR 43
Creative Juices started back in 2018, following a cocktail-ridden escape to the sunny hills of Spain with a group of friends. Arriving in an idyllic group getaway destination, we were encouraged to help ourselves to bottles which had been leftover from previous groups. We found a bottle of Licor 43 (Spain's most popular liqueur), put it in absolutely everything we made, and have never looked back.
Licor 43 is named so because it bears the flavours of 43 different natural ingredients; including citrus, hazelnut, vanilla and caramel. This means, if used properly, you can pair it with pretty much anything.
We love it in and amongst the fruit and fresh mixers. You have got to try it in a cocktail with pineapple - or even topped with a good quality ginger beer. It's also absolutely delicious with anything coffee based or flavoured; a classic Licor 43 serve being the Carajillo 43 (equal parts of Licor 43 and espresso coffee).
In our opinion, the best cocktail associated with this glorious digestif is the ‘mini-beer’ - simply a shot of Licor 43 with a layer of thick cream resting on top. There is not a better shot to end the night.
5. SOMETHING FRUITY / FRESH
For the summer months ahead, we should all be prepared for those fresh, fruity cocktails to enjoy out in the blazing sunshine. A fruity liqueur is always great to have at the ready.
We think St Germain is a great choice - a french elderflower liqueur which goes nicely with all the summer garden flavours (cucumber, mint, lime, lemon). A great option to give some extra life to your gin-based cocktails, particularly Southsides.
Passoa, a sweet and vibrant passionfruit liqueur, is another fantastic option which is easily found on supermarket shelves. Again, this can make some really interesting variations on classics (like our passionfruit daiquiri).
If you want something slightly more obscure, like a watermelon or a grapefruit, take a browse through the flavours offered by De Kuyper or Briottet, who offer a seemingly infinite range.
"ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IF YOU'RE WILLING TO BE CREATIVE AND RESOURCEFUL"
There’s all sorts of other things that go into making great cocktails - fruits, syrups, bitters and coffee to name a few. You may not always have exactly what you need lying around, but once you’ve got a handful of these bottles, anything is possible if you’re willing to be creative and resourceful. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled on our instagram page for tips and tricks on getting creative with your drinks.
We do all love a classic cocktail - as the saying goes, the simplest answer is usually the right one. These bottles will give you what you need to get familiar with the most well-known drinks. Nonetheless, rules are made to be broken, and with your back bar stocked up, you’ll also have the tools to expand your cocktail horizons, both during the lockdown and beyond.