We consulted one of the Atlanta’s top mixologists, Greg Best of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta, for advice on stocking a bar for a party for five to 10 people. Here’s what he recommends.
Equipment: Paring knife; small cutting board; three-piece shaker; an iced tea spoon or bar spoon for stirring; bottle opener; corkscrew; citrus juicer; jigger or measuring cup for small quantities of liquid; hard ice from a home freezer rather than bagged ice, which may contain higher levels of sodium and more impurities.
Glasses: White wine, old-fashioned (a short, stout glass) and martini.
Nice but not essential: Ice bucket, tongs, muddler (the back of a wooden spoon works just as well).
For larger parties: Serve a punch-style cocktail to guests on arrival rather than mixing drinks to order, and rely on beer and wine as the principal beverages. If you want to serve drinks to order for parties of more than 10, hire a bartender so you can spend time with your guests.
Liquor: Stick with basics, such as a bottle each of vodka, tequila, rum (white or aged dark rum, not spiced), gin and whiskey (blended Scotch or bourbon). For tequila, choose a blanco or silver, rather than a gold. Buy familiar names in a moderate price range. If you’re not sure which brand to buy, ask store employees to recommend something with a flavor profile similar to a favorite variety that’s too much of a splurge for the party budget. Figure on two mixed drinks per person for a two-hour party.
Beer and wine: One to two good bottles each of white and red, and about 12 bottles of beer.
Mixers: Soda water; tonic water; fresh-squeezed orange juice, lime juice and lemon juice; organic cranberry juice (Best likes its purer flavors); and make-ahead basics that keep a week or longer in the refrigerator, such as sour mix and simple syrup (see recipes at left).
Other considerations: Encourage guests to try something new, but make sure to stock ingredients necessary for making their favorite drink if they don’t want to experiment. If you want to serve some of the drinks included with this article, you will need to buy supplies beyond those listed here.
Garnishes: Lemons and limes for wedges and twists; oranges for slices; large green olives that can be stuffed with blue cheese or almonds.
Serving sensibly: Focus on quality of drinks, not quantity. Don’t worry about running out of alcohol; it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
How to muddle
Mash herbs or fruit with the back of a wooden spoon or the flat end of a muddler to release their flavor. If desired, strain and remove pulp or excess herbs.
Rimming with sugar or salt
Pour a small amount of superfine sugar or kosher or sea salt into a small bowl or saucer and shake to spread evenly. Moisten the rim of the glass with fruit juice or another specified liquid. Dip glass into the saucer and coat the rim with salt or sugar. Tap to shake off excess.
Making simple garnishes
For citrus twists, cut off both ends of the fruit with a small paring knife, then use the knife to separate the peel from the flesh. Cut the peel into strips and twist over the cocktail to squeeze a drop into it. Run the rind side of one strip around the inside of a cocktail glass, then drop the twist in the glass.
For citrus slices, cut off both ends of the fruit. With the fruit crosswise, cut into thin slices. Make a straight cut halfway into each slice so it can be placed on a glass.
Sources: "Ultimate Bar Book" by Mittie Hellmich (Chronicle, $19.95); "Bartending for Dummies" by Ray Foley (Wiley, $16.99); "Mr. Boston Platinum Edition" edited by Anthony Giglio (Wiley, $19.95)