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Stocking a Home Bar on a Budget - Liqueurs, Aperitifs and Digestifs
I recently covered base liquors and some initial money saving tips in part one of this series:
- Stocking a Home Bar on a Budget - Base Liquors
Part 1: A guide to liquoring up your budget.
In part two I would like to get into the more decadent side of a home bar.
A liqueur is normally a very sweet fruit, herb or cream based beverage with a lower alcohol content than base liquors. There is a wide range of flavors available but for the sake of this hub I just want to get into the most popular. Let's break down a few of the most widely used liqueurs in cocktail making.
At the highest end of orange liqueurs is Cointreau and at the lowest end you have Triple Sec. When deciding which to stock your bar with you have to decide what your primary use will be. Cointreau is a delicately crafted high end liqueur and is usually used with other high end liquors to create a premium cocktail. Triple Sec taste like... Well... It tastes like hairspray. It is more suitable for the crafting of a round of Kamikazes or a pitcher of Margaritas. Personally, I have banned triple sec from the house. There are quite a few "mid"-shelf brands of orange liqueur that are in the $18 to $20 range that don't taste like hairspray.
The first name that probably comes to mind is Chambord. It is delicious... and expensive. There are many more affordable brands such as Bols and Dekuyper. To find these other brands just walk directly up to the beautifully ornate, round Chambord bottle on the top shelf and look due south about 3 or 4 shelves. If you haven't figured it out yet I'm a mid-shelf type of guy. My favorite mid range Chambord alternative is Chateau Monet. I believe it is a blackberry liqueur but the price is right at around $18. The bottle is only slightly less ornate than the Chambord bottle.
Midori is the premium honey dew melon liqueur. I can normally find it for under $20 if I shop around. There really are no mid-shelf brands of melon liqueur that I'm aware of. There are a few bottom shelf brands if you're looking to save a Hamilton.
All the things I just said about Midori apply to Amaretto di Saronno. The reason I don't mind spending a little more on some of these liqueurs is that I don't use a lot. Most drink recipes only call for a half ounce of any given liqueur. The bottles end up lasting forever and they look prettier sitting on the bar.
Kahlua retails for about $15. There are some bargain brands for between $8 to &10 but once again... Pretty bottles.
Bailey's Irish Cream is certainly the most popular brand out there but Mr. Mid Shelf get a less expensive brand in this case. Three reasons. First, I just can not taste the difference. Second, The bottles all look the same. Third, the wife goes through it faster than cream for coffee. She likes to Irish it up from time to time.
Aperitifs and Digestifs
Aperitifs, or the Italian pronunciation aperitivo, are drinks or cocktails that will stimulate appetite and are to be enjoyed before a meal. The two most important aperitifs to keep stocked in any home bar are Dry and Sweet Vermouth. They are wines fortified with herbs and spices. Without them you couldn't make two of my favorite old man drinks, the martini and the manhattan. Both are considered an aperitif. Martini and Rossi is the most popular and widely used brand of vermouth's and quite economical.
A digestif is meant to aid in the digestion of a meal. Bitters such as Campari and desert wines such as port and sherry are two very different examples of digestifs. My personal favorite is grappa. Say it with me with a thick accent as you drink it all in one shot and slam the glass down on the table. Grappa is fermented from the scraps of wine making. The skins, stems and seeds. And yes it takes a little getting used to. Although once I learned that it is much better chilled I can't get enough of it.
Make Your Own
An affordable and creative alternative is to make your own liqueur. Its about as hard as pouring liquor, sugar, fruits and herbs into a jar and having the patience to let the ingredients marry.
Well, we've reached the end of my two part series on Stocking a Home Bar. I'm off to the liquor store. I just realized how long it's been since I've had my grappa. GRAPPA!!!
Always drink and serve responsibly and NEVER drink and drive.
- The Art of the Martini
The martini is a distinct, dignified cocktail with a rich history yet many don't even know how to make one. It's much easier than you think.