So you’ve got your man cave turned into a turn-of-the-century saloon, replete with spittoons and period-specific American flags. But the only booze in the place is drips and dregs of parties bygone, you know, some oxidized vermouth, triple sec, and a full-bottle of grenadine. Well, have no fear, I am here to lend a hand in the stocking of your liquor cabinet–before your holiday guests arrive. And, yes, any of these spirits can be picked up at Wingtip’s Bank Of Wine & Spirits.
These are the basics of stocking a bar with spirits only (we’ll have to deal with tools and accoutrements another time). These are the essentials in each category:
One bottle. I feel as if you should alway drink local when you drink vodka, to help reduce that carbon footprint a little. Just choose one local vodka from whichever region you live in. With the massive amount of micro-distilleries that exist out there this should not prove to be very challenging. For San Francisco, our current fix is Spirit Works ($29.99).
Unless you live in the great state of Wisconsin and drink Death’s Door Gin, which only contains ingredients from Washington Island, you’ll be emitting a few more carbon particles in this category. The gin will likely come from the UK, and, in my opinion you need three or four. Before I continue, I have to say I am a classicist; I was raised in a house hold that drank Tanqueray and that is still my gin of choice. I think every home bar should have a bottle of Tanqueray, at least Tanqueray 10 ($25), if not also the London Dry. You have to have Plymouth gin ($34.99), no question about it. I have been to the distillery, met Sean Harrington (the man who makes it), and drank from their water source, the town’s reservoir, which lends the gin a unique minerality. Third: Beefeater ($18.99). In all of our blind taste tests we have done here at Wingtip, Beefeater comes out ahead more often than not.
Rum is a conundrum of spirits, a real noodler. Do you want rum just to make cocktails with? If so, what kind of cocktails? If you want to make tiki drinks, you’ll need a few just to get started, as most tiki drinks call for at least two types of rum, and are so nuanced that there is no a blanket combination that works across the board. We’re going to call in the master of all things tiki, Martin Cate, creator of Smuggler’s Cove, for a further exploration of this topic. For now, keep these three on hand for a mixture of styles that will start to line up your coverage: Smith and Cross Jamaican Rum ($34.99), Diplomatico Exclusiva ($38.99), Barbancourt 8 Year Rum ($27.99). And for a rum that you can sip neat and smoke a cigar with, I love Brugal 1888 ($55.99); it’s aged in bourbon cask and sherry casks, a real stunner.
Ah, my not-so-secret lover. Where do we start? You need one bourbon for cocktails: Elijah Craig 12 ($27.99) is a no brainer. It makes great Manhattans and boothbys, makes great sour drinks, and it won’t break the bank. You need one bourbon for sipping. Four Roses Single barrel ($38.99) is the way to go. If you can find the 2014 Limited Edition ($99.99), even better. You need one rye for cocktails, and for this I love the High West Double Rye ($36.99), a blend of 2 year old and 6 year old rye. It makes for great sazeracs and old fashioneds. For a sipping rye, check out Whistle Pig ($65.99). It is a 10 year old rye that has 100 percent rye mashbill and comes in at 100 proof. It’s worth every penny.
For every whisky and soda you will ever make for the rest of your life, get Hibiki 12 ($69.99) blended whisky. You will never need another whisky ever for this drink, that is it. As far as the rest of the category goes, everything from the two major distillers, Nikka and Suntory, is spectacular. But if you have to choose one, I have to give it up to Yamazaki 12 ($66.99). Easy on the pocket-book, but highly complex, with notes of sandalwood and incense.
Redbreast 15 ($79.99) takes the cake for the storied Emerald Isle. It is a single malt whisky that comes off of a pot still and is bold yet refined at the same time. If you want to make Irish Coffees for people this winter, trust the source, the Buena Vista here in SF. They use Tullamore Dew ($24.99), and so do we.
I have a special place in my heart for brandy, being from the great state of Wisconsin and all. [Editor's Note: There is actually something to this dubious-sounding statement.] I must say there are two that stand out to me for two different reasons. The Lepanto brandy line is amazing and is some of the best price-performing brandy out there. I am especially partial to the PX line ($64.99). It is aged 10 years in used bourbon casks, and then finished in Pedro Jimenez casks. It is dry and dusty with a touch of fruit. Love this bottling. For making cocktails, like the sidecar or vieux carre, reach for Marie Duffau Napoleon ($34.99).
For your everyday margarita, do as Julio does at Tommy’s and go with Arette Blanco [Editor's Note: Currently out-of-stock, but on order]. I know this may be a cop-out, but, hey, the man is an icon and knows more about tequila than anyone I have ever met, so I think we can all trust him on this.
I’m saving the best for last here. The problem I encounter is that I want to grab them all, like a kid in the Video Power velcro-suit maze. But if you want a well-rounded collection for your home you should look to buy one bottle from each region. It can get pricy, not going to lie, but here are the ones I have to have around.
Speyside: Balvenie 14 year Caribbean Cask ($69.99). Highlands: Glenmorangie Lasanta ($49.99), finished off in both PX and Olorosso sherry. At first I was bummed that they were changing the process on this, but after trying out, I love it. The Island: Highland Park 18 ($104.99), or anything they make, they can do no wrong in my book. Lowlands: Auchentoshan Three Wood ($73.99), one of the most diverse single malts out there and on of the most unique in that every drop of the whisky is distilled three times. Campbeltown: Springbank 15 ($119.99), a perfect blend of peat and malt. Isay: All of them. Or if that’s not an option, and this is really like choosing your favorite Star Wars Toy, there are so many that I love and keep near and dear to my heart, but if I could only have just one readily-available Islay single malt whisky, it would have to be Laphraoig 10 ($49.99). The peaty green pepper and spice of this malt is emblematic of the region. Takes me back every time.
Now that the bar’s stocked, we need to talk more about what to do with these fine elixirs. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on a few easy-to-make holiday drinks.
Tags: bourbon, Cocktails, Home, Home Bar, Liquor, Scotch, Spirits, Whiskey, Whisky, Wine & Spirits