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IMBIBE: Setting up a Home Bar

Wet or hot, this summer promises to bring you the best in drinks, as long as you work at it just a bit. You don’t need to create a swim-up bar, HGTV-approved outdoor oasis or an antique bar cart, either. (I mean, if you have those and want to invite a certain writer over, email me.)

For the latest advice on getting your bar summer-ready, I reached out to a couple of spirits experts: Aubrie Talarico, WSET diploma candidate and manager of Eno Fine Wines, and Justin Garrison, aspiring distiller and spirits manager of Grapes & Grains. Trust me, their tips are way easier and more fun than any articles on getting your body summer ready. We can do this, no push-ups required, unless it’s a game between beverages.

Laura Kanzler (Motif): Where should someone start when thinking about stocking their home bar?


Aubrie Talarico: You need to go for the basics. So, vodka, gin, whiskey, rum and tequila/mezcal, as well as quality liqueurs and mixers.

Justin Garrison: If I were to list essential bottles, it’d be bourbon, gin, vodka, rum (I like dark even if I’m mixing) and tequila. Also good mixers and vermouth.

LK: Okay, how about barware?

JG: Have a good shaker with a strainer, a good bar spoon and a sharp paring knife for citrus and fresh garnishes. In the summer, batching up drinks is fun, so a good pitcher or one with a dispenser.

AT: A muddler, because it’s mojito season. A citrus squeezer — you can tell the difference in a margarita with limes you actually squeezed. A zester for making twists and garnishes. And good glassware – it doesn’t have to be expensive, but you should have some variation of rocks, highballs, something for ice in a cocktail that’s properly sized.

LK: Any advice to give us for hosting summer parties?

AT: There are a lot of cocktails you can mix up and put in a pitcher. Also low-proof options like the liqueurs I mentioned [sic see below] – a lot of them can be mixed with club soda or a splash of sparkling wine for easy and lower alcohol drinks. You don’t want a heavy, high-alcohol beverage when you’re sitting outside for hours in the sun.

JG: Give vermouth and other low-alcohol options a try. A quality vermouth — or aperitif like Lillet or Campari — can play double duty or simply be enjoyed on their own for lower-alcohol options. Also, use quality mixers like the RIPE line or the Fever Tree sodas.

LK: What trends are you noticing for summer that home bartenders can easily try?

JG: I always think Tiki. You want to drink rum in the summer. I use a rhum agricole because the pungent rum does well with falernum or orgeat, which are great for Tiki cocktails. Also get some good ginger beer or ginger syrup.

AT: Mezcal is super in right now. A lot of good ones are hitting the shelves, and it can be a nice substitute for tequila. Like a mezcal paloma. Mezcal is something for you Scotch drinkers to drink when it’s hot outside.

LK: What items would you pull from your store shelf to throw on a home bar?

AT: Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic, Prairie Certified Organic Cucumber Vodka, Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violette, Clement Mahina Cocoa (Coconut Liqueur), Malfy Gin con Limon, Mezcal Amaras, Boca Cachaça, and Caffo Solara Orange Liqueur.

JG: Karlsson’s Gold (Potato) Vodka is hands down the best vodka, Monkey 47 Gin, Del Maquey Chichicapa Single Village Mezcal, Vermouths from Torino like Dolin or Alessio, agricole rhum (Clement or JM Rhum), dark or amber rum such as Privateer.

LK: What’s a favorite drink of yours for the summer?

JG: Nothing like a Negroni in the summer. But, Artillery Punch is a family recipe from my grandma and grandpa. Apparently my grandparents liked their booze. It’s high test, with a lot of juice and good stuff, and it has an historical background!

AT: Dusty [her fiancée] makes caipirinhas in the summer and those are easy to knock back outside on a patio. Or just a well-made gin and tonic. Also, I like adding the cucumber vodka to Bloody Marys for a change, or the Malfy Gin for a refreshing citrus kick.

LK: Sign me up. When’s your next party?