March 23, 2010

Welcome to my bar!

If you’re thinking my insurance problems may be driving me to drink, Blog, you’re kinda right. But not to worry, even though I’m from Wisconsin I’ve never been a binge or heavy drinker. Heck, until my mid-30’s I’d only been in one bar in my whole life, Paul’s Club in Madison. (And don’t forget, I was legal at 18!)

But I was raised to appreciate good wine, learned to like beer, and have always been fascinated by cocktails. All those colors and flavors! Endless combinations! Fun names like “Singapore Sling”! And no baking! So when my level of affluence permitted it, I began to refine the Art of the Well-Stocked Bar.

I am a totally amateur mixologist. However, I do have the credential of having placed third in a cocktail contest last December, so I’m not a total poser, am I, Blog? I wish Blog could vouch for my modest skills, but of course he has not only a low tolerance for alcohol but also no mouth.

Here’s a look at our bar, which also serves as our coffee bar (and storage for my mug collection). Our glassware, including Davie’s pint glass collection, is mostly elsewhere.

Cody had to seize his piece of the limelight of course....

So, for what they are worth, here are my recommendations for what you need to make your home as popular a watering hole as the neighborhood Applebee’s. Items in bold will comprise a good starter kit for a basic bar.


white rum
dark rum
brandy and/or cognac
spiced rum (i.e., Captain Morgan’s)
coconut rum (i.e., Malibu)
flavored vodkas (pepper, raspberry, etc.)

LIQUEURS (order of importance IMHO):

almond (Amaretto)
orange (Blue Curacao, Triple Sec, Cointreau, Grand Marnier)
raspberry (Chambord)
chocolate (Godiva, Creme de Cacao)
mint (Creme de Menthe, Rumple Minze)
coffee (i.e., Kahlua, Tia Maria, Starbucks)
peach (Peach Schnapps, Southern Comfort)
hazelnut (Frangelico)
Irish Cream (Bailey’s)
apple (Apple Pie, apple schnapps)
banana (Creme de Banana)
melon (Midori)
anise (Galliano, Sambuca)
cinnamon (Goldschlager)
root beer (Root Beer Schnapps)


dry vermouth
sweet vermouth
Rose’s lime juice

Before we continue, let’s take a creative break and look at the switchplate cover I made for the bar area out of polymer clay. Picture me creating those tiny, tiny, tiny grapes and the individual shnivels I mashed together to make the tiny, tiny, tiny corks.


tonic water
sweet soda (i.e., Sprite/7Up)
sour soda (i.e., 50/50)
sour mix
club soda (sparkling water)
ginger ale
lemon juice
lime juice
orange juice
pineapple juice
half & half or cream
ice cream


Bloody Mary
Old Fashioned


white and brown sugar
sugar syrup
large grain salt (for glass rims), table salt
tabasco sauce
worcestershire sauce
pearl onions
green onions, celery, beef sticks etc. for Bloodies
maraschino cherries
mint leaves


cocktail shaker
blender and/or ice crusher


wine glasses
beer glasses (pint glasses can double as highball glasses)
Old Fashioned glasses (small, round tumblers, 8-10 oz.) – for moderately strong drinks
Highball glasses (tall, straight-sided, 10-12 oz.) – for weaker drinks heavy on the mixers
Martini glasses – for very strong drinks that are mostly liquor
champagne flutes
hurricane glasses (extra big and tall and curvy)
cordial glasses (for liqueurs served alone)

Now let’s take another break to look at one of my cocktail creations. First up, a layered drink (aka “pousse-café”) called a Firecracker, concocted for 4th of July, 2008. It’s grenadine, blue curacao, and a mix of sour, vodka and Chambord, and the glass is edged in honey and crushed blue pop rocks. Talk about a party in your mouth. See how fun this can be, Blog?


1.  I have a cool tip that’s sort of a cheat but saves money. I also use flavored syrups (like you use in coffee) in cocktails. Coconut syrup can turn rum into Malibu, raspberry syrup can sub for Chambord, etc. This can also be a way to reduce alcohol content if you are so inclined, or to make mocktails with no alcohol.

2.  If it’s sold in your area, Jimmy Luv’s is my fave Bloody Mary mix. Fan-freaking-tastic, Blog. If you only had a mouth. And I am a big believer in the beer chaser on the side with your Bloody. Such a great combo.

3.  For a fun highball, do a Frosted Coke: Fill a hurricane type glass half full of ice. Throw in a glug of any combo of these: rum, chocolate liqueur, coffee liqueur, almond liqueur, Irish cream. Fill almost full with cola. Top off with a splash of cream, half & half, or even some soy milk product like Silk (that actually works real well). Stir and serve.

Okay, now here’s a photo from a mint julep party on our patio. I make my own mint syrup and use my 1960s Oster ice crusher, Sno Flake (bought on eBay). Cody obviously approves.

4.  The secret to getting your martini so cold that ice crystals form in the glass: Fill the glasses with water and ice and let them sit like that a few minutes. Shake the drink extra long with ice in your shaker. I know this weakens it a bit but I don’t mind that, the crystallizing effect is worth it. Dump out the glasses, pour in the drink, and enjoy.

5.  Is good vodka important? After all, it’s basically flavorless. Here’s what I do: I have a medium priced vodka on hand like Skyy or Three Olives, for use in highballs and bloodies. I also have my favorite, Rehorst from Milwaukee’s Great Lakes Distillery, for martinis. For whiskey, bourbon and gin I go for the good stuff. For rum and tequila, moderate is fine for me (although I’m sure connoisseurs of those would differ on that point).

6.  If I could only have three wines in my wine rack to cover the bases, what would I stock? If you’re looking for few options that will please the most palates, I’d pick a Riesling, a White Zinfandel, and a Merlot.

Well, Blog, it’s kinda crazy how long I can go on on the subject of booze! And I haven’t even talked about the times I made mead (turned out awful) and beer (not bad but too much work). Readers, feel free to post a question, tip or fave cocktail in the comments. And party on!


  1. This is a really great post! One of your best, Diana! As a cocktail lover myself, I really enjoyed reading through it, peeking into your bar-tending secrets, lists, etc., and I especially enjoyed the photo of your kitty enjoying an afternoon adult beverage. Hehe. Love it! That would make an adorable scrapbook page.

    As for the best tequila, I admit I'm a tequila snob. I blame numerous visits to Mexico, for this. I won't drink anything other than 100% agave, and it has to at least be a reposado, although if it happens to be an anejo, even better! My favorite moderately priced tequila is El Jimador reposado, but I also like 1800 reposado, and Hornitos. As for the really good stuff - for shots, I love Don Julio reposado. If I had to choose one tequila in a desert island scenario, the Don would be IT! However, Herradura reposado is muy fabuloso as well. They both earn the high rankings in my book because they're so incredibly smooth. Fabulous! I recommend!

    Side note - any tequila that isn't 100% agave is mostly made of fillers in the form of grain alcohol. Definitely not a good thing, in my book.

  2. Aw, thanks, Erica/Penny! You are certainly a treasure trove of tequila info and I am grateful. I'll be taking notes from you to the liquor store when I replenish our supply!

  3. Oh man, I need to come over more often ;) SUMMERS ON THE PATIO! This doesn't make us look like lushes!

  4. Not too much, LOL!!! Can't wait, Katesi. And I've learned how to make a mean Amaretto Stone Sour now...I guarantee it will go well with sunshine and Cubbies on the radio!