As someone who loves to entertain and who loves to drink, I realized recently that my home bar is woefully understocked. When people come over, it's always the same thing: "Would you like tap water, gin, tequila or red wine?" Every now and then I'll have club soda or beer, and on rare occasions I might even have fresh citrus to juice, but by and large my bar setup is pathetic.
Because it's summertime, the time of year when I want to fire up the backyard grill and have a little get-together under the twinkling Christmas lights still hung in my trees, I decided to give the home bar a serious makeover. A primary problem is I need an actual bar and wine rack--not just a shelf where I stack booze--but that will come later. More importantly, I need to know what to stock.
So I turned to some of Houston's best bartenders, sommeliers and restaurateurs to get their advice on stocking a summer bar.
Note: People seem to be on a wine kick, so there's a lot of wine recommended here!
James Watkins, beverage director for Cordúa Restaurants "Honestly, I drink rosé like it's going out of style. Houston hasn't really caught on to the rosé thing in spite of the fact it's its ridiculously hot here. For spirits, I'd say tequila, cause we have access to some great ones due to our proximity to Mexico. As far as mixers go, it's summertime so think tropical, like pineapple. You can get some pretty great fresh juices from Whole Foods. And this time of year, one of my favorite things is making cocktails with peaches. Experiment with peaches."
Samantha Porter, freelance sommelier "For summer, I think light reds like Gamay, Dolcetto or Frappato from Sicily and Alpine varietals like Poulsard--reds that are fresh and fruity, great with a light chill and refreshing enough to fight the heat. I'd also recommend Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley."
Chris Cusack, co-owner of Down House and D&T Drive Inn and upcoming Foreign Correspondents and Hunky Dory "Americanos: This is soda water, Dolin Sweet Vermouth, and Campari. Simple and incredibly refreshing on a summer afternoon. These are staples! Herman Marshall Whiskey is fantastic for Mint Juleps, another summer staple. Both their bourbon and their rye are worth keeping around. Finally, homemade margaritas. I love 'em! I make them with Siembra Azul Blanco tequila, Gran Marnier, fresh lime juice, fresh OJ, and agave."
Justin Vann, beverage director at Public Services Wine & Whiskey Bar "When it's hot, I actually still drink a lot of red wine; I just switch to lighter styles that can be served cool or even cold. For example: Jean Paul-Dubost Beaujolais village is the red wine by the glass over at Mala Sichuan, and they serve it at white wine temperature. It's really refreshing. Look for reds that are made with carbonic maceration to find a red you can serve cooler than usual. Some others I just picked up for D&Q are Gramenon Il Fait Soif Cotes-du-Rhone and Domaine Comte Abbatucci Rouge Frais Imperial from Corsica. Lambrusco also never goes out of style for summer reds."
Scott Reitz, restaurant critic at the Dallas Observer and avid drinker "You should always have a solid gin and all the hand-crafted tonics you can find. OK, at least one. And plenty of soda. And always have limes and lemons on hand."