I've been fooling around with my Roasted-Banana-Infused Treaty Oak Rum for a week or so, trying to tweak it into a cocktail recipe worthy of actually serving to someone. It's gone through quite a few iterations, bringing many disparate spirits, liqueurs, and bitters into play. As I was stirring together my most recent effort (1.5oz rum, 1.5oz rye, 2dashes orange bitters - shows promise), it occurred to me that it's only because I've made a conscious effort to stock my bar over the last year or so that I had the ingredients on hand to be able to take the rum in a variety of directions.
It's taken a decent investment in both time and money, but it's been worth it for the fun I've had experimenting with different ingredients, and for the knowledge I've gained in the process. I didn't go about it all at once. Dropping a month's pay at Spec's can be an easy thing to do if you decide you're going to go all out and just buy everything right now. Instead, I pick up a new ingredient every so often - say once a month - and experiment with that before moving on.
I got the ball rolling using a method recommended by Bobby Heugel of Anvil Bar and Refuge. Bobby suggests picking a drink you like and picking up the ingredients you need for that cocktail. It's a systematic approach that builds a solid base of spirits that have wide ranging use, plus a guided way to branch out into more specialized ingredients.
For this series, I'm going to take a similar, though slightly modified, approach. Each piece will focus on a particular ingredient, going into a bit of detail on its character and origin, and suggesting uses for it, including one spotlight cocktail.
Of course, in order to follow along, you're going to need some basic equipment. I suppose you could muddle through, MacGyvering various house-hold tools into service, and that's fine. I would recommend that you pick up at least a basic set of bar tools. They'll make everything simpler, and they're kind of cool to have. I would recommend the following:
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There are certainly other things you can get to make your setup fancier, but if you have this small arsenal of tools, you've got what you need to make (just about) any drink there is. Next time, we'll move on to the good stuff. For now, check out your local bar or restaurant supply store, and get yourself some new toys.