It doesn’t take much to have a great home bar | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

It doesn’t take much to have a great home bar

Two experienced bartenders tell what you need to get started

If you’ve been out drinking recently, you’ve probably noticed quite a few double-digit numbers dotting the cocktail menu. It’s hard to find a well-made cocktail for less than 10 bucks, and prices often creep higher than that. For many of us, that means good cocktails are just an occasional treat. The solution? Make them at home.

Caitlin Nagelson and her partner Colin Anderson, who have years of combined experience working at the city’s best bars, boast an impressive home bar. But you don’t need much to get started, they explain.

A few tools are essential. Casual cocktailers often overlook the importance of measuring, and though a shot glass works in a pinch, Nagelson recommends picking up a decent jigger to create balanced drinks. Add a set of shaker tins and a strainer, and you’re ready to go.

When stocking the booze, let your own preferences guide you. “We always have rum, gin and whiskey, because those are the spirits we prefer to drink,” says Nagelson. From there, a few simple additions give you lots of options. Start with rye whiskey, for instance, and add a bottle of Angostura bitters for a killer old-fashioned. Then grab sweet vermouth (store it in the fridge, please) to bring a Manhattan into your arsenal. 

There’s no reason to reach for the top shelf if you’re looking to make cocktails, as the nuances of exceptional spirits are often lost in mixed drinks. Though you’ll want to avoid the big plastic jugs, there are plenty of mid-priced spirits that are perfect for mixing. Nagelson and Anderson like super-affordable Cruzan rum for daiquiris, and use Bauchant orange liqueur instead of its pricier, better-known cousins.

Professional bartenders have plenty of tricks that would be tough to pull off at home, and it’s certainly nice to let them do the heavy lifting. But with a few tools, a handful of bottles and healthy dose of confidence, you can make drinking at home way more interesting.