Setting up a cocktail bar: the golden rules
Choice of spirits and ingredients — all bartenders have their favorites. Nevertheless, there are a few basic rules.To set up a cocktail bar, first take a look at what types of spirits you need stock in it. Every spirit has its own distinctive flavors and above all none contributes the same properties to mixes. As the partner of bartenders for their fruit-based preparations, Les vergers Boiron has long experience in these spirit-fruit combinations. Take a look at our recap table at the end of this article.
What you need to know about the major spirits.
Vodka: Distilled from grain, its popularity lies in its neutral flavor. It is perfect for cocktails as it provides a certain alcohol content without affecting the desired aromas. Often it even replaces other spirits, especially gin, in classic cocktails and is ideal for mixing with fruit and/or vegetables and has led to the creation of delicious cocktails like the Bloody Mary.
Did you know that when you put vodka in the freezer, its taste is improved and intensified? Vodka cannot freeze in the freezer as its freezing point is -114.4°C (-174°F).
Gin: A spirit with a predominant taste of juniper berries. Opt for traditional Distilled gin which contains a minimum of 96% alcohol and which contrary to classic gin is made with a type of brandy. As its name makes clear, this gin is distilled and even redistilled. This second distillation produces its really distinctive taste of both juniper berries and at least four other plants. There is also London Dry which blends lemon, orange peel and a combination of spices like aniseed and cinnamon. It is one of the most popular types. It could be claimed that London gin is the purest and driest gin with the strongest juniper taste. The word "dry" is often linked to this type of gin. The aromatic identity of gin is particular but sufficiently discreet to blend with spirits, syrups and fruit purees like those produced by Les vergers Boiron.
Rum: Distilled spirits made with sugar cane and aged in barrels, mainly comes from the Caribbean. Light rums are mostly used in cocktails whereas dark and amber rums tend to be drunk neat. Rum is used very much in cocktails containing fruit of which Les vergers Boiron offers a huge variety — from lychee and passion fruit to papaya and coconut.
Tequila: Made from blue agave which grows in North-West Mexico. Very trendy in recent years, it has the advantage of being wonderfully hot and spicy. It is drunk particularly in the margarita (named after its creator) which, according to legend, is the reason behind the international success of tequila. There are four categories: Tequila Blanco to which water is added to dilute its alcohol content; Tequila Gold, artificially flavored; Tequila Reposado, aged for at least 60 days in slightly amber-colored wooden barrels, which has a sweeter taste; and finally Tequila Anéjo aged in oak barrels or even old whisky casks for at least one year.
Whisky: Distilled from the must of fermented grain in white oak casks. It is usually drunk neat or on the rocks, rarely with fruit. The most frequently used is Scotch (from Scotland), and Bourbon (from America) mainly made from corn and aged in smoke-blackened barrels. Smoother and thicker on the palate, rye whiskey (obtained by distilling rye), Canadian whisky (from Canda) and Irish whiskey which is differentiated by its spelling.
Cognac: The most reputed brandy is distilled twice from specific vines in copper stills then aged for at least two years in oak barrels.
Triple Sec: Also called curaçao, the famous liqueur made from orange peel and from which Cointreau© is made, is often used in fruity cocktails like the Cosmopolitan.
Vermouth: This aperitif is obtained by adding sugar and grape must to wine. All vermouths (dry, red or bitter) are made from white wine. The dark color is obtained by adding caramelized molasses. They give cocktails a very distinctive European elegance.
Champagne: The must-have for fresh, lively and very chic cocktails, like the Bellini.
Indispensable ingredients you should always have at hand:
- Juices at room temperature and frozen fruit purees
- Carbonated water
- Indian Tonic
- Sugar syrups, grenadine
- Angostura© bitters
- Fruit liqueurs (peach, apricot, wild strawberry, cherry, exotic fruits, etc.)
- Aperitifs (Italian bitters, anisette, pastis, flavored wines)
- Lemonade or sodas
- Whole fruits (like Les vergers Boiron) for decoration
- Dairy products (milk, cream) and eggs
- Freshly ground or grated spices.