A guide to at-home bartending: These 5 new books offer tips for newbie mixologists

Cocktails are having a moment, and because of the pandemic, that moment is happening most often at home.

Many restaurants have responded with cocktails to go, approved in more than 30 states, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, an industry trade group. Liquor stores offer cocktails-in-a-can, like those from Canteen and Cutwater, as well as hard seltzers and more.

But there’s also been a rise in home bartending, with a number of books on the subject released in the past six months.

Unlike the often complicated cocktail books of the past, these five offerings by new-to-the-cocktail-world authors are written specifically for the home cook/bartender. Each aims to help you experience craft cocktails at home without having to get a Ph.D. in mixology.

Before you start experimenting with the drinks in these books, make sure you have the basics on hand.

As you try new cocktails, you will build your bar based on what you like. Don’t feel you have to go out and buy everything at once. My starter list includes aged versions of tequila, rum and whiskeys from around the world, because I am a brown spirits lover. It will likely be different for your bar.

For example, if you are a gin drinker, experiment with the new craft gins available. There are so many fantastic spirits and liqueurs available today that it is almost a requirement to try new bottles rather than sticking to one brand all the time.

And as far as brands are concerned, taste is subjective. Although I am a proponent of trying new spirits, when you are starting out, have your favorite brands on hand.

“Use the spirits that you already know and love — and you will love the cocktail,” Migliarini says.

Some suggestions for setting up a basic home bar:

BASE SPIRITS

Must-haves (choose your favorite brand): gin, vodka, blanco tequila, white rum, bourbon, rye, Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, cognac, vermouth

Nice-to-haves: flavored vodka, like the Ketel One Botanical; craft gin, like Citadelle; aged tequila (reposado, anejo or both); aged rum; flavored rum, like the Plantation Stiggins Pineapple Rum; a smoky Scotch whisky, like Laphroaig; your favorite single-malt Scotch whisky; your favorite single-pot still Irish whiskey; Japanese whisky, like Suntory Whisky Toki; limited edition or small-batch bourbon and/or rye, like Booker’s or Uncle Nearest.

SPARKLING WINE OR CHAMPAGNE

LIQUEURS

This is a very subjective list. There are many to choose from, and you will find your favorites: orange, such as Grand Marnier, Dry Curacao; pastis, Pernod or absinthe; kahlua or coffee rum; Campari, Fernet-Branca, Aperol, etc.; sweet and fruity, such as Chambord, Limoncello, St. Germaine, Luxardo.

TOOLS AND OTHER ITEMS

Bitters, a long stirring spoon, short spoons, a Shaker or Mason jar, a Hawthorne strainer and a julep strainer; stirring glass; jigger or small ounce measure; fine-mesh strainer.