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stories | January 12, 2018
The Four Essential Spirits to Start your Home Bar
The Four Essential Spirits to Start your Home Bar
The appeal of a well-stocked home bar is simple: with a carefully chosen selection of bottles, some minimal bartending equipment, and a handful of extra ingredients, you’ll be able to rustle up a wide range of sophisticated cocktails to conjure up a good time at a moment’s notice.
The difficulty, of course, is knowing where to start, especially because, in most cupboards and cocktail cabinets, space is at a premium
So, say you had to restrict yourself to a handful of bottles: which should you choose?
We’re biased, of course, but we’d always recommend a bottle of Rémy Martin VSOP as a first port of call for a home bar, chiefly because, it’s a spirit that’s just as enjoyable on its own – either neat, over ice or frozen – as it is in cocktails, thanks to its complex flavour profile and rounded, silky texture. But where to go from there?
For some expert advice, we turned to Jerrold Khoo, the bar manager of Jigger & Pony in Singapore, which in 2020 was named the best bar in Asia. At Jigger & Pony, Khoo presides over a menu of 24 cocktails that take classic ideas to new places – for example, a “Mineral Vodka Soda”, made with lime zest and birch sap, or the “Blanc de Noir”, an ingenious concoction that deconstructs and reconstructs the taste profile of Blanc de Noirs Champagne by combining Rémy Martin VSOP with strawberry yoghurt and verjuice.
“We’re biased, of course, but we’d always recommend a bottle of Rémy Martin VSOP as a first port of call for a home bar”
“We make it really accessible, in the sense that we welcome people from all walks of life”
Beyond the exceptional drinks though, what makes Jigger & Pony special is its laid back attitude, something that’s particularly important to Khoo, who is very much a people person. “We make it really accessible, in the sense that we welcome people from all walks of life,” he says. “We don’t have a dress code, so it’s not intimidating or too formal … Anyone can rock up to the venue and have a good time with their friends.”
Accessibility is also a key word for Khoo when it comes to stocking his bar – on the Jigger & Pony menu you will certainly find a few unusual ingredients and premium aged spirits – but on the whole he looks for bottles that are flexible, affordable and have a great story behind them, so there’s plenty to talk about at the bar. All of these qualities are reflected, below, in the four spirits he recommends for a starter home bar. Scroll down to discover his selection of bottles, alongside a special menu of three cocktails to make with them.
Botanist is one gin I do enjoy because it’s quite flexible
Rémy Martin VSOP
“On its own, Rémy Martin is something excellent to enjoy after dinner,” says Khoo. “But when you use it in a cocktail it becomes about opening up the flavours of the cognac, so you can taste a little more what cognac is really about.”
The Botanist Gin
“I’m quite big on flavours,” says Khoo, so I tend to use London Dry Gins for a lot of Gin drinks. But if I were to stray away from that, the Botanist is one gin I do enjoy because it’s quite flexible, in the sense that if you make a gin and tonic, a gin and soda, a gimlet, or even a white lady, it sits somewhere around the middle in terms of flavour. It doesn’t get covered up too much by the ingredients that are added to it.”
Mount Gay Black Barrel
“This is a good rum for cocktails,” says Khoo, “somewhere in the middle between a light rum and a really dark rum, and flexible enough to create a spirit-forward cocktail or a shaken up daiquiri. It has a rounded flavour and a nice texture that is not too viscous like most darker rum.”
“Cointreau is present in a lot of classic cocktails,” says Khoo,” so it’s definitely a nice bottle to have at home. I often wonder whether to use Cointreau or Armagnac in drinks, but what Cointreau does in a cocktail like the Sidecar is to bring in brighter notes. It’s more refreshing.”
“Cointreau is present in a lot of classic cocktails, so it’s definitely a nice bottle to have at home”
One of the delights of drinking at Jigger & Pony, says Mr Khoo, is that the menu has been curated to take guests on a journey throughout an evening, offering a range of contrasting flavours to enliven the tastebuds throughout the night. When putting these drinks together, says Mr Khoo, “we came to look at sweetness level, or the body, or how we line up all the palettes.”
In the same spirit, below, he recommends three cocktails to make the most of the spirits in your starter home bar, kicking off by exploring the balanced sweetness of Mount Gay Black Barrel and finishing with the complex and mellow texture of a classic cocktail made with Rémy Martin VSOP.
Start with: The XYZ
This is a nice cocktail to have as an aperitif
“This is a nice cocktail to have as an aperitif,” says Khoo. “ It’s refreshing, dry, and there’s a slight catch of sweetness. It’s a good cocktail to start an evening off with because it’s not too heavy on the palate, and it’s not too viscous.”
50ml Mount Gay Black Barrel
50ml lemon juice
Combine all ingredients with ice in a two-piece cocktail shaker. Shake well, and strain into a glass.
45ml of Botanist Gin
50ml of Cointreau infused with Chamomile tea
50ml of lemon juice
50ml of egg white
10ml of honey syrup (a mix of 1:1 honey and water, boiled)
Pour 50ml of Cointreau into a cocktail glass and add a bag of chamomile tea. Leave to infuse for 30 seconds to a minute, then combine the Cointreau, with ice and all the other ingredients in a two-piece cocktail shaker. Shake hard, to froth the egg whites, then double strain into a cocktail class.
Finish with: The Sidecar
I particularly enjoy Sidecars where the flavours are all balanced: equal parts sweet, sour and fruity.
“I particularly enjoy Sidecars where the flavours are all balanced: equal parts sweet, sour and fruity. It’s a competitor for the XYZ, but with a bit more body. It’s great to drink mid-dinner or towards the end of the evening. It’s a bit more mellow compared to the Bumblebee – so it’s a nice drink to calm you down after the bouquet and the fireworks.”
50ml of Rémy Martin Cognac
50ml of lemon juice
50ml of Cointreau
Combine all ingredients with ice in a two-piece cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a martini glass.
THE POSSIBILITIES OF THESE SPIRITS DOESN’T STOP HERE.
In fact, with each bottle you add to this starter selection, you will open up a myriad of new cocktail options.
Deciding what to add next, and, consequently, which drinks to add to your ever-growing repertoire, is all part of the fun of home bar stewardship. Think of this as the beginning of your cocktail-making journey.
“With each bottle you add to this starter selection, you will open up a myriad of new cocktail options”