Let’s be brutally honest: if you’re anything like us, even before this whole coronavirus debacle started, your arsenal of home bar ingredients was probably already in dire need of an overhaul.
So what better way to refresh the liquor cabinet in your apartment — with something other than half a bottle of something labelled ‘liqueur’ — than with insight from those who craft cocktails for a living? Without further ado, here are the best bottles to keep at home — according to four industry-leading Hong Kong bartenders.
“I’m a lazy home drinker and have never owned any fancy bar tools — so whatever I make at home has to be simple yet comforting. My go-to is what I’ve dubbed the ‘Lazy Martini’: a pre-batched gin martini, that’s already diluted in-bottle using still water and then kept in the freezer. A higher proportion of alcohol stops the mixture from becoming frozen and when this martini is poured straight into a glass, the liquid has a velvety texture that’s incredibly satisfying. These days, I’m really into Colombo gin, which is crafted in the UK and inspired by Sri Lankan botanicals. It’s earthy with a hint of spice: a really great choice if you’re someone who likes their martini bone-dry.
For my ‘Lazy’ recipe: I blend 500ml of Colombo directly into a bottle with about 200ml of still water, and drop a little orange zest in at the last moment as well. Transfer this to the freezer for at least four hours and serve straight up. If you like, garnish with a cheeky pearl onion or an olive. Salute!” — Lorenzo Antinori, Beverage Manager, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
“Making drinks at home is something that I often do and enjoy a lot. Bitters is the category of ingredient that I tend to use the most since it essentially functions as the salt and pepper of the cocktail world. I think a little goes a long way: just a few dashes help to add depth and accentuate a beverage’s underlying flavours. Of all the different brands and kinds of bitters available on the market, Angostura is still called upon in more cocktails than any other. I use it in a variety of beloved classics: from stronger staples such as the Manhattan to tiki tropics-inspired drinks. If you enjoy Angostura’s rich, herbaceous characteristics then I highly recommend you use when making a Trinidad Sour. The catch? Use a whole shot — you won’t regret it.” — Shelley Tai, Bartender, Quinary
“There are numerous spirits that I’d consider indispensable to my home bar. However, right now I’m in love with Curado’s tequila — a twist on the traditional Mexican spirit in which cooked agave is infused into a pre-distilled tequila that was made using the same kind of blue agave more commonly found in premium mezcal (the brand was able to do this thanks to some regulatory loopholes). Currently, there are three expressions of Curado: Blue agave, Espadin and Cupreata. All three are enjoyable when served neat, though drinkers who prefer a spicier tequila will gravitate towards Cupreata.
You can also use any of these to make a delicious margarita at home: simply take 45ml of your preferred expression; 15ml of Cointreau; and 25ml of freshly squeezed lime juice and add all of this into a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously over ice until the shaker becomes cold then double-strain the contents into a glass rimmed with salt. Mind you, this is the exact same recipe we use at the bar.” — Jay Khan, Founder, Coa