A glimpse at Michelle's Home Bar..don't worry if you don't have this many bitters.

Be Your Own Bartender

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Every summer I look forward to the myriad of concoctions that my local bartenders whip up to entice me inside their air-conditioned havens. Sadly, this year looks a little bit different with bars and restaurants closing left and right, and the ones that remain open for outdoor seating are limited and exposed to the elements. It has served as another rude reminder of the toll this virus has had on our industry. It has also reminded me that I have been neglecting my own bar at home as an alternative means of supporting our friends on the distillation side of the beverage world. You don't have to be an expert mixologist to have fun with a few ingredients and take pride in your own creations! 

The basics of bartending come down to the same thing that we look for in the crafting of wine or spirits: balance. In wine/spirits we look for a balance of sugar (sweetness), to alcohol (heat), to tannin (bitterness), to acid (tartness). In cocktails we look to find the same balance, which will be different for you depending on your taste. When making a cocktail that has a juice element (lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc) you want to balance the tart acidity with a sweet component like simple syrup (a mixture of sugar and water), honey, agave, or maybe even a liqueur, to highlight or complement your base spirit (bourbon, gin, tequila, etc). In a cocktail without juice, the tart component is replaced with a bitter component, and the ratio changes a bit. This includes a whole array of classic cocktails like an Old Fashioned (arguably the very first cocktail, otherwise known as the "Bittered Sling") where bitter Angostura is balancing the sweetness of a sugar cube, and softening the edges of your favorite whiskey.  

A very basic juice cocktail will have a ratio of 2 parts spirit: 1 part juice: 1 part sugar. This can be translated into hundreds of variations from a very simple Daiquiri (2 parts White Rum, 1 part lime juice, 1 part simple syrup) to something with a few extra components like a Mojito ( 2 parts white Rum, 1 part lime juice, 1 part sugar, a handful of mint, topped with club soda), and beyond. These kinds of drinks will be best shaken to allow the juice to better incorporate with the other ingredients, and adds extra dilution (read: water) from breaking down the ice. The harder and longer you shake, the more water you're adding. If you're making a Mojito, you won't need to shake as much, because the club soda adds to your dilution. If you don't yet have a shaker tin set, throw your ingredients in a mason jar, screw on the lid and shake it until it starts to condensate on the glass before straining it into a new glass over ice...or just put in a straw, because this is your bar, and you make the rules! Just be warned your drink may get pretty watery, pretty quickly this way. 

A basic "bittered sling" will have a ratio of roughly 5 parts spirit: 1 part bittering component: 1 part sweetener. Translated to a classic Old Fashioned will be ~2oz Whiskey, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters, and 1 sugar cube, muddled and stirred together over a block of ice, finished with the twist of an orange and/or lemon peel. However the ratio can vary greatly depending on the ingredients and desired effect. A classic Negroni will be equal parts bitter, sweet, and heat with 1oz Gin, 1oz Sweet Vermouth, and 1oz Apertivo. One of the key components here that is often overlooked is water (dilution). In a shaken cocktail you're adding a good amount of water by shaking, and perhaps more by topping with soda or sparkling wine. In a bitter drink, your focus is highlighting the spirit, so you want less dilution to water it down. Spirits and syrups mix together well and don't require the force of shaking to incorporate, so if there's no juice in your drink, you only need to stir your ingredients over ice. The longer you stir, and the smaller your ice cubes are to begin with, the more water you'll be adding to your drink (just something to think about when you decide how strong or mellow you want your cocktail to be).  

The idea is not to be rigid with ratios or measurements. It's all about how it tastes to you! This is just a great basis to start with if you're thinking about getting creative with your bar at home. Take a classic you love and mix it up! Split your juice portion into lemon AND grapefruit, try swapping out simple syrup for Fair Goji Liqueur, or whatever random liqueur you have lying around. Michelle DeWyngaert

Here are our staff picks for our favorite at-home libations if you're looking for a little inspiration:

  • I have always loved rum and not just because I am from Puerto Rico. I enjoy the versatility and range of the spirit. With that said one of my favorite cocktails is the mojito. A simple cocktail without all the frills. All you need is white rum (Privateer New England White Rum being the choice for me), fresh lime juice, mint leaves, sugar and a splash of soda water. Muddle the mint and sugar together in your glass; add the soda water pour the rum over. You can garnish the cocktail with a sprig of mint and a wedge of lemon if you like. Enjoy! Nelson Dejesus
    • 1.5 oz White Rum
    • 1oz fresh lime juice (trust us, you can taste if it's fresh!)
    • 2 tsp simple syrup (mix equal parts sugar and water, heat to dissolve, or just use a spoonful or two of granulated sugar)
    • 6 mint leaves (a handful)
    • splash of club soda

 

  • Instead of adding orange juice to sparkling wine during a late morning/early afternoon meal with friends, I prefer to mix something more interesting into bubbles. Some call it a "Bitter Morning," and it is very simple: amaro and prosecco. The Forthave Marseilles Amaro has the perfect combo of bitter and subtly sweet flavors, and when added to the organic Il Fortunato Prosecco, the result is a stunningly refreshing, yet complex, glass. One of the best features of this drink is that you can stir in the Forthave to your taste. A larger pour making it darker and richer, with more of a bite, or just a dash to provide some nuance and character. David Hatzopoulos
    • Splash (or two or three) of Amaro
    • Top with Prosecco
    • Enjoy!

 

  • The French-75 dates back to WWI, supposedly named after the 75mm Howitzer gun used by the French in the war, and apparently has a similar kick to it. This refreshing, effervescent cocktail is best with crisp, racy Champagne like the Ponson NV Extra Brut, and a grape based gin like G'Vine seems to be a perfect match. If you're feeling ambitious, take out the shaker tin to combine the gin with fresh lemon juice and simple syrup, or just pour into the bottom of your flute, then top with Champagne or French sparkling wine of choice (it is a French 75 after all).  John McIlwain
    • 1oz Gin
    • .5oz fresh lemon juice
    • .5oz simple syrup
    • Shake together with ice
    • Strain into a flute
    • Top with Champagne
    • Garnish with a lemon twist

 

  • The Martini is a very personal drink. When I worked as a bartender, the orders always came with a slew of instructions. Over time my own preference for Martinis has evolved from once declaring it should be "as dirty as possible; filthy!", (meaning I was really just drinking Vodka-laced pickle juice) to now preferring something of a Vesper variation, and always with a proper amount of Vermouth. I really love making this with Forthave Blue Gin because the lavender and pine notes play so well with abundantly floral slightly bitter La Quintinye Vermouth (Extra Dry or Blanc if you want to invoke the spirit of the original Lillet). Despite what James Bond is famous for declaring, there is no need to shake this cocktail unless you enjoy little shards of ice in your glass. Michelle DeWyngaert 
    • 2 oz Gin
    • 1 oz Dry or Blanc Vermouth or Aromatized Wine of choice
    • Stir over ice
    • Strain into a chilled coupe (or wine glass, or mason jar, or sippy cup, you do you.) 
    • Garnish with a lemon twist 

 

  • I struggle these days with full-octane cocktails, particularly at home, as their consumption means I will have to drink less wine. A Bamboo satisfies not only my need for a Martini, but my love for a glass of good crisp Fino sherry, in this case the Bodegas Grant "Garrocha" Fino is perfect with the Dolin Dry Vermouth de Chambery. Sam Ehrlich
    • 1.5 oz Fino Sherry
    • 1.5 oz Dry Vermouth
    • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
    • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
    • Stir over ice
    • Strain and serve up in a cold cocktail glass
    • Garnish with lemon peel.

 

  • I'm not much of a cocktail drinker at home, but I like to keep some gin in the freezer during the summer in order to make myself a refreshing Tom Collins every now and then. It's very easy to make, only really has a single (alcoholic) ingredient, and I find it invigorating and refreshing. As a tall drink topped with seltzer, you can easily make it as potent or as low-alcohol as you like. Ben Fletcher
    • 1.5 oz Gin (the classic choice is an Old Tom Gin, like Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin, but I also love to use Mahon Spanish Gin or Forthave Spirits Blue Gin)
    • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
    • .5 oz simple syrup or honey
    • topped with seltzer water

 

    Eben told me that his favorite home cocktail is a simple 50:50 mix of two ingredients that are awesome on their own, but even more interesting together: Sonoma Distilling Rye Whiskey and Varnelli Amaro Sibilla. This blend channels the classic appeal of a traditional Rye Manhattan but incorporates the complexity of Amaro Sibilla, which is less sweet and more spicy and herbal than sweet vermouth. He likes to serve it with a single large ice cube. The recipe reminded me of a Black Manhattan, but I definitely prefer Amaro Sibilla to Averna!
    • 1.5oz Rye Whiskey
    • 1.5 oz Varnelli Amaro Sibilla

 

  • I like to make a negroni with Mezcal. It is important to choose a good, interesting Mezcal, but you don’t want to go overboard and overpower something really special with the other ingredients. I like Derrumbes Selmiana San Luis Potosi or Mezcal Tosba Espadin Oaxaca. The Forthave Red is a great replacement for Campari, and the Casa Mariol Vermut Negre is a very solid sweet vermouth. Garnish with a twist of orange.  Derek Van Wormer
    • 1oz Mezcal
    • 1 oz Forthave Red
    • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth

 

  • Sometimes the best thing to do is to just keep it simple. When asked for his favorite at-come cocktail, Jamie replied that he enjoys a Scotch on the rocks (a favorite of my mother's as well); we recommend the Bank Note 5 Year Blended Scotch for just such occasions.
    • X oz Scotch (because there are no rules here)
    • ice (as much as you see fit)

 

**Please be advised that Spirits can only be shipped within NYS**

Privateer 1L New England Rum White

Privateer is a New England based rum distillery dedicated to using the highest quality molasses, the best techniques, and never filtering or using additives or coloring. The white rum starts with 100% Grade A Guatemalan molasses from a single source: the Madre Tierra Sugar Farm. Madre Tierra is a member of Sugar for Good, an organization committed to the best environmental practices and standards for sugarcane workers. The mash is fermented at a lower temperature than is typical for rum in order to coax out the most vibrant flavors. The fermented molasses base is distilled twice and then transferred to steel tanks where it is slowly proofed and settled for two months. Finally it is bottled at 80 proof as a clean, incredibly aromatic, tropical, white rum. Michelle DeWyngaert

  • rum
  • 7 in stock
  • no discount
  • $32.99

Forthave Spirits Blue Gin 43%

A fuller-bodied style of American gin, the Forthave Blue Gin is creamy and viscous on the palate, with notes of citrus rind, juniper, aniseed, allspice, mint, pine, lavender, and a long, savory finish. A perfect choice for classic gin cocktails like a Negroni or Aviation, it also plays beautifully in a straightforward Martini. Make this your choice for an autumnal local gin! Oskar Kostecki

  • gin
  • 8 in stock
  • no discount
  • $37.99

La Quintinye Vermouth Extra Dry .375

A delicious vermouth with a base of select white wines from the Southwestern France, Pineau des Charentes Blanc, and 27 different botanicals. A beautiful golden color, it is heady, floral, and intensely aromatic with underlying currents of licorice and anise. It is incredibly dry, but maintains a balance on the palate and it is here that its Pineau des Charentes roots show. This is perfect for sipping or in a more adventurous Martini.  Tim Gagnon

  • vermouth
  • 4 in stock
  • $17.99

  • vermouth
  • 2 in stock
  • no discount
  • $17.99

G'Vine 'Floraison' Gin 750ml

G'Vine is an unusual gin from the French distillery Maison Villevert. The distillate is based from grapes instead of grains as is more traditional, and the grape blossoms are vapor distilled through the neutral grape spirit. The grape base gives this gin a silkier, more viscous texture, and allows the Ugni Blanc blossom and juniper to shine. The aromas are distinctly floral and vinous which make it perfect for combining with Quintyne Blanc or other aromatized wines in a Vesper or a refreshing Martini! Michelle DeWyngaert

  • gin
  • 2 in stock
  • no discount
  • $47.99

Ponson NV (2014) Champagne Extra Brut La Petite Montagne 1er cru

In a region beset by indifferent farming and difficult weather, there's a lot of inspiration to be had as a new generation of Champenois take over their family domaines. Maxime Ponson is a prime example of a young grower recognizing the need to improve the farming and embrace organic viticulture as a moral imperative (not to mention make better wines). La Petite Montagne 1er is sourced from vineyards spread across seven communes on the eponymous Petite Montagne located to the east and southeast of Reims. The current release is 40% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay and 25% percent Pinot Noir. The nose is fresh and expressive, with aromas of white flowers, stone fruit, and brioche. The palate is chiseled and stony with racy lemon zest and green apple flavors and a vibrant, mouthwatering finish. A great apéritif wine, and a fine choice for sashimi, oysters, or crudo. John McIlwain

  • white sparkling
  • 15 in stock
  • no discount
  • $42.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Forthave Spirits Amaro Marseille 375ml

The Forthave Marseille Amaro is truly unique affair. Based on a medieval recipe of four thieves who, as the story goes, traded their secret concoction for clemency. It is at once soft and assertive. Eucalyptus, mint, cinnamon, dried lemon peel, dried tea leaves, and honey dominate the nose, while the palate further reveals star anise, lemon extract, a touch of vanilla, and cloves. Marseille uses raw honey as a sweetener, and similar to something like Amaro dell'Erborista by Varnelli, it gives it a wonderful, soft and lush texture. Perfect as an after dinner digestif. Oskar Kostecki

  • bitter
  • 12 in stock
  • no discount
  • $27.99

Il Fortunato 2018 Prosecco (Organic, low SO2)

This is a rare item: Clean, crisp dry Prosecco, made from organic fruit, indigenous yeasts, very low SO2. This is a wine that will please everyone – your inner wine geek, and your (here please fill in the blank for your friend or relative who pays no attention to the details but will guzzle it down and ask for more). An amazing value! Jamie Wolff

  • white sparkling
  • 25 in stock
  • no discount
  • $13.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Dolin Vermouth de Chambery Dry 375ml

Perhaps the benchmark for dry french Vermouth. Both complex and subtle, with floral and herbal flavors derived from the 54 or so secret ingredients. The first Vermouth I reach for when making a Martini, and an excellent drink on ice. JR

  • vermouth
  • 14 in stock
  • no discount
  • $9.99

  • white flor fortified
  • 11 in stock
  • $15.99

Bank Note 5 Year Blended Scotch Whisky 1 Liter

A well balanced blend of malt and grain whiskies with 40% from the Speyside and Highlands regions, and 60% grain whisky from the Lowlands. The mix is aged for five years in older oak casks and bottled at 43%ABV. Bank Note is a great introduction to the A.D. Rattray line of whiskies, which has been around since 1858. This classic blended Scotch is best enjoyed on rocks, and works very well mixed into cocktails.

  • scotch blended whisky
  • 9 in stock
  • no discount
  • $27.99

  • fruit liqueur
  • 15 in stock
  • $19.99

Mahon Spanish Gin 1 Liter

Xoriguer gin hails from Mahon on the island of Menorca in Spain and one of only three gins (along with Plymouth Gin and London Dry Gin) to have a geographic designation. Gin has a rich history on Menorca dating back to British occupation during the 18th century and is still made with the same traditional methods. This gin is made in wood-fired pot stills from a base spirit of grape distillate (as opposed to the more common grain-based distillate) and is rested in American oak barrels before bottling. This process gives this spirit decidedly fruity and floral aromatics as well as a softer, citrusy palate. For lovers of gin and tonics, try this for your next experiment! Tim Gagnon

  • gin
  • 12 in stock
  • no discount
  • $42.99

Forthave Spirits Aperitivo 375ml

 The Forthave Red Aperitivo is a base of sugar cane distillate infused with 13 botanicals, and contains no artificial coloring.It has a beautiful deep ruby hue, and explodes on the nose with notes of orange, plums, chamomile, rose, grapefruit rind, cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron. The palate is viscous with a pleasant bitterness and balanced sweetness. Enjoy on the rocks with a dash of soda water, or in your favorite classic coktails. Makes a delicious Negroni. Oskar Kostecki

  • aperitif
  • 4 in stock
  • no discount
  • $17.99

Forthave Spirits Red Aperitivo 24%

The Forthave Red Aperitivo is a base of sugar cane distillate infused with 13 botanicals, and contains no artificial coloring.It has a beautiful deep ruby hue, and explodes on the nose with notes of orange, plums, chamomile, rose, grapefruit rind, cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron. The palate is viscous with a pleasant bitterness and balanced sweetness. Enjoy on the rocks with a dash of soda water, or in your favorite classic coktails. Makes a delicious Negroni. Oskar Kostecki

  • aperitif
  • 9 in stock
  • no discount
  • $34.99

Sonoma Distilling Co. Rye Whiskey

The mashbill is 80% California Rye, and 20% Malted Rye from the UK, which are double-pot distilled in the Sonoma Distilling Co. facility in the Bay Area. This operation  began as a way to highlight the incredible grains of California and the time-honored tradition of making Rye in the US. The Sonoma Rye displays notes of spicy white pepper and stonefruits, but that small percentage of malted Rye really presents itself on the palate with a richer, toastier profile than  many domestic Ryes.

  • rye whiskey
  • 9 in stock
  • no discount
  • $44.99

Mezcal Tosba Espadin Oaxaca

The plots for Tosba's Espadin are scattered throughout the valley, ranging in altitude from 1100m close to the village of Lachiroig to about 600m around the palenque. The growing conditions and maturation times vary greatly. Lower down the mountain, due to the more tropical conditions,the Espadin can mature in as little as 6-7 years, while  the plots at higher elevations take up to 11 years. At the moment Edgar is co-fermenting and co-distilling plants taken from all the different parcels, but on my visit we talked about the future possibility of separating the Espadin according to terroir. Though currently we are in love with this new release. Higher proof than the earlier batches, it still retains its hallmark vivacity and acidity. The nose is all crushed rock and tropical fruit (banana!), with a faint whiff of aged Parmesan.  The palate shows notes of guava and watermelon bubblegum, with a floral element reminiscent of hibiscus. There is a hint of thyme and cardamom, along with a smoky, charcoal note. Viva Mezcal Tosba, this is sensational Espadin! Oskar Kostecki

  • mezcal
  • 11 in stock
  • no discount
  • $49.99

Derrumbes Selmiana San Luis Potosi 44.16%

Produced from the wild agave Selmiana in the high altitude Central Mexican Plateau in the state of San Luis Potosi, this is a beautiful foil to traditional Oaxacan mezcal. The agave is not roasted, but cooked (similar to Tequila) resulting in a spirit that is not smokey, but instead bursts on the palate with a crazy array of flavors. Herbal and mineral tones weave their way through a bright citrus and  floral character. There's a slight sourness, a funk that I associate with cheese rind, and noticeable acidity, which is quite shocking for a distillate. The wilder side of mezcal. What I also notice with my bottle of Selmiana is that it changes quite remarkably once open. When I first popped the cork, it felt slightly muted and withdrawn, but within 20 minutes all the exuberance I remembered from previous bottles was there again. It is fascinating watching the bottle change and evolve over a period of weeks. Oskar Kostecki

  • mezcal
  • 4 in stock
  • no discount
  • $39.99

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Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin 750ml

Todd Hardie began his career in beekeeping almost 50 years ago in Hardwick, Vermont, in the heart of the Northeast Kingdom. This part of the state is an agricultural hotbed focused on honey, milk, cheese, grains, and herbs with a strong focus on community and respect for the earth. With family distilling roots going back to the 1800s (John and William Hardie of Edinburgh started distilling whiskey in 1857, and the company still produces whiskey today), it’s no wonder that the current generation of Hardies began crafting artisanal spirits in this corner of the world. The Barr Hill Gin contains one notable ingredient that truly sets this spirit apart: raw honey. The raw honey is added just before bottling giving it a uniquely wild, floral nose that changes with each batch as the season dictates where the bees collect their pollen and propolis. It is a touch sweet and the juniper is well-integrated which makes this a unique crossover spirit for those unfamiliar with gin and a new frontier for those already initiated. Tim Gagnon

  • Out of Stock
  • gin
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $42.99

Varnelli Amaro "Sibilla" 1 Liter

Named after the impressive mountain range in the Southwestern corner of the Marche, this spirit is a must-try for Amaro fans. The flavor profile definitely leans toward the drier, more herbaceous end of the spectrum and will seem quite bitter if you are used to Averna or Montenegro. The botanicals are wood smoked before maceration which adds a degree of complexity seldom found in Amari. Mountain honey is used sparingly to balance the bitter flavors. I have found Sibillia to be a delicious digestive, but also quite delightful at the shore when mixed with tonic and an orange rind. JR

  • Out of Stock
  • herb liqueur
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $52.99

Casa Mariol NV Vermouth Negre

I love Vermut Negre, and I have for years. It's the sort of sweet red vermouth that I can move through with ease when it's in the fridge at home, even in it's signature liter format. It can fulfill the traditional sweet vermouth role in basically any cocktail that calls for it, but I love it most in simpler forms that highlight its own flavors. The bottle itself suggests the most classic way to drink it, associated with the Vermouth bars of Barcelona: on the rocks, topped with seltzer water, and garnished with an orange and an olive. It also makes a great Negroni! Ben Fletcher

  • Out of Stock
  • vermouth
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $23.99