How to Make a Home Drink’s Cabinet
Here is a wee guide to help you curate something special for you and all you share it with
What’s The Narrative?
Is every bottle a reminder of a special night you’ve had? Has every item come back from somewhere you’ve travelled to? Is it a Gin emporium? A Tiki Rum bar? A Whiskey library? Is it a collection of curios or a triumph of brand reliability?
We drink to tell stories, to celebrate, to elevate or to commiserate, your cabinet should reflect that, and you should have something to say about each offering on your bar to start those conversations flowing.
You can also get some conversational juice from our current and on trend news, direct from the industry, at The Cocktail Hub.
It’s all about options. Unless you have unlimited space and money you should not repeat yourself on your drink’s cabinet. Why have two different vodkas made from grain, both multi-filtered and made in Northern/Eastern Europe?
They may have different names and bottles, but they are almost identical – this is a repetition and is taking up space.
Have one, a good one like Absolute (Swedish) or Stolichnaya (Russian) then mix it up. Try the British milk Vodka, Black Cow or a Polish potato Vodka such as Chopin and explore the different qualities, textures, how it mixes.
On Vodka, if you want to go down the flavoured route the options are endless – Gin is in fact Juniper flavoured Vodka so include one of them for sure.
Personally, I like to be able to show the versatility of a spirit in my drink’s cabinet.
For example, Whiskey. Take a good American Bourbon, sweet, strong and rich in corn like Hudson, Sazerac, Eagle Rare or George T Stag to name a few (Few is also a good bourbon brand), then compare it with a peat heavy, deep and earthy single malt from Islay, Scotland like Talisker or Laphroaig or the smooth and delicious new comers to the whiskey party – Japanese’s Nikka 12 or Suntory – The Yamakazi. ‘Around the world in whiskey’ is a tasty and varied evening.
If you love something, celebrate it. I love Don Papa 7 year Rum from the Philippians, so I stock a bottle of both the Don Papa 7 and the more premium Don Papa 10, because the two bottles look incredible together and Don Papa 10 is about as decadent as a Rum can be and drinking one after the other is a exploration into what barrel ageing can do – sensational.
On rum, Plantation Rum is top quality, but now they’ve bought out Plantation Pineapple – it’s happiness in a bottle! Impossible to drink without giggling and the two look great together and add a real option to your cabinet.
Cater For All…
One of everything is not a bad drink’s cabinet at all, it caters for all the tastes at your party. Just because you might not like tequila, don’t ignore it. It’s scrummy, rich in heritage and fun to have. Try sipping over ice an aged Mezcal to turn around any sniffiness to the Agave plant. There is also an incredible range of non-alcoholic options to explore – Seedlip are leading the way there.
Three Top Tips:
1# When people start noticing you are putting together your own drink’s cabinet, you become super easy to buy a present for. However, they may not have noticed the care you put into each selection and you can end up with a boozy doozy.
Unwanted bottle presents live in the kitchen next to the spare cornflakes that have been out of date for 5 years, not in the drink’s cabinet. Just remember to bring it out next time the giver of the offending item comes around (or pretend you’ve drunk it all!), don’t let it dilute the quality of your bar.
2# Brilliant does not have to break the bank. Some home brand products are being produced in the same distilleries as premium brands. This is one way some distilleries can supplement their income. Look out for home-brands punching above their weight.
A great example is Hortus Gin by Lidl. I don’t know where it is made but I can tell you it scores high on a blind tasting and has won a hat full of awards and rightly so. The bottle is beautifully designed, and the taste is a classic London dry bursting with juniper – delicious. A bottle of this Lidl own gin is about £14/£15 and one sits on my bar between a gin that cost £37 – The Botanist and one that cost £76 – Berkeley Square.
I love all three and they serve different purposes.
3# Its your bar – enjoy it and do what you want
Want to know what else should be in your drinks cabinet? – go to the bar knowledge section of The Cocktail Hub for any bar accessory you could want.
A tick list you may wish to play with…
Below is a good way to start exploring. Each bullet point is a different style that creates a different product. I have just focused on four popular spirit types to get you started. No brand names named; have fun discovering.
• From Grape
• From Dairy
• From Grain
• From Potato
• Dimond Filtered
• London Dry – This does not mean it is made in London, it means flavour (juniper and the botanicals) is added at the point of distillation within the still and not after. Look out for brilliant Scottish and German Gins that are made in the London Dry style.
• Bathtub Gin or Old Tom (same thing different name, Juniper is not present at the point of distillation.)
• Gin Liquor
• Plymouth Gin or Navy Gin
• Sloe Gin
• Clear Rum
• Aged Rum (try different barrels: sherry; bourbon etc)
• Spanish Style Rum
• Spiced Rum
• Flavoured Rum
• Rhum Agricole
• Over proof Rum (less is more with this, very strong!)
• Scotch single malt
• Scotch blended
• Irish blended
If you want a recommendation for a brand name to help you get started, our list of The Top 50 British Spirits can guide you in picking your first bottle. Also, why not check out The Cocktail Hub for exceptional cocktail recipes to make from your drinks cabinet?