I recently was privy to an interesting conversation in a local coffee shop, where I can often be found procuring a dose of my other liquid fix. A patron asked the barista how much she would personally spend on coffee for home. This got me thinking — in today's ever-growing market of "specialty" products, how do we decide where to spend big and where to make do with less?
Ask any chef what ingredients you should cough up the cash for and they'll say, "If you want good food, start with good food." I feel that creating quality cocktails calls for the same principle. Of course, I also understand that very few of us budget for a booze fund. So how do we create cost-effective drinks at home? One avenue is fresh juice. It's far cheaper and much tastier to buy and juice fruit at home than to purchase bottled or canned juices. The same goes for syrups and sweeteners. All over the Internet are recipes for grenadines, simple syrups, orgeats, etc. Playing in the kitchen helps one to understand flavors on a deeper level and ultimately fosters "house" styles of mixers that become your signature when customizing drinks for friends and family.
Now for the tough part ... the spirits. What I do for a living certainly helps expose me to products, but this wasn't always the case. My approach to spending has always been thus: Buy inexpensive spirits that you are comfortable with for everyday consumption and basic, no-frills drinks like Vodka Tonics. Once or twice a month, spend a higher price for an interesting-looking or well-reputed label and reserve these for your serious cocktails. Always shop with a dollar amount already determined. For example, this week I'm going to buy a nice cognac for some kick-ass Sidecars and such. I have $43 and that's it. If I can't find a cognac that fits the bill, I'll pick up a bottle in the same price range that I can get some mileage out of. Usually, it will end up being a higher-end liqueur or some fancy bitters. Don't get discouraged if the bottle you set out to buy isn't the one you eventually acquire. These are the trips where your back bar grows in complexity.
Building a home bar takes time and money, but the reward is immeasurable. What's more fun than getting some friends together and using your home as a test lab for spirited experiments? Budgeting can help stock your bar faster, but so does another of my favorite techniques. Tell your friends and family to scrap the watches, jewelry and new ties. You want gifts of alcohol!
@TheGorgeousJR: "[It is] very inexpensive; we sell it at the shop. You can get it…
Where can you buy caul fat?
This looks amazing. However, I see a bell pepper on the counter, and bell pepper…
Love pork belly.
Some food just doesn't photograph well, even if it is tasty.