Liquor Laboratory
January 29, 2016 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Hosting a cocktail party: help with setting up a mini-bar!

I'm having "the girls" over for an evening of cocktails. I have the supplies like the shaker, muddler, etc. but for the actual drinks we'll be making, I'd like to make the most out of my measly $100 in Canadian drinking funds.

Liquor me thisssssss, mefites! What should I be buying for my party?

This is what I've got so far:

1. lemons
3. limes
4. soda water
5. simple syrup (will be making from scratch)
6. mint
7. rum
8. gin

Can you help me flesh out the rest of my bar for some good drinks to look forward to?
posted by Dressed to Kill to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You're set up for Mojitos, that's a good start.

Do a good tonic for G&Ts.

Sloe Gin ought to be inexpensive and a novelty. You can do a Sloe Gin Fizz.

Coke and lime mixed with rum is a Cuba Libre.

I feel the soft tropical breezes already!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:35 AM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

My favorite for a cocktail party is a Tequonic: 1/3 tequila, 1/3 Rose's Lime Juice, 1/3 tonic water. A little taste of summer any time of year. Have fun!
posted by narancia at 9:46 AM on January 29, 2016

I would add oranges to the fruit selection and maraschino cherries. Olives and olive juice as well, if you're into savory drinks. I would absolutely get sweet or dry vermouth, either the cheaper kind, or a Carpano Antica if you're feeling fancy, Oh and bourbon, definitely some rye bourbon, as well as a bottle of bitters, such as angostura or orange.

One of the most classic and easiest drinks to make is an Old Fashioned. I can write out how to make it but i'm sure google can be of help. In the same spirit, and same ingredients almost as the old fashioned (minus orange, plus vermouth) you can make Manhattans.

With the gin I'd definitely go for Negronis, or a classic dirty martini. Gin and tonics with a dash of bitters and a squeeze of lime juice in them are absolutely amazing too. So maybe get some tonic water.

I don't see vodka in the list; I'm not crazy for it but it is very versatile and you can make from Cosmos to french martinis.

I'm assuming the mint and rum mean you are going to make mojitos. Unless they are absolutely your favorite drink, I would actually not get either the rum or the mint. Unless it's dark rum which is delicious, bacardi types suck and these two ingredients will only serve you for one type of drink. Lose the rum, get the bourbon.

Also, the soda you have can only be used in the mojito, you can't really combine it with the gin or bourbon if you go for it, so I'd say lose that too, it's a rather boring mixer. If you tell me what kind of cocktails of spirits you like, i can help more.
posted by ariadne_88 at 9:49 AM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Are you aiming for specific drinks?
Otherwise, just add vodka, tonic, and some juices (cranberry, orange, lime, pom) to your list and everybody should be able to concoct something to their liking!
posted by mdrew at 9:50 AM on January 29, 2016

Hello! Won't threadsit but yes: looking for specific drinks for sure! And yes, mojitos are my favorite (big grin) so they stay, although I'll be picking up some raspberries to muddle in with them.

We're all fancy ladies (not really) and I think most of us would prefer sweet to savory.

Basically looking to get the most variety out of my teeny tiny Canadian buck.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 9:54 AM on January 29, 2016

In that case, with the clear rum, limes and simple and splash of soda you can also make caipirinhas in addition to the mojitos.

In my opinion, the gin doesn't make too many sweet cocktails. Maybe substitute vodka; they're essentially the same spirit, but the gin has juniper berries in it and other spices/herbs, it's not as versatile as vodka.
posted by ariadne_88 at 10:00 AM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd add Vodka, cranberry juice, a poms pomegranate juice, pomegranate seeds, cucumber, basil. For fun (and only a few bucks) pick up a few other things at the market and see if someone wants to get creative- i.e. star fruit, fresh ginger root, kiwis, passion fruit, dandelion greens.
posted by ReluctantViking at 10:46 AM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not quite a cocktail, but prosecco or cava + those raspberries is sweet, beautiful, and celebratory. If you want a bit of a savory twist, you can soak a sugar cube in bitters and add that to a flute of prosecco. There are other prosecco cocktails that lean more towards cocktail than brunch mimosas with gin or cassis or pomegranate as well.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:51 AM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Daiquiris would be good. And agreed that you should mostly keep it simple - choose a few citrusy drinks, and maybe a couple fruity drinks, and if someone really doesn't like mojitos/daquiris/g&ts, let them google their own drinks. If I had to buy one other ingredient it'd be something like a cheap cava or a vermouth (with that you could make martinis with lemon twists and a lot of other mixed drinks).

But you might add some frozen raspberries or strawberries for the ones who want something fruitier, and some tonic, and call it a day - there's plenty of fun to be had here!
posted by ldthomps at 11:11 AM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Dark & Stormy drinks are great, especially if you like rum. The ingredients are (dark) rum, ginger beer, and lime. If you get vodka, you can also make Moscow Mules with the ginger beer and lime juice.

If you do get vodka, I would add cranberry juice to the list. Obviously you can make a Cape Cod then, but if you also grab one of those mini bottles of Cointreau, you can use the vodka and cranberry juice to make a couple Cosmos, too.

Definitely get burbon, because it's popular and you can use it to make mint juleps with the mint you'll already have for the mohitos. If you have vermouth and angastora bitters, you can also use it to make Manhattans.

If you've got gin, vodka, and vermouth, you're able to make martinis. I'd add a bottle of tonic, too, so you can make vodka tonics and G+Ts.

Champagne is really versatile, and it goes well in sweet drinks. Plus, it's good to have some drinks that aren't hard liquor but are still a lot of fun. They're also really easy to mix, so you won't have to spend too much of your time bartending.

French 75 = gin + simple syrup + lemon juice + champagne
Bellini = peach (schnapps or liqueur) + champagne
Kir Royal = creme de cassis + champagne
Champagne Americana = burbon + sugar + angastora bitters + champagne

You can garnish all the champagne drinks with lemon twists and/or your raspberries.

The liquors I would get: dark/light rum, vodka, gin, burbon.
The alcoholic mixers I would get: angastora bitters, vermouth, peach schnapps, creme de cassis, Cointreau (or maybe Chambord instead, since you're getting raspberries), champagne.
The non-alcoholic mixers I would get: tonic, ginger beer, cranberry juice, lemon & lime (juice & whole), mint.
posted by rue72 at 11:28 AM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Awesome! Thank ah-youuuuu!

Any suggestions for sour-ish drinks?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:43 AM on January 29, 2016

My special occasion drink is a Sazerac, a NOLA classic with a long history. Takes rye whiskey, absinthe, Peychaud's bitters. You can sub in something less expensive for the absinthe -- it just calls for a swirl in the glass.
Just saw your 'sour' comment, and this isn't that. It's sweet, refined, and Southern.
The drink was one in a trend of tweaks to the whiskey cocktail around the Civil War era. After a while some people tired of all the new drinks, and longed for the original. So they ordered an old fashioned whiskey cocktail, which in time became the Old Fashioned.
posted by LonnieK at 11:52 AM on January 29, 2016

Sour mix is basically just sugar, lemon juice, and lime juice. It's very easy to make yourself a batch if you want. Then it's easy to mix up things like whiskey sours (with your burbon). If you also have tequila, and if you get Cointreau for Cosmos, you can make Margaritas, too.

If you want to make Sazeracs, but don't want to get Absinthe, you can use Herbsaint instead. If you want a liquorice kind of taste for washes and things but you don't want to get either Herbsaint or Absinthe, you can get Pernod. There's a drink called Death in the Afternoon that is Pernod + champagne, too.

Personally, unless you know that someone in your party likes that liquorice taste, I wouldn't bother getting Herbsaint, Absinthe or Pernod, though. Your budget is limited and it's not an especially popular flavor. If you're only going to get one of the three, I'd get Pernod, because I think it's more versatile, but YMMV.
posted by rue72 at 12:05 PM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Agree with rue72. Sazerac is special for me, but you have a group to consider.
posted by LonnieK at 12:15 PM on January 29, 2016

Are you at the mercy of the LCBO, or are you in a different province with different liquor rules? 'Cause the selection of, well, almost anything at the LCBO is frightening, but ISTR that vermouth was a particular problem.

Cocktails consume a lot of citrus and I've found often that when people say "I've got limes" they mean they have, like, two limes. That wouldn't really make more than four Margaritas or Daiquiris (assuming ½ to ¾ oz per drink and a yield of ¾ to 1 oz per lime). When we throw a party we try to have twice as many limes as guests. Lemons have a higher yield so you don't need twice as many, but you need more than, well, two.

You're going to get the best mileage out of your $100 if you come up with a short list of cocktails you're going to put on recipe cards (because people are suggestible) and then buy just the ingredients for those. Also I love Cointreau but it's going to blow like half of your budget so I'd think pretty hard about what I want to spend my money on before popping for the bottle.

I'd suggest: a bottle of decent vodka (not super premium like Belvedere or Ketel One or whatever, but not whatever your local equivalent of Ambassador or Velicoff is either: we have Smirnoff for this purpose on our bar), a bottle of decent, inexpensive bourbon (say, Evan Williams or Buffalo Trace), a bottle of Angostura bitters, then ginger ale and tonic water, plus whatever fruit brings you up to quantity. I'm afraid any orange liqueur worth buying might blow your budget, so I'd only think about that after getting everything else. That said, if you can find Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao it might be more reasonably priced than Cointreau. Personally I wouldn't buy cheap triple-sec (I find the flavor … industrial) but if you really want to be able to serve Cosmopolitans it's your choice. If you want something that says "ooo, fancy cocktails" but is still easy to use, St. Germain could fit that purpose — it's known as "bartenders' ketchup" for a reason. It tastes good with champagne, it tastes good with grapefruit, it's a bit sweet so it's easy to mix with, and it's pleasant without being overpowering in nearly every cocktail. But I'm not sure it's any better for your budget than Cointreau is.

Drink ideas: Vodka and soda with cranberry or lime is a big no-brainer for people who don't want sweet things or who don't like gin, so you could get a bottle of cranberry juice, or you could just rely on lime for that (also: with cranberry and orange liqueur you could make Cosmopolitans). If you make honey syrup while you're making your simple syrup you can suggest a Bee's Knees (gin, lemon, honey syrup) and that will be new and interesting to most people who like sweet drinks but who are afraid of gin for whatever reason. Going back to the grapefruit I mentioned in association with St. Germain, if you had grapefruit you could make Greyhounds, and you could also play around in the bourbon + grapefruit world (which is surprisingly delicious).

Also: are your friends big cocktail drinkers, and especially whiskey drinkers? Personally I'm a huge fan of boozy, brown-and-stirred drinks like Old Fashioneds (the Sazerac is basically a fancy Old Fashioned) but I'm not sure I'd start a party with them unless I knew my guests drank that sort of thing regularly. Sometimes "the girls" are whiskey drinkers (my wife is, and a bunch of our friends are, but a bunch of our friends are, um, bartenders) but sometimes "the girls" just want, well, pink drinks (and I say that with love; one of our bartender friends often drinks vodka and soda with cran). So, know your crowd, and don't feel like you need to push whiskey on them if that's not what they actually want.

One last thing: don't forget ice. However much ice you think you need, buy another bag or two. Ice goes fast.
posted by fedward at 1:06 PM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh: I wouldn't make sour mix in advance. Juice the citrus if you want (many bartenders say it improves a bit if it rests a couple hours), but I'd let people add their own sweetener à la minute.
posted by fedward at 1:10 PM on January 29, 2016

The drink suggestions here are mostly pretty good in the abstract, but given the limited budget, you have to follow fedward's approach. Just two to three bottles of drinkable liquor will take up much of your budget. I'd pick three cocktails and just get the ingredients for those.

And seconding daiquiris. Note that will this term in the popular imagination is often associated with frozen monstrosities served at TGI Fridays, a proper daiquiri is nothing of the sort. It's just rum, lime, and simple syrup (plenty of sites will offer you different advice on the proportions). It's incredibly simple and incredibly delicious. And since there's only one liquor in it, it's going to be cheaper to make than many other drinks.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 4:06 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maybe make a punch for the biggest bang for your buck and then you would be able to splurge on a select number of cocktails. Check out Victoria Walsh's Canadian Cocktails (just came out) from your public library for some ideas. Get the maple syrup out of your cupboard and into a glass (and bacon garnish) a la the Drake, and make cocktails out of (fresh) snow. For whiskey drinkers do the mini campfire trick from BarChef. And offer Caesars/Bloody Marys, just because.
posted by saucysault at 5:18 AM on January 30, 2016

Okay OP here. This is what I've got (from the LCBO - boooooo!) because I'm cheap. I couldn't go with the preferred brands of things. I really am trying to keep it under $100, so if you're interested in how this would work out in Ontario...

Triple Sec liqueur 375 mil
Tanqueray london dry gin 375 mil
LOL Jim Beam Bourbon 750 mil
Bacardi light rum 375 mil
Dr. McGillicuddy's intesnse peach liqueur 375 mil (came with a 50 ml bottle of Fireball lol!)
Absolut Vodka 200 ml
That came to $90.00

Mixing I picked up
2 L Tonic, 2 L Club Soda (on sale 2 for $3.00)
a 2 L bottle of pomegranate (ocean spray, but what are you gonna do?) $2.50

So here is where I'm going to go over budget
I'm going to pick up limes (I have lemons), an orange, a CAN of OJ and a CAN of cran (to mix if ppl want it, on the spot). Coca cola, mint, ice and ginger ale

And I'll make a ton of simple syrup, and make sour mix on the spot.

Anyone want an update of the hangovers?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:44 AM on January 30, 2016

That sounds great! Since you aren't trying to wow them with crazy expensive/rare stuff (which should be presented simply) go for presenting things over the top (this is where the campfire trick is great when your whiskey is Crown Royal). Any unusual drink containers? Neat garnishes? Witty coasters? Have an awesome party!
posted by saucysault at 8:09 AM on January 30, 2016

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