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4 Bottles for a novice


Ufamizm
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I'm working on a project for teaching the average novice how to make drinks at home. The key is that everyone must start with the same four bottles. Things like fresh juice and simple syrups will be incorporated from the start. So my question to the community is: if you had only 4 (store bought) items to get a diverse group of people started in craft cocktails at home, what would they be?

I'm thinking:

Gin

Rye

Angostura

Vermouth of some variety or cointreau

Keep in mind this is not a poll of what *we* want as our 4 favorite ingredients as much as what will appeal to a wide audience and be versatile to get them interested in craft cocktails(and still maintain a proper reverence for the history and quality we all expect).

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The usual recommendation given to novices around here is to choose a drink you want to make and buy the necessary bottles, then choose the next drink you want to make and buy those bottles, and so on. That's how I'd approach a project like this: what drinks are you hoping to teach these novices to make? That should determine which bottles you buy.

What are you expecting to make with the four bottles you listed? If you have gin, rye, orange bitters and dry vermouth, you could make Martinis, but not Manhattans. So will the rye be used only for whiskey sours? With gin, rye, Angostura bitters and sweet vermouth, you could make Manhattans but not Martinis. So will the gin be relegated to gin and tonics?

Four is a really small number if you want any diversity in your drinks; usually, ten or twelve bottles seem to be a good place to start. And personally, I maintain that bitters bottles are so much smaller than liquor bottles that they shouldn't count anyway.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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As a novice and late-bloomer to the world of cocktails, I agree with Chris and Matt. Four bottles is going to be tough. I went into it thinking I was just going to get a few bottles to play around with. A few short months later, my cabinet is running out of room and I still have a fairly long list of wants. A list that grows as fast as it shrinks because I keep coming across drinks I want to try that include something I don't have or the LCBO brings something in that wasn't previously available. Maybe you could break your project into segments. Gin and three other bottles to spend some time exploring gin based cocktails. Ok, we've spent x amount of time with gin, now everybody add a bottle of rye if you want to keep playing along. Ok, now let's all get a bottle of (whatever you want to explore next). That way you could keep the initial investment low, focus on a particular spirit and, as you add to the list, you can begin to incorporate multi-spirit drinks into the project. I think that would keep people's interest much longer than a strict four bottles would.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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The reason for only four bottles is to not overwhelm anyone with too many products initially. I am quite familiar with the "start with a drink you like" concept but this needs to appeal to a wider audience. Also, they won't be limited to four bottles for long. The idea is every week or so, a new bottle will be introduced, expanding their bar, knowledge and repertoire.

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I would swap out the rye for rum and maybe the bitters for another spirit, perhaps a tequila or vodka. That would immediately quadruple the number of cocktails you could make and both rum and tequila have a wide audience.

Can you eat that?

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I think it makes sense to do Gin, Rye/Whiskey, Sweet and Dry Vermouth. From the top of my head that gives you about 50 classic cocktails to start with. As stated in a previous post, I'd consider bitters just another ingredient like your juices and it shouldn't count in the bottles that are needed.

From there you can add two bottles per class, maybe themed like Rum for Tiki drinks which are making a big comeback or tequila for margaritas.


I have simple tastes. I am always satisfied with the best - Oscar Wilde

The Easy Bohemian

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With only 4 ingredients, there are only 16 possible combinations, one of which is the ultimate skinny-girl cocktail, a glass of air, and four of which use the unlikely combo of gin and whiskey. Even using ingredients from the pantry, that's pretty limiting.

Maybe start with a family of drinks and get bottles to explore that? Say Cognac, Tequila, Rum, and Cointreau? Add lemon and lime and you have a bunch of sours. Add sugar and Angostura and you have some old fashions. Add seltzer and mint for a Mojito. Add tonic for a rum-and-tonic.

Just a thought.

Kindred Cocktails | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

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With only 4 ingredients, there are only 16 possible combinations, one of which is the ultimate skinny-girl cocktail, a glass of air, and four of which use the unlikely combo of gin and whiskey. Even using ingredients from the pantry, that's pretty limiting.

That doesn't sound right. With the inclusion of fruit juices and simple syrups...

Orange juice, grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, lemon juice and lime juice.

Simple, grenadine and let's say a 2:1 demerara syrup, you're talking about way more combos with gin, whiskey and the two vermouths.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I don't think I would count the angostura as a "bottle" Really, I think they should all be spirits of some sort. Or, maybe, spirits and a fortified wine like the vermouth.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Though it may sound ludicrous to those of us already sold on the whole cocktail thing, I would actually vote that bitters should actually count as a bottle for this purpose. What it sounds like is that the OP is seeking to write a series that lowers as many barriers as possible for folks who want to try out the whole cocktail thing but are intimidated by the kit involved, the cost of inventory, the work in making the infusions, syrups, bitters, or liqueurs so often called for in innovative recipes these days. A complete novice isn't necessarily going to look at the cost of a bottle of bitters and say to themselves "ok this is $6 and will make about 100 or more cocktails". They are going to look at it as something else to buy.

My advice would actually be to go with the common suggestion of expanding inventory gradually by learning new cocktails, and structuring your course that way. You can then essentially walk someone through the building of a liquor cabinet and repertoire of drinks while limiting their weekly cost or whatever.

For example, you could start sort of like this, doing one drink a week and limiting the amount per month spent on new bottles, assuming that depleted bottles will be replaced in course.

Week 1: 100% Agave Tequila, grapefruit soda ==>Paloma

Week 2: Cointreau ==> Margarita

Week 3: Rye, bitters ==> Old Fashioned

Week 4: Sweet vermouth ==> Oriental, Manhattan

Week 5: Dry gin, Orange bitters ==> Hearst

Week 6: Dry vermouth ==> Martini

Week 7: Simple Syrup, soda ==> Tom Collins, Whiskey sour

Week 8: Maraschino ==> Aviation

etc.

So you could mix up the order of something like this to control costs over a time increment. This specific example may not be excellent since 100% agave and Cointreau in the first two weeks is going to handicap you in terms of cost up front, which could scare some folks. Maybe better to start with a Tom Collins and build from there, but hopefully the point comes across. You could also occasionally give folks a break from buying spirits and in some weeks teach the manufacture of syrups or incorporate another n/a ingredient.

The more I think about this method the more I like it. Heck I may take a stab at it myself.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I'd think about the gateway factor in the choices. Sacrilege maybe, I'd consider bourbon instead of rye because I think it's more approachable. It also opens up the sipping factor - not only another drink option but to start learning about tasting for balance. And starting with sours isn't a bad idea.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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I'd think about the gateway factor in the choices. Sacrilege maybe, I'd consider bourbon instead of rye because I think it's more approachable. It also opens up the sipping factor - not only another drink option but to start learning about tasting for balance. And starting with sours isn't a bad idea.

Yeah, putting more than 5 minutes of thought into it could definitely yield a superior 'lesson plan', I was just trying to illustrate the concept.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'd ask from adifferent angle, what are the 4 drinks any home bar should be able to handle?

One will find that you run through a bottle fairly quick, so what gin is today may become vodka next week.

I have 30 or so bottles, yet often dont know what to do with them, typicaly i miss the "fresh" component, i.e. Lemon, lime, orange, mint when lusting for a drink

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