Power Tools

Shake and mix like a pro with this starter list of essential bar gear

Essential tools include jiggers, barspoons, muddlers and strainers—and these days they come in a variety of finishes such as stainless steel, rose gold and gunmetal. Fifth & Vermouth photo

Ask a pro bartender for their must-haves, and the answer might be practical: bar mops (a cheap pack of these thin, absorbent white towels is smart, even for home) and pens. However, the essentials below look more aspirational on your home bar cart: always chic in stainless steel, they’re especially envy-inspiring in on-point finishes from gold and rose gold to gunmetal and matte black. (For a roundup of additional tools for the advanced bartending pro, read here.)

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Upscale off-sales

The cocktail kit is the best way to bring your favourite bar home

Sabrine Dhaliwal and Lily Duong have put together four different kits at Chickadee. Photo courtesy of Chickadee

It’s been a long day and all you want to do is get into your pyjamas (if you ever got out of them, let’s be real) and settle in with a good cocktail. But it’s just too much effort to make one yourself. Never fear, thirsty reader. The cocktail kit is here to help.

During the pandemic, many Vancouver restaurants have turned to takeout and some have added cocktails to their to-go menus. What you get varies depending on the establishment. Most offer some sort of mixer, bottle of spirits and garnish; some also offer top-quality ice as well as tools and glassware. Not only do these kits quench your thirst, they also make great gifts and, best of all, support your favourite establishments when they need it most.

Here are just some to try. Note that in restaurants sales of alcohol must be accompanied by sales of food; check the websites for details regarding price and availability.

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Better with bitters

Add your own unique flavour to cocktails with homemade bitters. Here’s how

A variety of spices, herbs and other botanicals give bitters their intense flavour. Dan Toulgoet photo

Making your own bitters at home is a lot easier than you may think. However, we need to understand a few things first. Cocktails, by definition, are made up of four essential ingredients: spirits, sugar, water and bitters. Spirits are self-explanatory. The sugar and water elements can be exactly that or they can take on other forms, such as syrups and juices. Bitters are much more complex, though. Bartenders use bitters to bridge the flavours of spirits, sugar and water so they come together. The key to selecting the right bitter is to use one that complements the other three components in the cocktail.

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Bar Basics

What you need to know for making the recipes in The Alchemist.

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Essentials

Measurements: For the most part, our recipes are in imperial volume (fluid ounces, teaspoons and cups). We might occasionally use weight (for instance, an ounce of tea leaves for an infusion); in those cases, it will be noted.

Tools: The essentials are a cocktail shaker (cobbler or Boston), mixing glass, jigger, citrus juicer, Hawthorne and fine mesh strainers, muddler, bar spoon, sharp knife and vegetable peeler. Any special tools will be noted.

Glassware: You could fill your cupboards with different types of glassware, but you only really need three (aside from wine and beer): a stemmed “cocktail” glass, either the V-shaped martini or curved coupe; the short, stubby rocks or Old Fashioned; and the tall, narrow Collins.

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Cosy up with a good read

Whether you’re looking for a new recipe or a great gift, these boozy books have you covered

Canadian Spirits: The Essential Cross-country Guide to Distilleries, Their Spirits and Where to Imbibe Them by Stephen Beaumont and Christine Sismondo (Nimbus Publishing, $29.95)

Two of Canada’s top spirits writers have compiled a comprehensive guide to the assortment of hooch produced from coast to coast to coast in this country. This is the essential book about the industry’s history and its future, covering more than 160 producers ranging from the behemoth Hiram-Walker in Windsor, Ontario, to Vancouver’s tiny Odd Society Spirits. Available October 31.

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Scotch Rocks Punch

Justin Taylor’s Scotch Rocks Punch. Dan Toulgoet photo

This flavourful punch was created by Justin Taylor, general manager of The Cascade Room.

• 1 bottle (750 mL) blended scotch
• 1 cup Cynar amaro
• 1 cup apricot brandy
• 1 cup oleo saccharum
• 1 Tbsp Angostura bitters
• 4 cups cold water

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