What To Keep In Your Drinks Cabinet

What To Keep In Your Drinks Cabinet


There’s something satisfying about a well-stocked drinks cabinet. To find out what should be inside it, we went to Agostino Perrone – The Connaught’s director of mixology – and Giorgio Bargiani, head mixologist at the hotel’s bar, for some advice…

Spirits, liqueurs and bitters all belong in the drinks cupboard. There are some spirits that hold a special place in our hearts and palates: the classic ones, those that carry a great heritage, tradition and a versatile character. Gin is the epitome of a British spirit. Its many botanicals make it a distillate with a high mixability that can produce many different cocktail styles and flavour profiles. From the classy Martini to long drinks such as the G&T and Tom Collins, it’s easy to create a variety of simple and delicious gin-based serves at home.

Vodka is obviously a classic that lends itself to many flavour combinations. It’s often the spirit of choice for Martini.

Bitters and vermouths are a must to create those bitter and herbaceous combinations of flavours that work particularly well for an aperitivo or for a post-dinner digestive – the Negroni being a favourite. Vermouths and fortified wines, which need to be served chilled, should be kept in the fridge so they stay at their best.

Tequila and mezcal are right on trend at the moment as people are rediscovering and appreciating their strong heritage and quality. They are also really versatile spirits: use them for classic and popular serves such as the Margarita or the Paloma, or experiment with them in cocktails that traditionally call for other white or dark spirits, adding an aromatic agave twist to them.

Rums and whiskies are a must for lovers of aged spirits, either as a base for cocktails like the Daiquiri, Old Fashioned or any type of sour, but also to be savoured solo at the end of a night.

Liqueurs can be used to add fruity or aromatic flavours to your drink. The world of liqueurs presents a rich and varied offering. We like to use traditional ones such as orange liqueur, creme de cassis, orange curacao and elderflower liqueur. Liqueurs are rooted in the heritage of many regions and countries in Europe and around the world, therefore you can find an incredible variety of them on your travels, especially when it comes to small craft products. Their use depends very much on your taste – we recommend storing a few of them to add a fruity aroma to your drinks when required.

Agostino Perrone and Giorgio Bargiani
Agostino Perrone and Giorgio Bargiani

Bitters and sugar syrups are great ingredients to use in small quantities when mixing cocktails but their influence on the final flavour and texture of the drink is significant. They add that extra touch. Sugar syrup is made of simple sugar and water, creating a liquified version of sugar that’s easier to blend in a cocktail when you want to add a sweeter kick. Bitters are alcoholic preparations infused with botanicals, herbs or fruits. As their name suggests, they add a bitter and aromatic flavour to cocktails, balancing out sweet or sour notes.

Egg whites work as an emulsifier, so they help two liquids mix and achieve a unified texture. Their protein component allows you to trap air in your drink and change the texture without adding other flavour. Fresh or pasteurised eggs will enable you to achieve the best results in drinks like a Whisky Sour or Gin Fizz.

Mixers are essential ingredients in many cocktails, especially sodas and tonics for long drinks. Today we are lucky to have a great deal of premium mixers on offer, all catering for different tastes and drinks. The best-quality ones feature natural and flavoursome ingredients which make them very tasty without having a strong sugar component. Especially if they’re sparkling, mixers are always better when kept in the fridge, so they’re chilled at the moment of drinking.

Crystal clear ice is paramount to elevate your drink quality. It can be quite time consuming to prepare but it can also be purchased, and we always recommend using it. If you’d like to have a go at making homemade ice, you should pour your water into a large tall tray or container insulated on the sides and with the top open. When water freezes the impurities form and concentrate at the end of the freezing process, therefore when taking the block of ice out of your tray you’ll be able to separate the crystal-clear ice at the top from the bottom section. Store the tray or container in your freezer for a day or two to allow the formation of a large block of ice and then take it out and leave it for some minutes or pass it under the tap to allow the external parts to melt. You will then see in your block two different parts, a part of crystal-clear ice and a cloudier section. With a knife you can then cut the clear section into cubes of different shapes depending on the drink you’re making – for example, taller chunks for long drinks, or smaller chunks for drinks to be served in a rocks glass. We promise, this will really elevate your drink.

Organic seasonal ingredients like fresh fruits and herbs are also important and come at a cost, but again you will taste the difference in your drink – be this fruit, a sherbet, a juice or simply the garnish.

When it comes to making cocktails at home stick to simple, classic serves and play with those to achieve not just the right balance, but also your personal version of it. Start with the original recipe and try to adjust the measurements in order to find the combination that suits your palate the most. Personally, a Martini, Gimlet and Negroni do the job for us and are great starting points.

When hosting always remember that making and serving a drink, just like cooking and hosting a dinner, is a labour of love. So serve it straight up with style, and don’t forget to smile.

Inspired to fill your own cabinet? Here are some of the best spirits and mixers to stock up with…

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