Impromptu parties are often the best parties. Out of nowhere, when the right combination of people meet up, a regular night can become one of the most special. But the people only make up half the equation.
Be prepared for these unexpected times by keeping your bar stocked with the basics (your favorite vodka, tequila, bourbon, scotch and gin). To take the party to an even more epic level, it’s important to have a few non-alcoholic ingredients on hand to make regular drinks become masterpieces. And we aren’t talking about orange juice, diet soda or tonic water. So be sure to stock up on these bar supplementary items!
Limes, lemons and oranges
It’s obvious, but fresh citrus can make a cocktail go from meh to magnificent. If you want to get more daring, try blood oranges, grapefruit or even nectarine.
Cocktails with citrus: Margaritas, caipirinhas, gimlets, mojitos, Harvey Wallbangers, Old-Fashioneds, Sidecars, Tom Collins and many, many more.
Perhaps not the easiest grocery store find, a drunken cherry can make the perfect garnish for a whiskey based cocktail (like a Manhattan). These cherries soaked in bourbon make maraschino cherries taste like cheap candy.
Cocktails with drunken cherries: Manhattans, Sidecars, Old-Fashioneds and more
Basil, mint & rosemary
A yummy herbaceous cocktail can often hit the spot more than any other. Mint is the key ingredient in a mojito or julep, and rosemary can really bring a gin or vodka drink to life.
Cocktails with herbs: Mojitos, Juleps, Pimm’s Cup, Maragaritas and more
Bitters come in many forms, and many artisanal mixologists like to make their own. Delicious bitters made from cardamom, chocolate, citrus or flowers are now often available in higher end cocktail lounges. At home, you can stick to the readily available Angostura bitters – which are made from several herbs and spices, or Peychaud’s which is another aromatic option from New Orleans.
Cocktails with bitters: Negronis, Sazeracs, Old-Fashioneds, Manhattans and more
The jelly to alcohol’s peanut butter, a simple syrup is a required ingredient in many cocktails. It is incredibly (achem) simple to make, but you can also buy prepaid syrups. Maple syrup, agave, molasses or any other not-so simply syrups cannot replace it.
Cocktails with simple syrup: Too many to name!
A sister to simple syrup, grenadine is a popular sweet syrup made from pomegranates. Perhaps most famous for its appearance in the Shirley Temple mocktail we might have had in our youth, it is fruity and very sweet – an not for everyone. However, it never hurts to have some around for your guests who prefer the sweeter stuff.
Cocktails with grenadine: Tequila Sunrises, Cosmos, Roy Rogers, and more
It might seem obvious, but there is no party foul as big as a cocktail party with no ice. Ice goes into (almost) every cocktail ever made, and it is nearly impossible to make most drinks without it.
Cocktails with ice: All of them. (Well, most.)
A cheap and readily available ingredient, a little bit of real ginger can add an irreplaceable heat to some special cocktails. It pairs wonderfully with bourbon and rye, tequila and rum. Plus, there are many other household uses for it. (Hungover? Make some ginger tea the next morning.)
Cocktails with ginger: Dark and Stormys, Moscow Mules, margaritas, and more
Sugar and salt rims
It is tough to improvise here. Granulated sugar and iodized salt are not going to make your crafted cocktail special. (Actually, they will probably ruin it.) Spend a few extra bucks for rimming sugar and salt. (Especially salt.) Your guests will be impressed!
Cocktails with rims: Margaritas, Cosmos, and more