Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stocking the Bar for Fall

Stirrings' Bar Ingredients: Blood Orange Bitters

Today I'm checking my liquor cabinet to see what I need to stock on for the upcoming holiday season. I throw a lot of dinner parties, cocktail parties and movie parties, and I'd rather not have to pop over to the store at the last minute to get something. Also, a really snowy winter is predicted for Seattle this year. I don't want to be snowed in for eight days and run out of tasty port wine or sherry!


  • Do you have any herbs in your garden you need to dry for later use this winter? With our mild weather here in Seattle, my outdoor herb garden is still producing a lot of herbs. I need to cut my peppermint, rosemary, and mint and dry them. They'll go in an old spice jar or two I have washed for reuse.

  • Take extra time with your dinner preparations tonight (if you're eating in). Treat yourself and household to a nice, non-hurried meal. What do you have to give up, time-wise, tonight to make this possible? Can you ask for a helper to assist you with the meal?

  • Maintenance cleaning - Dust one room of your home, including baseboards, furniture, windowsills, door frames, and light fixtures. This can be done in less than ten minutes. My home is extra dusty right now because the weather's been nice enough to leave my doors and windows open all day still.

  • Surprise a family member or long distance friend this week, for no reason. It's not their birthday, you're just thinking of them. Send flowers if you can afford to, a handmade card, or a small gift. Send stickers or a fall-themed book to a young niece or nephew, with a small handwritten cheery note. Maybe send a recently taken digital photo of yourself to your grandmother? I like trying to do this before the holidays arrive. The holidays shouldn't be the only time I think of far-away relatives.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Stocking the Bar

The new Riedel Platinum Band barware I'm coveting, at Williams-Sonoma

If you entertain often and serve alcohol, it's time to check your supplies for upcoming fall parties. If you don't serve alcohol, you can still stock up with fruit juices, interesting sodas, and yummy hot drinks to serve your guests.


If you do serve alcohol in your home, you'll need a variety for upcoming cocktail parties, dinner parties and holidays. To keep your life uncluttered, and a few bucks left in the bank, I recommend you don't try to have every possible alcohol covered. You don't need to be able to make any possible unusual drink a guest asks for.

But if you do consider yourself an enthusiastic entertainer, and if entertaining well is important to you, you'll want to have the basics covered, plus a few extras.

I try to have several types of alcohol (vodka, whiskey, gin, rum) needed for mixed drinks, but I've stopped stocking tequila. We just simply don't drink it up. It just sits there in my cabinet. I also never buy vermouth anymore. In the eight years I've lived in this house, only one guest has ever asked for a classic martini.

If you can spare an extra $20 or $30, think about picking up the latest fancy flavored vodka just for fun. Your guests might be delighted to try something new rather than just plain old Grey Goose or Absolut in the regular flavor. Surrpise guests with the new Belvedere IX or Absolut New Orleans, for example.

I don't bother with cognac, bourbon or scotch, as very few of our guests in my friends' age group request those. I stock Triple Sec and Chambord, but rarely ever more expensive liqueurs like Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Drambuie. I do stock Kahlua or Bailey's for guests who might enjoy that in their coffee. For special occasions, I'll make a trip to the store the day before for Midori or specialty liqueurs, but I don't clutter up my liquor cabinet with those usually. I don't want a bunch of weird liqueurs hanging around the house taking up room, if they won't be used or tasted for months at a time.


I keep only a few beers on hand, since few of our friends drink beer and the types of food I serve at parties are better suited to wine. I do keep a twelve-pack of Sapporo in my garage fridge, for sushi nights though.

I'll go to the store the day before a dinner party if I know we have guests coming who would enjoy some beer. I do keep the odd emergency Guinness or two on hand as well.


Founders' Wine Trough, at Pottery Barn

Wine is something I stock a good amount of, as I have many friends who enjoy wine. I keep "emergency" wine around, for when we have a short-notice party, drop-in visitors, or a windy, rainy night requiring a fire, candles and wine. I try to have a sparkling wine (usually Asti or Prosecco, not champagne); a couple bottles of white (usually Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc, not Chardonnay); a dessert wine like a Gewurztraminer or a Muscat; port; and several bottles of red (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, red Zinfandel, etc). However, I don't feel the need to have a wine cellar or wine refrigerator with dozens of bottles of wine. I don't want to take up that much space, I'd rather go to the store more frequently to select new bottles if we drink a couple at a party. It doesn't have to be expensive wine, just well chosen. I really enjoy the wine selections at Trader Joe's, and it's surprising how many affordable bottles are on offer at Whole Foods.


Take inventory and see how you are doing on lime juice, Grenadine, sweet and sour mix, bitters, vermouth, cocktail onions, and cocktail cherries if you tend to make drinks that require those ingredients.

Check your mixers. Do you have enough Coke, Sprite, club soda, tonic water, bitter lemon, orange juice, and cranberry juice? Add things to your shopping list, and clear an organized space to put them away. Because my fridge or cupboards would get too full, I try to limit the amount of mixers I store. I can always run to the store for tonic water or club soda or whiskey sour mix if I have a party planned.


Last, check your supply of wine glasses. You really don't need to have different glasses for brandy, for bourbon, for merlot, for burgundies, etc. It does make sense to have two different shapes for reds and for whites. You do need champagne flutes if you serve champagne often, as it really does promote the flavor.

Casual gatherings of friends mean you are free to serve in mismatched or unusual wine glasses - that's part of the fun. If you entertain formally, however, you'll need matching, unchipped glasses. Martini glasses for cocktails and highball glasses are needed too, but only for frequent entertainers. Really, most people are happy to drink a lovely beverage out of whatever you hand it to them in.

Sort out your glasses, discard anything chipped or mismatched, clean if dusty, and put back in your cupboards in an organized fashion. Treat yourself to a little sip of something nice when you're done tonight!

LOVELY BLOGS: Man of the House

I'm rather enjoying this blog designed to give advice to men. Topics include home repair, home organizing, upkeep, cleaning, and keeping up with the lawn and garden. Other topics include cooking, technology, grooming, family and parenting, and relationships. Even though the site is geared towards men, I found great advice in recent articles on restaurant tipping, Internet privacy, and transitioning your home from summer to fall.

There are also how-to videos on carving pumpkins, cleaning small appliances, and doing laundry.

LOVELY TV: Sherlock

This week, PBS will begin showing the three Sherlock Holmes episodes that BBC aired in August in England. BBC hopes to produce more episodes soon. Meanwhile, we here in the US can enjoy them this fall. I'm looking forward to watching them, fire lit, cup of tea at the ready, puppies snoozing at my feet.

The series begins October 24 with "A Study in Pink," continues on Halloween with "The Blind Banker" and concludes November 7 with "The Great Game."

Sherlock on PBS

Sherlock TV Series, on Wikipedia


Great Gourds: A Whole New Level of Pumpkin Carving (Today Show)

How to Find $500 by Christmas (CNN)

Ramen Basics for the Noodle Novice (CHOW)

Making the Most of the Last of the Corn (Epicurious)

Punch, the Drink of Dickens, Redeemed (NY Times)

Treat of the Week: Vosges Chocolate Chip Cookies (Epicurious)

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