Yum Yum: Home Bar Essentials

Here on the fourth floor, we love to entertain. With the holiday season fast approaching, what better time to prepare our home bar to host any friends and family who stop by for a visit? Cocktail culture can be a bit overwhelming, so here’s a run down of the basics: 

Things will get wild with the right bar.

The Alcohol
Let’s get started with the most important part of a home bar: the alcohol. As you may have noticed when out on the town, the basic bar consists of a standard set of liquors (vodka, gin, rum, rye and scotch), beer and wine. This combination ensures all guests will find something that suits their tastes. These staples can be stocked on a budget or to reflect finer tastes. While not for everyone’s tastes, we also like to stock our bars with bourbon and some sort of bubbly (Prosecco is a lower cost alternative to champagne). 

A standard selection of spirits (plus tequila!) 

The Fixings
Stocking up on a variety of mixes is just as important as alcohol itself. We recommend having the following on hand: soda water, tonic, ginger beer and cranberry or orange juice. If you’re feeling like experimenting with cocktails, then bitters are your new best friend. Bitters are an essential for most cocktail recipes, and act as a binding agent for different flavours. If you’re going to have two bitters in your bar, the classics are Angostura (required for Manhattans and Old Fashioneds) and Peychauds (used in Sazeracs). However, there are so. many. bitters out there. Experiment away! Stop into BYOB for an insanely comprehensive offering. Some fresh cut lemons and limes, olives and maraschino cherries provide a finishing touch. Oh, and don’t forget to pick up some ice!

So many bitters, so many cocktail possibilities. 
The original maraschino cherries, made in Italy.

The Tools
Glassware is the obvious place to start. Your bar should have rocks glasses (great for most mixed drinks), coupes (a fancier way to serve cocktails, also perfect for bubbly), Collins glasses and wine glasses. A cocktail shaker is a given, as is a wine/beer opener. Less obvious, but great to have on-hand are a citrus zester, jigger, bar spoon and vermouth mister (for your martini-loving friend). Finally, one of the latest trends in cocktails is XL ice cubes. The Tovolo King Cube tray makes 2-inch cubes, which melt slower than traditional cubes and cause less dilution. Finally, the piece de resistance for any home bar is where you store it. We have been dying to pick up a bar cart, to house all of our goodies (you listening, Santa?). 

Sleek, beautiful bar cart. 

Gold-rimmed glassware. You fancy. 

With all of the above, your best bet is to buy a few things at a time knowing what cocktails they will make and slowly grow your home bar as you experiment with new drinks! Finally, please remember to drink responsibly this holiday season. In particular, never ever driving or letting a friend drive when drunk. Stuck for a ride home? Download Uber for quick, hassle-free lift. 

Rave: Creative wedding gift ideas

If you’re like us, most weekends this summer are already booked with weddings, leaving you with the daunting (and expensive) task of buying many, many wedding gifts. Choosing something from a registry is definitely the easiest option, but not always the cheapest or most personal gift to give. And while we know the newlyweds will appreciate the gift (after all, they chose it themselves) there’s something a little unsatisfying about spending $100 on coffee mugs. So if it’s more meaning and less money you’re after, here are some creative wedding gift ideas.

Artwork: This idea works best for a couple you know well, as you’ll need to know their style and preferably what their home looks like. Whether it’s a photograph or a painting, there is no shortage of places to buy inexpensive, yet beautiful, artwork in Toronto. With a philosophy that “everyone should be able to afford a piece of art”, Art Interiors (446 Spadina) is the perfect place to start. They also offer a gift certificate option if you don’t feel confident choosing art for someone else. 

There are little galleries all around the city as well as art work for sale in lots of restaurants

Vintage: Buying vintage is another way to give a special gift without breaking the bank. While your friends may be registered for Riedel wine glasses, they are most likely not going to be given vintage champagne flutes. One of our favourite stores, BYOB Cocktail Emporium, has everything cocktail related under the sun. From vintage glasses to gimmicky wine decanters, this is the place to go for a unique yet useful gift.

There’s something special about receiving a one-of-a-kind gift.

DIY: Another vintage inspired option is to simply refinish something, be it a table, chest, old mirror or bookshelf. Everyone has a soft spot for a homemade gift, and if it’s done well, it will look even better than something new. 

Turn something old into something new and you have the perfect gift!

A part of the wedding: If DIY projects aren’t your thing, there are other ways to turn your skills into a wedding gift. Whether you’re a DJ, photographer, or in a 90’s cover band, lending your services to the bride and groom will help cut costs on both ends, and will add a personal touch to the wedding.

On second thought… maybe stick to DJ’ing.

Honeymoon: Our last idea comes in the form of a gift certificate. Plan something fun for the bride and groom, whether it’s a nice dinner or day of snorkeling on their honeymoon, or simply a his and hers day at the spa after the wedding. They will have done so much planning (and spending) themselves that they will love the idea of you completely taking care of something indulgent for them. 

A surprise adventure for the bride and groom? A+ gift idea.

The main idea is to try to be creative. With a little thought and research you will be sure to find the prefect memorable wedding gift. And if all else fails, there’s always a good old custom throw, right?