For those of us with a host’s heart, the joy of entertaining friends, partners or family at home is deep. As get-togethers return to the horizon, and we look forward to good times in good company, there are a few upgrades that can help us surprise, delight and why not, wow our guests.
These can be as simple as a selection of teas or an enthusiastic attempt at tablescaping. For cocktail enthusiasts, of course, having a neatly organised home bar will not only be a talking piece, but a means of making the evening a little more glamorous.
We have gone through the basics in the past, and you can check out our piece on home bar essentials – how to create your dream cocktail station for tips and inspiration on where to begin. Once you’ve covered the basics, you can also check out our selection of drink trolleys for all styles and seasons.
Now, once you’ve picked your base spirits and a couple of versatile liqueurs and bitters, if you’re looking to take it to the next level, you might want to scout out a few less common ingredients. We have compiled a selection of interesting bottles we love, and that more often we see on the shelves of cocktail bars than at home. Think of your taste preferences and about the type of drink you like, and consider acquiring a couple of these to make cocktails like a pro.
ABV – 17%
Chambord is a black raspberry liqueur from France’s Loire Valley. It is made with a combination of blackberries, raspberries and blackcurrants infused into French spirits. It is macerated and blended with XO Cognac, Madagascan Vanilla, Moroccan citrus peel, honey and various sweet spices.
Thanks to its multi-berry mix, Chambord can be used at home as a substitute of other berry-based liqueurs such as Crème de mure (blackberry liqueur) or Crème de Cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), for alternative takes on cocktails like a Bramble, or a Kir Royale.
It can also be used as a lovely base for fruity spritzers, simply mixed with sparkling water, white wine, a little bit of lime juice, fresh berries and ice.
St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
ABV – 20%
This beautiful bottle is made from handpicked elderflower blossoms. While its vintage looks yell Belle Époque, it was launched in 2007 and it quickly earned multiple accolades as well as a spot in the craft cocktail renaissance of the new 10s.
The flavour, unsurprisingly, is floral, with a very aromatic nose and a moderate sweetness. It mixes wonderfully with Champagne and it can mellow out a Gin & Tonic. It can also give a floral edge to a Daiquiri or simply star in a spritzer.
Gabriel Boudier Crème de violette
ABV – 18%
French liqueur maker Gabriel Boudier produces this natural Crème de violette, a liqueur with a small but passionate fan base. This bright purple liqueur can be made from natural or artificial violet flavour, the best examples, of course, coming from the real thing.
The most common use for Crème de violette is as part of Aviation, a classic cocktail made on a base of gin, with lemon juice, maraschino liqueur and the aforementioned floral violet liqueur. But it can also be used creatively for desserts, just bear in mind it’s highly aromatic and strongly flavoured, so pour with a light touch.
ABV – 55%
€50 – Available at drinkstore.ie
You know a drink is unique when it becomes the name of a colour, in this case, a bright, intense, yellow-greenish tone often reserved for the magic of Disney villains. But the real-life potion is much friendlier, with a history that traces back to the 18th century and a mix of 130 herbs developed by Carthusian Monks in France.
While very sweet, it is also herbaceous and spicy, complex and botanical. Two classic cocktails that contain Chartreuse are the Last Word (alongside gin, maraschino liqueur and lemon juice) and the Bijou (where it joins gin, sweet vermouth, Campari and an orange twist into a pre-prohibition sipper).
Have a taste for the bittersweet? Add a drop of Chartreuse to a hot chocolate to turn it into a ‘Verte Chaud’.
ABV – 20%
This Italian liqueur is made with hazelnuts combined with coffee, cocoa and vanilla. It is aromatic and pleasantly sweet, think of a boozy, nuttier cousin of Nutella.
It is the wild card that lazy home bartenders need. You can add it to so many things: ice cream, hot chocolate, Oreo milkshakes, coffee, tiramisu, cheesecakes… the list is long and so delicious we’re tempted to recommend getting one for your bar and one for your kitchen.
If you want to try something a little more complex, use it for a decadent Ferrero Rocher cocktail, after or in lieu of dessert. Mix one part of cream liqueur (such as Baileys), two parts of creme de cacao and one part of Frangelico, pour over ice and top up with a drop of milk.
Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
ABV – 32%
Made to a recipe from 1821 that requires a four year-long process to produce, this classic Italian cherry liqueur extracts the flavour of marasca cherries into a versatile liqueur that features in various classic cocktails.
Examples include the Singapore Sling, Aviation, Martinez and the Hemingway Special.
ABV – 38%
Kirsch is a clear, strong liqueur made from morello cherries. It is traditional from Germany and some surrounding regions (the brand we are recommending comes from The Netherlands). The cherry flavour is subtle and it’s not too sweet, so it’s often served as you would a Brandy.
In the kitchen, it adds the pièce de résistance to Black Forest gateaux or fondue. It is worth noting that Kirsch is drier than Maraschino Liqueur, but one can sweeten it with a little bit of syrup to replace the later in homemade cocktails.
ABV – 25%
This innovative Irish drink is described as ‘hard coffee’ by its makers. It is roasted, distilled and cold-brewed in Ireland, and it combines arabica beans from Kenya and Irish whiskey sourced from West Cork.
The beans are cold-brewed in whiskey for a week and the result is a strongly flavoured drink without the excessive sweetness. Ideal for a new take on Irish coffee or Espresso Martinis.
Stillgarden Berrissimo Irish Berry Aperitif
ABV – 15%
Dublin 8’s independent distillery introduces this fruity and sweet liqueur made with locally sourced and foraged blackberries, macerated with gentian, orris, hibiscus, rhubarb root, bitter orange, coriander seed and wormwood.
Their recommended serving, the Stillgarden Spritz, mixes it with Prosecco, soda water, ice and a slice of orange for a super refreshing and easy to make drink.
RubyBlue Chilli Pepper Liqueur
ABV – 17%
This hot chilli liqueur comes from award-winning Irish producer Hughes Craft Distillery. If you’re looking for something different and you don’t mind a bit of heat on your palate, add a kick to drinks like a basil smash or Bloody Mary.
You can make your hot chocolate extra hot with the help of this spicy ad-on.
ARTICLE BY GABY GUEDEZ