Building a Bar Part 2: Vodka, Tequila, & Orange Peels

Posted on Sep 8, 2015


Building a Bar Part 2: Vodka, Tequila, and Orange Peels

 

What you need:

  • A Decent Vodka
  • Silver Tequila
  • An Orange Liqueur

(these were bottles 5-7 on our bar essentials post)

Vodka and tequila are the liquors on the list that tend to bring up bad memories for people. Remarkably frequently, when I offer a tequila drink, I get a shake of the head and, ‘I haven’t had tequila since college.’ When I suggest vodka, people give me the hand, and go a little pale.

tequila-have-you-hugged-your-toilet-today-funny-retro-poster93fe2c8162eac93aa4cdd4fce44662b8

But tequila is for more than just cheap shots, and vodka comes in other forms than jello. Some people are simply too scarred by their early, less discerning experiences with tequila and vodka; it’s best just to offer them a gin drink. For others, tequila or vodka in the right hands make for some great cocktails that will help them move on from those dark memories.

Adding vodka and tequila to your bar, along with an orange liqueur, adds margaritas, Negronis, many martini variants, and more to your repertoire.

vodka

Vodka

In our bar, vodka serves as a substitute for gin in certain cases. Vodka has a more neutral flavor than gin; so we use it when we want the flavor of secondary ingredients to come out more strongly–if we want the vermouth or liqueur to stand out in a martini, for instance. One thing you’ve certainly noticed when you’ve gone to the vodka section of the liquor store is the shelves and shelves of different flavored vodkas. Ignore them all, and get yourself a bottle of straight vodka. You can easily add whatever flavor you want for a particular drink; so why tie yourself down to a whole bottle devoted exclusively to raspberry or coconut or whatever.  We’ve found that the very cheapest vodkas have a bit of a strange flavor and have a thicker texture than we like. Apart from that, as long as it has a crisp, clean taste, it serves our needs. Ketel One and Svedka have both fit the bill nicely.

 

downloadTequila

The distinctive flavor of a particular tequila comes through in a cocktail perhaps more clearly than with any other base liquor. Even when mixed with multiple other ingredients, a tequila has a way of making its presence known; so, it’s important to find a tequila you like. In general, you get what you pay for with a tequila. That being said, we still gravitate toward the mid-range, like 1800 or El Jimador. Recently, reposado (slightly aged) and anejo (more aged) tequilas have become very popular, and it’s easy to see why; the mellower flavor of reposados and anejos is particularly suitable to sipping. Since we mostly mix our tequila rather than sipping it straight, we buy silver (aka blanco). There are definitely some cocktails best served by a reposado. Once again, though, we choose breadth of options over the ability to perfect one particular cocktail.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Orange Liqueur

Orange peels turn out to be a shockingly crucial contributor to cocktails. They’re the key ingredient in triple sec, curacao, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Aperol, and Campari. It’s amazing just how handy having a bottle of orange liqueur of one kind or another ends up being. They all have their distinctives. Triple sec is cheap and sweet, perfect for making pitchers of margaritas. Curacao is cheap and bitter. Grand Marnier and Cointreau bring in the more mellow, rounded notes of the brandy they’re based on. Campari is like a slap in the face, but in a good way–a bracing combination of refreshing and bitter. If we were to choose just one bottle to get started with, it would be Campari’s slightly sweeter, more restrained sister Aperol. Once again, it’s because Aperol is the most flexible option. It’s moderately priced; and it’s sweet enough to substitute for Grand Marnier and bitter enough to do Campari’s job. A perfect example of Aperol’s ability to sub in for Campari is the Contessa…

 

And a drink for you: The Contessa

A variant of the Negroni, in which Aperol takes the place of Campari. We’ve found the Contessa has something for everyone: bitter, sweet, complex, easygoing.

  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz. Aperol

Stir the ingredients well in a mixing glass. You can serve it over ice with an ounce or two of soda, as a refreshing summer drink; we usually prefer it straight up in a cocktail glass.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the helpful advice about building a bar. I think we’re set to go now, so next we will try the above drink with our Sunday dinner guests.

    Post a Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Gin Off: Northeast vs Mid-Atlantic  | Roberts & June - […] along at the Gin-Off.  And it’s a flavored vodka to boot; we generally find them to be an unnecessary…
  2. Croatia Week: Work Avoidance  | Roberts and June - […] such thing as too many Croatian origin ingredients for this event. For the orange liqueur, we used our favorite, Aperol,…
  3. Building a Bar Part 3: Making your bar distinctive | Roberts and June - […] bottles, in part 1 we talked about bottles #1-4 (gin, bourbon, red vermouth, white vermouth); part 2 focused on…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *