How To Build An Excellent Home Bar, One Drink (And Five Bottles) At A Time

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by Shaun Layton | This is the fourth in a series of posts on building a home bar, five bottles and one drink at a time. I’ve listed bottles 15-20 below (see also 1-56-10, 11-15). Depending on how much you drink at home, or how many deadbeat roommates you have, a home bar can either take a long time to build or be done in a few trips to the liquor store. The bottles I choose aren’t necessarily the best in their respective categories. I’m just trying to use unique, readily available, and cost efficient brands. If you want to share thoughts or photos or ask any questions, fire away via Twitter (@shaunlayton).

16. Laird’s Apple Brandy – As the longest running distiller of American apples in the US, Laird’s is a staple in many classic cocktails. I prefer the straight apple brandy; 100 proof and aged minimum 3 years in charred oak. It’s hard to find, but it’s lighter sibling, Laird’s Applejack (blended with neutral spirit), is readily available in BC. Try it in a Jack Rose cocktail! $43.00

17. Fernet Branca – AKA “The Bartender’s Handshake”. This Italian bitter is loved by modern day bartenders, and hipsters adore it…or at least pretend to. Fernet is a great way to add bitterness and complexity to a drink in small doses. Try it in my favourite cocktail, The Hanky Panky. Read Treve Ring’s story on the stuff here. $29.95

18. Ardbeg 10 yr – The salty, smokey Islay malt that upon first whiff reminded me of giving Grandpa – smelling of cigars and whisky – a hug after a holiday dinner. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the magical little island in Scotland that produces the peatiest of whiskeys on the planet. Read about it here. $95.00

19. Giffard Abricot du Roussillon – An apricot liqueur made in the Loire Valley of France. Giffard makes great liqueurs and syrups, this one being my personal favourite. It’s incredible in stirred drinks; 10-15 ml adds fruitiness, complexity, and a beautiful viscosity to a drink, I love it with aged spirits. A spec product at $39; grab a bottle at 16th Street Liquor or Legacy Liquor Store.

20. Apothecary “The Darkness” Cacao Coffee Bitters – These local bitters are taking the Vancouver bar scene by storm. Cocktail enthusiast Cole Benoit came out of nowhere, showed up at my bar and tasted me on these. The whole line is fantastic, and at about $21.95 ($14.95 wholesale), it’s a steal! Try the coffee bitters with Tequila, Oh my! Find them at The Modern Bartender.

Toronto Cocktail #2

Pictured bottom right; inspired by the relatively unknown Toronto Cocktail

60 ml Laird’s Apple brandy
10 ml Fernet Branca
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
10 ml simple syrup

Method: Stir all ingredients for 30-45 seconds in an ice filled mixing glass. Strain on fresh ice in a rocks glass, garnish with a lemon twist.

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IMG_6220Shaun Layton has helped to maintain a top notch bar scene in Vancouver for ten years, and since day one at Gastown’s L’Abattoir, where he is the Bar Manager. He also runs his own consulting company, designing bar programs and training staff locally and as far away as St.John’s, NFLD. Layton has competed and travelled throughout the USA and Europe, touring distilleries, breweries and bars. He was recognized in 2012 as the Bartender of The Year by Vancouver Magazine.

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