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


by Shaun Layton | This is the fifth in a series of posts on building a home bar, five bottles and one drink at a time. I’ve listed bottles 21-25 below (see also 1-56-10, 11-15, 16-20). 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).

21. Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum – The highest selling overproof in the world; it’s said that over 90% of rum consumption in Jamaica is good ol’ Wray. Bottled at 62.8% abv, this crystal clear, un-aged beauty adds loads of flavour in small doses. I dare you to add a few drops to the top of a Mai Tai or a Daiquiri and tell me it doesn’t make it sing! $34.00

22. Becherovka – If you follow me on Instagram (@shaunlayton) you know I love this Czech bittersweet elixir. Another good follow is @Becherovkavoyager, the man who preaches its gospel around Europe. The best way to describe it is “Christmas cake in a glass”. $27.99

23. Angostura Orange Bitters – THE quintessential orange bitters, you will see other brands out there, but don’t bother if you only need one kind. Sibling to the most famous of all aromatic bitters, Angostura aromatic (1824), they’ve been making orange since 2007. It’s produced from Caribbean orange peels sun-dried in Trinidad. Still available in supermarkets ($8-14), the Angostura brands are the best quality/value out there. Try the orange in a Martini. If you don’t already do so, it’s a game changer!

24. Tequila Cabeza – Produced by the 86’d, a group of former barmen from NYC. At $69.95, it’s not cheap, but this blanco can be your go-to for sipping, shooting (if you must), or cocktail tequila. It’s uncommon for a tequila to be over 40% (this beauty weighs in at 43%), but it’s got great backbone for mixing. Pick it up as a SPEC item at Legacy in Olympic Village.

25. Cynar – The “so hot right now in Toronto” ingredient, this artichoke-laced Italian bitter is popping up on cocktail lists and Instagram feeds all over the place. Because of its complexity and bittersweet profile (not to mention the fact that it’s only 16.5 percent abv), Cynar can be had in strong, stirred cocktails, aperitivo-style with soda, or alongside a frosty beer a la boilermaker. $29.99 (1L)

Cocktail – Bitter Marg

45 ml Tequila Cabeza
10 ml Cynar
5 ml Wray and Nephew
30 ml fresh lime
20 ml simple syrup

Method – Shake all ingredients (except Wray) with ice in a cocktail shaker, strain onto fresh ice in a rocks glass. Pour Wray on top. Garnish with a lime wheel.


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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