Home entertaining is hot. Our behavioral science partner CultureWaves has been watching this for years. It represents the convergence of several trends that go way back to Generation X—remember them?
Anything But Forgotten
Gen Xers are often called the “forgotten generation” because all the attention went to Baby Boomers and then Millennials. Sandwiched between, we can thank Gen X for taking the office into the home as flexibility, more control over work and a desire to balance family and career took hold. They were also the generation of dual-income families, as women continued their journeys to bust through the corporate glass ceiling.
The 90s was the era when convenience ruled. When it came to food, flavor was king, but cooking options had to be simple. It’s also the time when speed-scratch options came on strong and “cooking from a box” was no longer the Cardinal sin it was for the Boomers.
Having A Personal Brand
And now their Millennial children are changing everything. This generation took a lot of heat early on for being self-focused and “entitled.” What I saw was the product of parents who were more educated and attentive to the experiences and teaching provided to their children, leading us to a generation that is more tech savvy, inquisitive, adventurous and smart than I ever was in my 20s and 30s.
The personalized experiential nature of Millennials has led to a Renaissance in home cooking and entertaining. Home bars are once again en vogue. It’s all about quality over quantity and having a sense of personal style. We’ve seen garages converted into mini-club experiences, functional furniture like coffee tables that also act as mini-bars, not to mention the explosion of craft beers and signature cocktails, as in your own personal signature drink. It’s all about the experience. And, for that, we can be thankful.
These Experts Help Your Home Bar Shine
Knowing home bars and bar carts are hot, we pulled together some top experts in mixology and grilled them on ways to create your own bar experience, down to the tools, brands and techniques that will make you shine.
Our panel of experts includes Joshua MacGregor (JM), Sommelier/Mixologist at db Bistro Moderne, Daniel Boulud’s top-rated New York bistro; Samy Berdai (SB), Mixologist at Boulud SUD, the coastal-Mediterranean themed inspirations of Boulud in New York City and Miami; and Hemant Pathak (HP), head Mixologist at Junoon, the Michelin-Starred darling of NYC’s chic Indian fine-dining scene, where sommeliers are an integral part of the dining experience.
Millennials are loving home bars and bar carts. What’s driving this?
JM: Culturally, the resurgence of the home bar is riding the coat tails of the cocktail revolution in the 21st first century. As Millenials are increasingly approaching alcohol with a lens of aesthetic, rather than simply intoxication, we are looking to refine the experience at home as well. We are looking back and appreciating the “cocktail party” culture of the 40s and 50s.
SB: I think having more and more people making cocktails at home is a great thing and we can translate this to cooking. It’s an extension of their skill sets in their home kitchens. It’s also “cool” to be able to make a margarita or an old fashioned for your friends; you add a little fun to the night. Also, the cocktail culture is much younger than food and the new generation grew up at a time where cocktails are much easier to personalize.
HP: Certainly the home bar symbolizes a place where you want to spend some quality time with the friends and family—and no matter what you end up with on your cart, your guests will thank you.
What’s In Your Bar Cart At Home?
SB: I actually don’t have a bar cart. I leave that for work! I just make sure I have a decent bottle of wine in my cabinet.
JM: As square footage is precious in New York apartments, my bar cart is actually a few shelves of a book case in the living room fashioned with sprits, glassware, bar tools and cocktail manuals. A brand mainstay is Greenhook American Dry Gin from Brooklyn. This one meets all of my gin-based cocktail needs from a refreshing Gin & Tonic, to a stiff Negroni.
I want an experience without breaking the bank. What brands do you recommend?
HP: Hennessy VSOP, Bombay Sapphire East, Sombra Mezcal, Balvenie Caribbean Cask, dry and sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters.
JM: Dolin Rouge Vermouth is a must, as well as the Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon. Campari and Luxardo Maraschino are great additions. Keep tonic, lemons, and limes around, and you’ll be set for a nice variety of classic drinks at a fraction of the cost of a night on the town.
SB: I would go for something you can find easily like a Monkey Shoulder for a Scotch cocktail. Hudson bourbon and rye. Gin wise, Tanqueray, Beefeater, Plymouth are basics and really good gin. Grey goose, Belvedere and Ketel One for the Vodka. If you like margaritas you can go with Casamigos or Don Julio Tequila. Diplomatico for the rum component of your cart. Bacardi and Havana are good standards for a good mojito. All of these brands are popular for a reason, they are good standard spirits to start practicing cocktails at home.
What are simple cocktails that don’t require diving into the kitchen?
JM: Well you have to make sure you have ice. Beyond that there is nothing you need from the kitchen to make a fine Boulevardier, which is Whiskey, Compari, and Sweet Vermouth in equal parts. Strong, delicious, and rewarding.
HP: A few spirit-forward cocktails like the Manhattan, Martini, Negroni, Sazerac or a simple variation of highball with any of your base spirits are easy to make in a home bar or bar cart.
SB: These are Millennials, so don’t forget the recipes you’ll find on the Internet. Find your top two to three websites and compare them regularly for new recipe ideas.
What Kind Of Tools Will I Need?
SB: You can do a lot of cocktails with kitchen tools you probably have already. But if you want to invest a little, get a classic Boston shaker, a mixing glass, a bar spoon, a jigger, and a strainer. With that, you can open you mini-cocktail bar and be ready to impress your friends!
JM: There are a few essentials; a Boston Shaker, Hawthorne Strainer, and a bar spoon. You can also have a glass mixing beaker and a Y-peeler for garnishing to go one step further.
HP: You’ll need to prioritize certain things depending on how big your bar is, but having a shaker, strainer, bar spoon, mixing glass, jigger (2-ounce or less) and set of glasses is the perfect place to start.
Get The Party Started
And there you have it. The expert essentials for entertaining to showcase your own personal style. It’s all about the experience and your personal brand. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your favorite flavor combinations. You’d be surprised how many of today’s popular cocktails were created out of necessity or by mistake.