Spring is on the horizon and with it comes longer days, exploding plants, and the instinctive urge to tidy up. The coming season also brings seasonal cocktails, the return of baseball, and perhaps the first subtle taste of normalcy we’ve enjoyed since February of 2020. But if you’re going to enjoy any of it, you’re going to need to organize your chaos.
Anybody can throw some bottles on a shelf and call it a home bar or wine collection. But you’re better than that. After all, we’re hosting gatherings safely again and it pays to have a set system in place to wow your guests and streamline the flow of things. We’re not saying you need to go full Marie Kondo on your basement watering hole, but there are a few easy maneuvers and layout suggestions you can follow to really up your overall game.
We talked to home bartender and Iris Vineyards winemaker Aaron Lieberman of the Willamette Valley about this very subject. Here’s what he suggests.
Lieberman hasn’t fully set up his wet bar so for now he utilizes a bar cart. “On the bottom shelf of the cart I organize the liquor, liqueurs, and bitters on one side, mixers in the middle (vermouths, juices, etc.) and liquor on the other side. The middle shelf can hold your glasses, tools, towels and shakers,” he says. The top shelf is where the magic happens so he advises that you keep that work space relatively clear.
“Maybe you have a bowl of ice, pitcher of water and a dump bucket up there,” he says, but that’s about it. And while we’re on the subject, you’re welcome to go fancy or antique with your cart, or just go something inexpensive and functional. Lieberman says he dropped less than $200 on one from Ikea.
This one is easy to overlook. Simple syrup is, well, simple but only if you do it right. When you do it wrong, it can go bad and set you back when you’re trying to fix a fine drink. Lieberman notes that the typical 1:1 ratio of sugar to water needs ample refrigeration, or it will grow mold, even if sealed. He prefers a more concentrated syrup (think 2:1 or 3:1) so that he doesn’t have to keep it in the fridge at all times.
Want it to be more than simple? Infuse it. “I like to flavor my simple with citrus peel, especially if I am planning to have friends over for Margaritas or Whiskey Sours so I can put the juice of those limes or lemons to good use,” he says.
Think of the featured cocktail as a way to offer a little predictability to your bar setup. “Most people will want to try the featured cocktail and this helps simplify and speed up drink preparation as you can keep those ingredients handy and mix two-to-four drinks at a time in a larger shaker rather than just one,” he says. If you’re hosting more people or folks are just thirsty, consider batching out some large format cocktails.
Inevitably, somebody will probably want something else at some point so Lieberman suggests keeping a few small shakers handy to mix individual
As a winemaker, Lieberman knows a thing or two about keeping his own collection. And for the record, it does not have to be a bonafide cellar. He keeps a lot of his wine in a closet toward the center of his house, where temperatures fluctuate the least. “Keep a bottle of bubbles and a bottle of rosé or white in the refrigerator at all times,” he advises.
With the wines he’s storing, Lieberman opts for some order. He sets his own Iris wines up “organized by heaviest bodied reds on the left to bubbles on the right, with aromatic whites and rosé next to the bubbles and Pinot Noir in the middle,” he says.”Wines from other wineries are on another shelf organized in the same fashion.”
Remember that when it comes to storing wine, dark and cool is ideal. A garage or kitchen environment can become too warm, especially in the summer months, and potentially turn your finest bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon into vinegar. As you organize, have fun with bottle neck tags for labeling and, if you have enough to warrant it, create a master list of what you have in order to keep track of your inventory.
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