Best Bar Essentials Buying Guide

Happy Holidays Everyone!
It’s been a bit of a hiatus for me, but I’m back in the saddle (a.k.a. desk chair!) and ready to keep the season’s festivities rolling along with some stellar finds for entertaining in style when it comes my favorite part of a party- the drinks!

With New Year’s Eve–the king of all cocktail nights– coming this week, thought I’d highlight a few virtual finds in the way of bar essentials that not only look fantastic, but will make you feel like a master mixologist as you countdown to midnight. You don’t need a lot of fancy gear or gadgets to create the classic cocktails at home. Just a couple basic tools for measuring, a few special ingredients for mixing and some ultra-chic stemware to make your friends feel like million bucks whilst they’re sipping their Old Fashioned, Dirty Martini or seasonal fruit sparkler.

Bar carts: these are the hottest thing going right now. New designs along with vintage-finds,  the concept of having a dedicated piece of furniture for drinks & stemware did not go out with the lava lamps of the 60’s….in fact, these carts more popular than ever. They’re a great way to corral all your drink components and stemware in one place whilst showcasing your favorite brands of spirits, mixers and shiny barware.
bar carts collage

[BUYING GUIDE] -All carts shown from– 1) Modern Italian Gio Ponti Style Bar Cart $1150, 2) Mid-Century Rolling Glass Top Bar Cart $270, 3) Industrial Steel Factory Cart on Wheels $675, 4) Vintage Brass Gold Bar Cart $300, 5) Danish Teak Bar Cart $699 

Bar Tools: these are the bar tools which afford me the most versatility for the majority of drinks I make year-round. I couldn’t live without my fun penguin cocktail shaker as it has the strainer built-in to the top. The spoon/muddler combo swizzle stick is a handy tool- eliminating the need for a separate muddler for most drinks. Look for a double-jigger to make measuring a cinch. Use the larger end for the spirit and the smaller end for the mixer, bitters, or syrup. This glass & decanter drying rack is a lifesaver after a big gathering. It safely drys up to 16 stems (plus a decanter) then neatly folds flat for storage!

bar buying guide- tools


[BUYING GUIDE] 1) Penguin Cocktail Shaker/Strainer $33.99 |, 2) Oenophilia Fusion 16 Stemware/Decanter Rack $39.99 | 3) SS Martini Picks/set 6 | $12, 4) Paper Straws in Gold & Silver Dots, $5 |,  5) Spoon/Muddler Swizzle Stick $14.95 | and Double jigger $5.50 |, 6) Silver & Gold Hexagram Ice Bucket $125 |, 7) Paper cocktail napkins $5.95 | 8) Citrus Juicer by Norpro $22.99 |

Barware: I must admit- I do have a weakness for stemware. Anything with a mid-century/modern vibe that’s practical to use and pretty to look at is definitely going in my stemware cabinet. If you’re serious about exploring and enjoying the world of drinks, you’ll need to have a few basic shapes in barware to create the traditional tipples we all know and love. Best to have a couple of styles of shorter tumblers like an Old Fashioned/Rocks glass (6-ounce) or slightly taller ones like a Double Old Fashioned (12-ounce). These work great for Whiske(y)/Scotch-based drinks or a simple G&T.  Also on hand should be a standard Martini glass (5-ounce), Champagne flute or glass (I like the coupe-style), a Highball/Collins or tall tumbler (8-ounce) for layered drinks, iced tea, Mojitos–any type of cocktail or mocktail where a larger amount of liquid or ice is added. And don’t forget a decanter. Traditionally used to aerate wines, a stylish crystal decanter also makes a beautiful water pitcher for the bar.
bar buying guide- barware


[BUYING GUIDE] 1) ‘Mad Men’ Whisky Glasses $24.95/set 2 | Viceroy, 2) Riedel ‘Grape’ Champagne Coupe/set 2 $64 |, 3) Vintage Gilt & Floral Etched Beverage Set $225 |, 4) Mixology Mad Men Holloway Edition DOF Glass/set 2 $175 |, 5) Mid-Century Martini Glass/set 4 $49 | 6) Madison Avenue Whisky Decanter $29.95 | / Riedel ‘O’ Single Decanter $225 | / Ravenscroft® Crystal Ultra Magnum Decanter $64.99 |, 7) Vintage Silver/Chrome Striped Tumbler/set 4 $25.00 |, 8) Vintage Gold Gilt Lacquerware Nesting Trays /set 2 |

Bar Ingredients: here’s where some serious fun comes in. The holidays are a great time to experiment with some of the lesser-known bar ingredients and adding one or two new liqueurs or mixers to your bar cart will help you break-up the drinks routine and get creative. I personally believe that bitters and tonics are the most underrated bar essentials. With the craft movement on both so incredibly strong today, there are oodles and oodles of hand-made, artisan brands to choose from—each using wonderful & obscure botanicals, herbs, and fruits to produce some amazing combinations. And be sure to splash out on a couple of really fine quality base spirits (like a Bourbon, Gin or Vodka) from which you can build various kinds of drinks. Starting with the good stuff, will only make your home bartending that much more rewarding (and delicious!). Cheers to a New Year!
bar buying guide- ingredients

[BUYING GUIDE] 1) Sonoma Rye Whiskey Cask Strength $65 | 2) St.Germain Elderflower Liqueur $42.99 / Licor 43 Liqueur $24.99  / Yellow & Green Chartreuse Liqueur from 33.99 |, 3) Bittermilk Charred Grapefruit Tonic $15 | / Fee Brothers Gin Barrel Aged Orange Bitters $14.95 | 4) Demerara Sugar Cubes $9.95 |, 5) Fever-tree Bitter Lemon & Elderflower Tonics from $5.99Waialua Pineapple & Liliko’i Sodas |, 6) Metallic Gold Rimming Sugar $11 |

*No sponsored links, just a curated collection of some great brands/products I wanted to share with you all! *

Wild Plum Simple Syrup

Cocktail anyone?
Wild Plum Whiskey Sour |

wild plum simple syrup | whiskandmuddler.comSpecifically a Wild Plum Whiskey Sour? If you answered yes (and of course you did!) then you’ll absolutely want to make this Wild Plum Simple Syrup. For those of you following the #wildplumchronicles on my Instagram, you know I’ve been knee deep (well, to the ankles at least) in wild plums. Both trees on the property decided in unison to drop their fruit on my patio, backyard, garden, walkways….you name it….it’s everywhere. At night, I hear the plums thumping down onto the roof, rolling down, and then bouncing off the barbeque below. But hey, when these little guys are this sweet and juicy, that’s music to my ears.
wild plums | whiskandmuddler.comwild plums |
wild plums |

The trees have yielded so much fruit, it’s incredible. The picture above is only a fraction of what I’ve harvested so far. I’ve given a bunch away already to the neighbors and friends, along with making Wild Plum Jam too. I swear they multiply overnight. I can’t seem to wrangle them in fast enough! These wild plums with their imperfect skins and brilliant hues of purple and crimson are packed with flavor. Small but mighty as they say! So for this recipe, don’t even bother trying to pit them. The skins and pits will come away from the fruit during cooking. I like the tart flavor of plum,  so I hold back on some of the sugar, especially when the fruit is so ripe like it is now. These nuggets will give off quite a bit of liquid too, so use less water than you normally would for a simple syrup. And if your farmer’s market or specialty grocery doesn’t have wild plums, no worries. Just use any good eating plum like a Japanese, Santa Rosa, or Black Plum. Whatever you can get your hands on.

Wild Plum Simple Syrup
yields 12 ounces | Wild Plum Simple Syrup PDF

2/3 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups wild plums (measured in a liquid measuring cup)

Add sugar and water to medium size sauce pan. Warm over medium heat, just until the sugar has dissolved. Add the whole plums and simmer on low-medium heat uncovered for 10-12 minutes. Plums tend to be foamy when cooking, so stir frequently. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 20-30 minutes to fully infuse the syrup.

Strain pulp and liquid through a fine mesh strainer or china cap into a large bowl. Then strain that liquid again through a cheesecloth or paper towel over a smaller bowl. This will ensure the final syrup is as clear as possible and free from pulp. Allow to cool, then pour into an airtight bottle or jar. This syrup is best when used within 3-4 weeks from making it, but it can store up to 6 weeks in the refrigerator if need be.

Mix into cocktails, spoon over ice cream or pound cake, macerate fruit in it, or add a few drops to plain bubble water for refreshing sip.

Wild Plum Whiskey Sour
yield one 5-ounce serving | Wild Plum Simple Syrup PDF

3-4 wild plums  + 1 for garnish
2 parts whiskey (I used a Rye Whiskey)
1 part Wild Plum Simple Syrup
1 lime, juiced
lime flavored sparkling water for topping

In a cocktail shaker, place wild plums in whole and muddle to release their juice. Add in ice, whiskey, Wild Plum Simple Syrup and lime juice. Shake well. Pour into a rocks glass over ice. Top off with lime sparkling water (I like LaCroix) and a plum garnish. Note: you can use regular plums in this drink. Since they are bigger, you’ll only need one or two for muddling.
wild plum whiskey sour |

simple syrup collection |
my current simple syrup stash: (clockwise) wild plum, thyme, mint, rhubarb, fennel

I’m a bit simple-syrup-obsessed at the moment. You’ll find all of these in my fridge, awaiting their turn to star in my next cocktail creation! The fun part of simple syrups is you can take unusual ingredients and create drink mixers in a jiffy. The Fennel syrup is so tasty in a Bloody Mary and the Thyme syrup is used often (okay, A LOT ) right now with my new favorite Meyer Lemon & Thyme Whiskey Sour. I use the Mint syrup in my smoothies in the morning, and also a drop in an herbal tea for just a hit of minty sweetness. There are so many ways to use a simple syrup—let your mind and taste buds wander and you’ll be making syrups of all kinds before you know it.

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