Wine & spirits: Holiday bar prep
There are so many ways to get into the holiday spirit, and having a thoughtfully stocked bar when you're entertaining is one of them. A considerate host should have a significant variety of products to offer, aside from his or her personal favourites. This is a great time of year to add to the festive atmosphere at home and to treat your guests and yourself to a special bottle -- one you might not have year-round, perhaps a rare single malt scotch, an XO cognac or a specialty liqueur.
Don't forget about friends who don't want alcohol. If you have neither the time nor the energy to mix a special punch or make mocktails, offer something a little more celebratory than pop or juice, like a peach or pear nectar with soda, or a premium thirst quencher like San Pellegrino's Limonata. Taking stock of what you have on hand and then replenishing any needed supplies will serve you on into the new year, when cash is scarcer and your appetite for shopping has dwindled away.
The home bar
These are basic guidelines to get you started. Decide how much of each type of liquor you require based on your own and your friends' personal tastes. For less popular items, look for smaller bottles. When buying mixers and making ice, opt for twice the amount you think you need.
• Vodka: Avoid the cheapies and the superpremium brands
• Rum: Go for the gold
• Gin: Plymouth for martinis, Bombay Sapphire for Collins
• Canadian whisky: Our superpremiums are very affordable
• Scotch whisky: Blended for mixing, single malt for sipping neat
• Bourbon & Irish whiskey: Small bottles should do
• Tequila: White for mixing or shots, gold for sipping
• Brandy: VS for mixing, VSOP for sipping
• Liqueur: Amaretto, coffee, Irish cream, orange or sambuca
• Vermouth: Noilly Prat for martinis, Cinzano Rosso for manhattans
• Beer: Ale/lager, domestic/imported, regular/light
• Red & white wines: Several bottles (no cheap boxes or jugs)
• Sparkling wine: Ideally, champagne
• Port: Ruby or late-bottled vintage
• Sherry: Dry for aperitifs, cream for post-prandials
• Mixes: Cola; ginger ale; lemon-lime; tonic; club soda; orange, tomato, pineapple, cranberry and Clamato juices
• Garnishes: Sugar; salt and pepper for rimming; olives and cocktail onions; cherries; orange, lemon and lime slices or wedges; Worcestershire sauce; Angostura bitters; Tabasco; celery sticks
• Tools: Bottle and can opener; shot glass; ice bucket and tongs; cutting board and knife; mixing and measuring spoons; blender; shaker/mixing pitcher; strainer; straws; napkins; glassware; glass charms to identify glasses; wastebasket
It's nice to have a cocktail ready just as guests arrive, but consider how easy it is to get hammered on an empty stomach. Have snacks available as soon as that first drink appears. And don't forget those designated drivers.