Focusing on your spirits stash may be the right move this socially distanced season. For the ultimate how-to, we turned to Michael Sturgis, head barman at Topping Rose House in the Hamptons, for tricks of the trade that will elevate your bar game to the next level.
What essential spirits should one have at home?
I keep a couple of vodkas, one ryebased, Ketel One, and one potato-based, Chopin. Next on the list would be a dry gin, like Fords, and a floral one, like Hendrick’s. For the hottest category and what is believed to be the most versatile, a clean, crisp blanco tequila is a must. Finally, you’ll need a good light rum. Cruzan light rum from my days sailing in the Caribbean is my pick. For the liquors to complement the bar, be sure to always have Aperol; Campari; Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, a wonderful American coffee liqueur; and Cointreau on hand.
What about garnishes?
The most important are fresh herbs, lemons, jalapenos, cucumbers, pineapple and beets. Homemade simple syrups with organic sugar and herbs in cheesecloth is another one of my tricks. And if you choose mixers, make sure they are high-quality. I like Fever-Tree. Tools of the trade? Aah… the fun stuff. Always keep multiple shaker glasses, metal shakers, strainers and jiggers, but more importantly get a vintage glass martini pitcher with glass stirrer. Antique shaker glasses are like foreplay!
Which accessories are necessary and which are overrated?
A jigger is very helpful when trying new cocktails to get correct measures. Personally I like to free pour the way Julia Child cooked—a dash of this, a pinch of that. One zester, mortar and pestle gets the job done better.
Ice: crushed or cubed?
In an ideal world, I love using all. Esposito’s large round and crushed ice for mists.
My favorite drinks are a bourbon OldFashioned and a cucumber Hendrick’s Gin Rickey. The thought of a Fortaleza over crushed ice with a splash of freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice with a pinch of kosher salt on a hot day is perfection.
Whose home bar would you like to ransack?
I would love to steal all the vintage bar stuff from my good friend Isaac Guzmán, who lives in East Hampton.
Word of advice?
Always let Manhattans and martinis sit and marinate. Oh, and stir. Never shake.