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The 10-Bottle Bar Theory

Back in 2007 my interest in spirits and good cocktails began to take on a life of its own. I found myself spending countless hours poring over books, websites and magazines testing out new recipes. I was spending more money than I care to recall buying new spirits (there is a large cabinet in the back of my bar area full of bottles still waiting for their cocktail raison d'être). And heaven help those poor bartenders at places like Flora, Bourbon & Branch and The Alembic that had to suffer my bartending SuperFan-dom.

In my defense, there was a lot to learn. There was a huge language problem to overcome - there were new meanings for words like "pony", "maraschino" and "gum". There were the logistical challenges of finding new, exotic-sounding things like falernum, pimento dram, kirschwasser and rhum agricole. Finally, I had to decipher whether I really needed to find a small-batch rye to make that cool new drink I had found, or would a bottle of Maker's Mark suffice? 

Three years, hundreds of bottles and thousands of cocktails later I came out the other side with a working knowledge of home mixology. The payoff is clear - I now have better parties (more liquor = more entertaining guests), an understanding of the alchemy involved in mixology and a great hobby. But surely there must be a better way for those just starting this process to get there?  

This was the genesis for what I am calling it the 10-Bottle Bar theory - meaning that one can start a high-quality home bar with just 10 bottles of spirits. With these 10 bottles - along with a handful ofmixersbar tools and glassware that I will also explain along the way - the home mixologist can create a compelling array of interesting and tasty libations, dazzle their friends and neighbors, the whole lot.  

The 10-Bottle theory certainly poses some 'Noah's Ark' kinds of problems. Which rum should I  bring on board?  What - I can only have one whiskey??? Non-trivial questions, to be sure. I will offer my take on which bottles should occupy those precious 10 slots and will attach a number of classic and neo-classic drink recipes that one can make using these bottles. If you're like me, you'll want to expand your collection from there.  

Cheers - Layne