Travel Bar

Thanks to Tammy for mentioning me on her excellent Scotch & Scones blog. Now that I run the risk of actually having readers who are not related to me, I promise to do a better job keeping up with my writing.

When planning a vacation in a dry town on the far end of a small island, it is very important to carefully plan out your drinking. (Editors note: Food, clothing, and cat toys are also important, but those aren't the subject of this blog.) There is a delicate balance between volume, variety, and compactness. Volume: There must be enough alcohol. Variety: There must be ingredients for at least four or five different cocktails to stave off boredom. Compactness: There must be enough room left in the car for people, or else there will be no one to drink the booze (or feed the cats.)

Where to begin?

A very good starting point for a small bar setup is the 12 Bottle Bar, however, I tend to take a slightly different approach. Instead of starting with a list of essential ingredients, and then seeing what cocktails can be made, I like to start with an essential cocktail, and build variations.

The essential cocktail that I always start with is the Negroni. It is the perfect cocktail to design a travel bar around, not only because it is delicious, but also because it is one of the most infinitely variable cocktails in existence. For the uninitiated, a Negroni is equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. The wonderful thing about it is that all three ingredients can be swapped out to make new, and reliably still delicious, cocktails. Replace the gin with Rye or bourbon, and you have a Boulevardier. Swapping dry for sweet vermouth, and Suze for Campari makes a White Negroni. One of my recent favorites is the Bottecchia, made with Campari, Cynar, and Fernet Branca. The possibilities are endless.

So, let's build a bar for this trip.

Starting with the standard Negroni, we have gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. Add in Rye to allow for a Boulevardier or a Manhattan. I will include Cynar, because I love Cynar, and because it makes an interesting substitute for Campari. Adding scotch adds the Rob Roy (scotch, sweet vermouth, Peychaud's bitters) and the Smoking Jacket (Scotch, sweet vermouth, Cynar, orange bitters) to the menu. Fernet Branca lets me make the aformentioned Bottecchia as well as the Hanky Panky (gin, sweet vermouth, Fernet Branca.)

And here's that paragraph in list form:

  • Gin (Gordon's)
  • Rye (Canadian Club 100%)
  • Scotch (Teacher's Highland Cream)
  • Sweet Vermouth ([my recent sherry experiment(../43-sherry-based-vermouth))
  • Campari
  • Cynar
  • Fernet Branca

(Also included are Angostura, Peychaud's, and Orange bitters)

  • Negroni
  • Manhattan
  • Rob Roy
  • Smoking Jacket
  • Hanky Panky
  • Bottecchia

Have you noticed what's missing yet?

So far, I've only mentioned stirred cocktails. But what happens if I add lemons and limes to the mix?

  • Gimlet
  • Bennett
  • Fitzgerald
  • Bee's Knees
  • Whiskey Sour

And so on...

Sometimes, I might include tequila and orange liqueur for a Margarita, but I've decided against it this time. The problem is that, while there are many wonderful drinks to be made with each of these ingredients, all of them seem to be too complicated for the stripped down travel bar. The same goes for rum, it's just a matter of efficiency.

Well, that's all for now. Perhaps I will dedicate a future post to some of my ideas for transporting all of this booze. A woodworking related post is well past due...

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