Lagniappe: Boozing On A Budget, Part 1

The actual FULL title of today's post is "Boozing on a Budget: Everything You Need to Have a Perfectly Well-Stocked Cocktail Bar to Get You Through The Week and Life in General" but that seemed a bit excessive.

Let's talk about cocktails! We talk about them all the time here, don't we? I like to drink. I come from a family of Europeans raised in Latin America, and we have a GRAND old time with a great whiskey or aged rum. It's in my blood. No seriously, I'm pretty sure that at any given time there is a measurable amount of alcohol in my blood somehow, someway.

To my future employers: HAHAHA! I was just kidding about that last line, of course. Move along.

Now I do love a great wine, with my personal favourites being Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Wine is my go-to when I am legitimately stressed out and just want to unwind after a long day.

But cocktails, with endless varieties of liquor and their myriad of accompanying bitters, mixers, garnishes, and infusions are an absolute PLAYGROUND for me. In fact, I've got some blackberry vodka infusing on my countertop as we speak that I hope to work into a tangerine spritzer cocktail.

The tragic problem with all of this is I have no money. Boo, hiss! LIQUOR COMPANIES, PLEASE SEND ME FREE ALCOHOL! I will selflessly undergo the arduous task of dreaming up a delicious cocktail and then write about it in this most winning fashion. #contentisking

Until that happens (or I marry for money, whichever comes first) here's how I manage to mix things up on a budget:


Whelp, I guess I fail at my own list because I don't even really have one of these. My roommate has a cheap stainless steel one that I suspect is some sort of "drinking governor" type device, because it will only let me make one drink before the metal contracts so much I can't pry the lid off to make a second one. I DO NOT APPRECIATE BEING JUDGED ON MY DRINKING HABITS BY AN INANIMATE OBJECT.

So I just use one of these water bottles! It's metal and it has a small opening that makes straining a breeze. Make do, bitches.

 I should probably try to upgrade soon...THIS ISN'T EVEN MINE. Why haven't my roommates kicked me out yet?

A jigger is a metal double-ended shot glass that looks a bit like a wonky hourglass. It usually measures 2 ounces on one end and 1 ounce on the other. You can just use a regular shot glass, of course, but make sure you know exactly how much it measures. There's no real standard, so you could be pouring anywhere from 0.75 ounce to 2 ounces without realising it. For years I wondered why all my friends complained that my drinks were too strong--as it turns out, before I got a jigger I was using a Marine Corps stamped shot glass that was a deceptive 2 ounces instead of 1. Whoops.

(Marine Corps...should've known.) 

A muddler is a stainless steel or wooden rod with a textured plastic end used to mash/crush ingredients at the bottom of a glass to release oils, juices, and aromas. You might do this in an Old Fashioned. I don't have a muddler. I use a wooden spoon. *shrug*

Basically a regular vegetable peeler, but with a handle shaped like a Y. This is used to take peels of citrus fruit, usually orange or lemon, as a garnish. You can use a paring knife instead, but I find a y-peeler to be much more controlled and precise (not to mention safer).

This is an obvious one, but if you're really on a budget you probably only have two basic types of glasses: drinking glasses and wine glasses. If you're trendy, possibly Mason jars as well. I'm lucky to live with someone who owns a set of rocks glasses for my whiskey on the rocks, Old Fashioneds, and most of the cocktails you see on this blog. We recently acquired some stemless wine glasses that I've been using as a slightly more elegant option but I'm leaving both behind when I move next month.

It actually PAINS me a great deal that I don't have the correct set of glasses for all the drinks I want to make, because a truly classy, well-stocked cocktail bar would have the following:

  • Champagne flutes: for any cocktail that involves champagne or prosecco. The tall, slim shape allows the bubbles to flow in long thin streams and keeps them concentrated for longer, avoiding disappointingly flat drinks. 
  • Coupes: This is probably what you envision when you think of Gatsby! Coupes are said to be modeled on the shape of Marie Antoinette's breasts and are used to make a champagne tower at wedding receptions. (Has anyone ACTUALLY ever seen that though?) Coupes fell out of favour fairly quickly because the wide surface area makes the champers lose its carbonation more quickly.
  • Martini glasses: Technically these are called "cocktail glasses" but have become known as martini glasses because of their most popular usage. These glasses are used to serve any cocktail that is meant to be enjoyed cold but not actually over ice, as the long stem keeps the heat of your hand away from the drink. I always feel just a little bit finicky when I drink that way (not to mention it's a test of grip strength and balance) but hell, it's better than a warm martini. Gross.
  • Rocks glasses: I call them "rocks glasses" because that's what I grew up hearing, but they're also called lowballs or Old Fashioned glasses after their most famous (and delicious!) contents. It's a short tumbler with a thick base often used to serve drinks "on the rocks" or any that involve muddling. A solid, crystal clear rocks glass cradling an ice sphere with a bit of Maker's Mark floating around it is a damn beautiful sight!
  • Collins glass: A tall slim glass, the Collins glass is used for "sipping" drinks that are served with ice, like Long Island Iced Teas or anything else you'd imagine someone in the South drinking on the porch on a balmy summer evening.

There are also several other odds and ends for a nicely stocked bar like a strainer, a citrus squeezer, matches or a lighter to ignite citrus peels and their essential oils, a set of tongs to match an ice bucket, etc.  Ain't nobody got time (or space) for that, though.

In the absence of a rich Saudi husband, I plan to hit up some thrift stores (or my father's house--heads up Dad!) to find unique "solos" of all of those to build up my hodge-podge collection, but lemme tell you--a Carlos O'Brien tastes just as delicious in a rocks glass as it does out of a wine glass or a Mason jar or a coffee mug. I'm just saying. It's nice to be able to enjoy a cocktail in the most perfect, refined way possible, but don't let yourself get so hung up on the details that you no longer enjoy it. :)

Posted on March 26, 2014 .