The carefree days of summer are finally within reach and unless you still get summers off, you’ll be living for the weekends when you can entertain in flip-flops and without having to clean your house. Building a basic bar from scratch is a bit of an investment, but just think how much you’re saving by eating and drinking at home. And, since you’ve got the booze covered, your friends can bring the food. These bar essentials will keep you shaking up fun around the BBQ from now until Labor Day.
Vodka: Probably the most versatile spirit, vodka is essential for a Vodka Martini, Vodka Tonic, Cosmopolitan, Bloody Mary, Cape Cod, jello shots and spiked watermelon. I trust the Russians and buy Stoli.
Bourbon: Maker’s Mark satisfies even whiskey snobs and mixes up a terrific Manhattan, Mint Julep or Old-Fashioned.
Gin: The “G” of the quintessential summer party cocktail G&T, a good bottle of gin (like Tanqueray) means you also have the makings for a Bronx, Martini, Negroni (see recipe below), Tom Collins, Gimlet and French 75.
Rum: Instead of buying white and dark rum, choose a golden one (like 10 Cane) for a Mojito, Piña Colada, Cuba Libre and daiquiri.
Tequila: It’s the star of a Margarita, but someone will probably end up pouring snakebite shots before the summer’s over, so don’t skimp. Insist on a quality brand like Sauza or Patròn.
-Fresh citrus (limes, lemons, oranges, grapefruits)
Sweet vermouth: Used in Americanos, Manhattans, Negronis
Dry vermouth: Used in Martinis, Gibsons, Bronx
Angostura Bitters: Used in Manhattans, Old-Fashioneds, Champagne Cocktails
Cointreau (better than Triple Sec): Used in Cosmopolitans and Margaritas
Campari: Used in Negronis, Americanos, mixed with soda, or straight with an orange twist
Sparkling wine (prosecco, cava): Used in Champagne Cocktails, French 75s, Mimosas
Changes at Breaux and wines on draft?
It seems that our neighbor to the north, Maryland, is reaping the benefits of Virginia’s winemaking talent.
First, David Collins, Loudoun County’s Breaux Vineyards’ winemaker and vineyard manager for the past 14 vintages, left to start his own vineyard and winery in Washington County, Maryland. He’s spent the spring planting the first quarter of the 110-acre vineyard, in the state that hopes to experience the same kind of growth that Loudoun County had in Collins’ 24-year tenure there. Replacing Collins at Breaux is David Pagan Castaño, whose family owns a prominent winery in southeastern Spain and who comes most recently from a destination winery in the Canary Islands.
And, two of our area vineyards, Stone Mountain and White Hall, are putting some of their barrelled wine directly into 19-liter kegs for a winebar in Columbia, Maryland. Aida Bistro & Winebar has one of the nation’s largest wine-on-tap programs offering 20 wines (the other 18 are from California and Oregon). Big perks come with packaging wine this way. Displacing oxygen with argon or nitrogen essentially “pushes” the wine, keeping it fresh for months. And, because kegs eliminate the cost of 25 bottles, corks, enclosures, labels and foils, the producer can charge the restaurant less and the restaurant can charge us less, all while reducing the carbon footprint. Can we expect to see Charlottesville restaurants following Aida’s lead? The tap system requires a substantial splash out (we’re talking like $20K), but restaurants with beer on tap can test sales by devoting one of their existing taps to wine.—Megan Headley
The Negroni is as refreshing and effortlessly stylish as the Italians who invented it. Commit this classic recipe to memory and it may just become your go-to drink this summer.
Fill a rocks glass with ice. In an ice-filled shaker, combine 1 1/3 oz. gin, 1 oz. sweet vermouth and 2/3 oz. Campari. Strain into the glass and garnish with an orange wheel.