This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Tiny House Magazine.
I’m kind of known in tiny house circles as the girl who loves craft beer. If my name is attached to a tiny house-related event, the organizers will hook me up with the local craft beer scene.
They may not realize that my interest in adult beverages extends past beer. I also love cocktails. A recent obsession with Tiki bars has fueled an exploration into mixology, and while I’ll not be a world-class bartender any time soon, I love to have a well-stocked home bar.
But when your home is just 120 square feet, an overly ambitious bar can take up far too much space. So here I am with some advice on creating an essential tiny holiday bar with fewer ingredients that will still give you what you need to mix up some delicious cocktails.
I firmly believe that you only need 3 liquors on hand at any given time. You can make deliciously simple cocktails from those three and a few mixers without much fuss.
Whiskey, Scotch, or Bourbon
You probably know that whiskey comes in a lot of forms. There is Irish whiskey, which includes the popular Jameson. Then you have Scotch whisky or just scotch. Glenlivet comes to mind as a trendy brand. And, in the southern U.S., you have bourbon. I prefer bourbon over any other type of whiskey, and Woodford Reserve is my favorite. The best part about stocking your bar is having any brand you like. Since I want spirits I can drink on the rocks or mixed in a cocktail, bourbon is the clear choice for me.
When a college friend turned 21, we went to a local dive bar, and he ordered his very first drink. When the bartender asked him, he had no idea what he wanted, so she suggested a gin and tonic. Upon the first sip, he declared, “It tastes like Christmas trees!” Gin is made from juniper, an evergreen, so his assessment was spot on. I like a nice botanical gin with Hendricks at the top of my list.
There was a time when I would have left rum off the list entirely, but my recent obsession with the kitschy 50’s vibe of the Tiki Bar revival has given me a new appreciation for it. Rum is versatile and can be used in various drinks, so it’s nice to have on hand. I honestly don’t get too picky about the rum brand, so grab your favorite, or the cheapest, whatever floats your boat. (2022 Edit: I do very much care about types of rum now. I love Plantation 3 Stars and Original Dark, which is the best bang for the money.)
You may be wondering why I didn’t suggest vodka. If vodka is your jam, go ahead and have some on hand. It’s adaptable and can work in a lot of drinks.
Here’s where your bar can get quickly out of hand. You can get tons of individual ingredients to make complicated cocktails, but your new hobby takes up every square foot of available space. For the holidays, let’s keep it simple.
Mixers should be otherwise consumable things. So, for example, if you would never drink grapefruit juice on its own, don’t suddenly decide to make a Brown Derby unless you intend to use an entire bottle of grapefruit juice in one sitting.
For a few great holiday drinks, I suggest the following:
- Cranberry Juice
- Fig Jam
Fresh citrus fruit is always a good idea for garnish. Let’s go with oranges for the holiday season. And you may also want to have a little club soda on hand. You don’t need to buy a 2 liter; just a small amount will do.
All right, now you have your ingredients; what else do you need? Just a few tools will get you to make excellent cocktails for the Holiday season to enjoy on your own or with a few friends.
- Shot glass or jigger
- Cocktail glasses
Here’s the thing about cocktail glasses: if you want fancy highballs or martini glasses, go ahead and have them. But if you don’t want them or don’t have the space for them, use what you have. You can make a cocktail in a pint glass or a juice glass. You can even use a wine glass or mugs. No one is going to judge you.
You’ll want to shake some cocktails and others you want to stir. And you don’t shake martinis, James Bond. The general rule of thumb is to shake a cocktail that includes citrus and stir everything else. A shaker won’t take up too much space and doesn’t have to be expensive. Most home bartenders like having a long bar spoon for stirring, but anything will work.
And you’ll want a way to measure your alcohol to avoid over-pouring yourself or friends, so something small that can measure an ounce at a time, like a jigger or a shot glass, is an excellent idea.
Okay, here we go. These simple recipes might feel a little anti-climactic, but you don’t have to be Tom Cruise in Cocktail inside your tiny house. As with everything about tiny living, simple is better.
The Fizzy Cranberry Gin Drink
You can call this whatever you want. Cranberry Gin and Tonic, but we’re not using tonic. Cranberry Gin Fizz, maybe. It doesn’t matter. Here’s what you do.
- Put some ice in your glass
- Add 2 ounces of gin
- Add cranberry juice to fill almost all the way
- Pour a splash of club soda
- Mix gently with a spoon
- Garnish with an orange slice or wedge.
Now you have all the tastes of the holidays with juniper and cranberry in one refreshing beverage.
Bourbon Fig Jam Cocktail
Again, I’m not getting too caught up with names here, but go ahead and give it a fun and creative name if you like. Maybe Kentucky Figgy Pudding?
You’ll use a shaker for this one.
- Fill a shaker with ice
- Add a couple of tablespoons of fig jam
- Add 2 ounces of bourbon
- Squeeze the juice of half an orange
- Shake until your hands are tired
- Pour over rocks
- Add club soda to fill the glass
- Garnish with an orange slice or wedge
You can use any jam with this. Cranberry or raspberry would also be great flavors. Apple and bourbon taste great together, too. I like to use figs so I can sing, “Bring us some figgy pudding” while I’m making it.
Eggnog is a staple of the holidays. And it’s a treat we only have this time of year, so you may as well take advantage of it. And nothing could be simpler than boozy eggnog.
All you need is a glass of cool, creamy eggnog and a shot of rum. You can rifle through your spice rack and grab the nutmeg to sprinkle over the top. Cinnamon will do in a pinch, but nutmeg is the gold standard with this drink. And, if you want a variation on this, bourbon or whiskey is a great alternative.
We hope you’ll use some of these ideas to build your tiny house holiday bar. We’d love to hear from you. Share these or other holiday recipes on social media if you try them out.
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