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Sarah Krathen breaks down the best holiday bar shopping list.

By Justine Sterling
Updated May 23, 2017
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Many casual drinkers don’t keep a fully stocked bar year-round. But with the holidays approaching, a small home bar setup is festive and fun. Here, Sarah Krathen, the co-owner and bar manager of New York City’s beloved (now-closed) Sorella and co-author of the Sorella cookbook, lists the key bottles and mixers to have on hand and shares festive cocktails to make with them.

5 Key Bottles

Rum

Jamaican-made Blackwell or a dark, complex bottling from Rhum J.M.

Whiskey

Old Overholt. “It’s a great value that can stand up to a lot of different cocktails,” Krathen says.

Gin

Greenhook Ginsmiths, a clean and herbaceous American dry gin from Brooklyn.

Tequila

Excellia, which is aged in Sauternes wine casks for a smooth, fruity flavor, or Tequila Ocho.

Digestif

Amaro or Fernet-Branca because “We all know that the holidays are full of overeating.”

5 Must-Have Mixers

Pomegranate juice

This refreshing, sweet-tart juice benefits from its festive red hue.

Eggnog

Best to leave the level of spiking to guests.

Ginger beer or ginger syrup

“Ginger is a great holiday spice to add to cocktails,” Krathen says. “It’s also a great balancing agent for stronger spirits.”

Pratt Standard Ginger Syrup, $19 at amazon.com

Pineapple juice

“Pineapple is a winter fruit that makes me feel tropical,” she says. “So it often makes an appearance on our cocktail menu in the colder months. Vacation in a glass!”

Grapefruit juice

“Citruses are in full swing in the winter,” Krathen says. Grapefruit in particular is terrific with spirits like gin and tequila.

Garnishes

Mint, rosemary, orange zest, lemon zest, pomegranate seeds and cinnamon.

Other items to have on hand: Mulling spices, simple syrup, lime juice, soda water, and Angostura and orange bitters.

Bitters "Triple Play" Variety 3-Pack: Angostura, Peychaud's, and Regans, $33 at amazon.com

5 Easy Cocktails with 5 Easy Variations

Eggnog

Krathen likes hers spiked with rum. Variation: Try heating the cream or eggnog mix with a handful of fresh ginger slices before making the cocktail.

Hot Toddy

Krathen garnishes this hot tea, whiskey and honey cocktail with star anise. Variation: Replace the whiskey with rum and a digestif for a rich, spiced hot drink.

Old-Fashioned

Krathen isn’t alone in thinking of an old-fashioned as a fantastic holiday cocktail. Chef Ethan Stowell makes a few every Christmas. Variation: Krathen likes to replace the classic maraschino cherry garnish with house-brandied cherries, pomegranate seeds or citrus zest cut into stars with a cookie cutter.

Tequila with lime juice

When approaching an unmanned bar, Krathen’s go-to cocktail is a simple tequila and lime juice. “It’s reliable and delicious,” she says. Variation: Just stir in agave syrup to make a classic margarita. Add pomegranate seeds to make it festive.

Gin with grapefruit juice

This bright, fresh combo transforms into a Christmas cocktail with a rosemary garnish. Variation: Krathen’s cocktail Rosemary’s Baby Jesus (recipe below) is a fresh take on this simple drink.

Recipe: Rosemary’s Baby Jesus

Pink Peppercorn Syrup

1/4 cup pink peppercorns

Zest from one orange

4 cups water

4 cups sugar

Boil peppercorns and orange zest in water for about 10 minutes, just until the peppercorns start to break open. Add sugar while the water is still boiling. Simmer the mixture till reduced, about 10 minutes. Pour into a container and refrigerate overnight. Strain the next day.

Cocktail

1½ ounces Old Tom Gin (or gin of your choice)

1½ ounces grapefruit juice

¼ ounce lemon juice

½ ounce Pink Peppercorn Syrup

Dash of orange bitters

Rosemary sprig

Shake the gin, juices, syrup and bitters together with ice until cold. Strain into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig.