Holiday Hosting

If you’re having a small gathering this holiday season, a well-stocked bar and fridge means you’re ready for anything, be it an impromptu happy hour or a visit from the in-laws. Invest or re-purpose some basic equipment, stock up on a few essentials, and you can have a spread that will impress just about anyone. Here are some bar basics that will keep you shaking and stirring for months to come.

Start with the basics:


These bar basics are the foundation of many popular cocktails, and a good selection of wine and beer means you’re ready for any request.

  • Gin for martinis, gin and tonics and Tom Collins
  • Vodka for martinis, screwdrivers, vodka tonics, and Moscow mules
  • Light Rum for daiquiris, mojitos, eggnog and rum and cokes.
  • Whiskey (rye or bourbon) for old fashioneds and whiskey sours.
  • Angostura bitters
  • Sweet and dry Vermouth
  • Lager or Pale Ale
  • Red or Dark Beer
  • Cider
  • White wine
  • Red wine
  • Sparkling wine
  • Non-alcoholic beer

Add some mixers.

Some basics are listed below, but there are plenty of wonderful non-alcoholic drinks to choose from. A wide selection of good quality sodas and juices should be available for your guests who choose not to consume liquor.

  • Club Soda
  • Tonic water
  • Soft drinks like cola and gingerale
  • Fruit juices like cranberry, orange and lemonade

Cocktail Essentials

You’ll need to pick up a few essential pieces of equipment. These specialized pieces are available at some PEILCC locations as well as in any kitchen store. In a pinch, though, you can usually find a substitute by raiding your kitchen utensil drawer.

  • Jigger or a shot glass for measuring
  • Muddler or a long-handled wooden spoon
  • Citrus Reamer for juicing citrus fruit, or squeeze by hand
  • Cocktail Shaker for mixed drinks, or a mason jar with a lid
  • Paring Knife for cutting fruit
  • Bar Spoon for mixing stirred cocktails – any spoon with a long handle will do
  • Corkscrew and Bottle Opener

Raid the Pantry for some extra touches.

These bar staples are easy to find and are common ingredients in many basic cocktail recipes.

  • Lemons, limes and oranges
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Fresh herbs like mint or basil
  • Simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water cooked together and cooled)
  • Separated egg whites (or a carton of pasteurised egg whites)
  • Green olives
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Fresh or frozen berries
  • Lots and lots of ice

Be a responsible host.

You’ll help keep everyone safe by not drinking too much yourself. If you serve alcohol, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your guests get home safely, so plan ahead to call a cab or let guests stay in the spare bedroom. You may be held responsible if your guest is injured or harms another by driving home from your house impaired.

People tend to drink more when they serve themselves, so if possible, designate a bartender. Keep a jigger next to the bottles to measure portions accurately. Monitor your guests’ drinking; some guests may not appear drunk even when they’ve already had too much to drink.

Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines suggest no more than four drinks at any one time for males and three for females. Please visit for more information about moderating alcohol intake.