Death & Co — Off the Shelf

Learn how to craft cocktails at home from the master mixology team at New York City's renowned Death & Co. bar.
Death & Co.

When it comes to building a bar from scratch and mixing mind-blowing cocktails at home, the team from Death & Co, one of Manhattan’s elite cocktail bars, has all the tips and tricks you need. David Kaplan, Alex Day and Nick Fauchald recently released their first cookbook, titled Death & Co, which tells the story of how they opened the namesake bar in New York City and built their drink menu. With their book and their expert advice, before you know it you’ll be enjoying your own home bar and throwing the best cocktail parties in your group of friends. Start with Kaplan’s top-five rules for setting up your home bar (and maybe a Muddled Mission, recipe after the link):

1. Start with the basics: one mixable base spirit in the major categories: gin, tequila, whiskey (preferably rye if I'm around), rum and vodka — brandy as well if you're a fan, which we all should be. Add a few frequently used modifiers (such as sweet and dry vermouth, Triple Sec, maybe a curacao of some kind).

2. Remember that "mixable" doesn't mean "cheap," but it should be affordable. We usually stick to a range of $15 to $30 per bottle.

3. If the 10- to 15-bottle bar (see above) is overwhelming, then buy base spirits one at a time to slowly  grow your bar. Modifiers typically come in smaller sizes, so there's no need to break the bank on a liter of Grand Marnier when you only reach for it occasionally.

4. Once you have a solid base, make a few adventurous purchases. This is the time to buy that Chartreuse you've been eyeing.

5. Booze is beautiful! Find a place to display your collection and you'll want to grow it and use it more often.

Death & Co

The book is a gorgeous assembly of information about tools, techniques and recipes. The images — of both the drinks and the Death & Co restaurant space — are hauntingly beautiful. Witty anecdotes from regular customers break up sections and chapters, and bring the staff and ambiance of the space to life. And all your favorite cocktail recipes are there, with new favorites you've yet to discover just waiting to be mixed up. Whether you’re looking to mix up a classic cocktail, like a Negroni or a French 75, or you want to put a new twist on an old favorite, like the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned or the Aperitivo Julep, Death & Co is the comprehensive cocktail book for you. The authors also cover bitters, sweeteners and the alchemy behind why certain drinks and mixers play nicely together while others conflict. With Death & Co information and a well-stocked home bar, you’ll be a mixology master to be reckoned with.

Muddled Mission

But where do you start? If you’re building a home bar from scratch, you’ll probably start with a run to the liquor store. “Go in armed with a little bit of intel — even some cocktails you like to drink will help the salesperson get an idea of what you may enjoy or want to buy,” Kaplan advised. He added, “The best place to go to gather this information is your favorite bar; just ask the bartenders what type of spirit or brand they use in your favorite drinks. Bartenders usually love to share information; we love hearing that folks are drinking well at home.”

Kaplan and his team have some advice when it comes to making your liquor and accoutrement selections: “Start simple and start from a personal place. If you love tequila cocktails, select a few you like and buy the ingredients to make them. As your taste grows or changes, you can continue growing your bar.” He added, “Another great trick: Make it known to one and all that you're interested in cocktail culture. If your friends and family know you like cocktails, they'll be happy for the easy gift idea.” Or, better yet, get your group of friends more involved by throwing the cocktail party to end all cocktail parties! “Another fun and easy way to grow into (a home bar) is to throw a cocktail potluck,” Kaplan said. “You make the food and ask friends to bring the booze. Make sure that you offer some specific bottle suggestions so you don't end up with a bottle of After Shock.”

Everything else you need to know, from stocking the bar to mixing drinks correctly, you can find in the pages of the Death & Co cookbook. You can order your copy here. Cheers!

Muddled Mission
1 strawberry
1 1/2 ounces Anchor Juniper Gin
1 ounce Saint-Germain
1/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse
3/4 ounce lemon juice
Garnish: 1 strawberry

In a shaker, gently muddle the strawberry. Add the remaining ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a coupe. Garnish with the strawberry.

Death & Co by David Kaplan, Alex Day and Nick Fauchald, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2014 by William Hereford.

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