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  • VOL 08, ISSUE 01 • WINTER 2020
5 Liquors

5 Liquors

Every Restaurant Needs Behind the Bar

Stocking the bar is a tricky task. You’ll always feel as though you’ve left out something essential, so you might find yourself overcompensating with more product than you’ll ever need. And let’s be honest: Most of it sits collecting dust anyway. So, to help you avoid clutter, we turned to two mixology experts for their advice on five liquors every restaurant needs to stock.

At Masa y Agave in New York’s hip TriBeca neighborhood, John McCarthy is the beverage director. While his focus at the Mexican-inspired cocktail lounge is agave spirits, he offers sound advice with his overall top selections:


Don’t forget London Dry, Old Tom and all the new American gins.


With rum, you’ve got to have light rum and dark rum. And that’s not even talking regionally, whether it’s South American rum, Caribbean rum or American.


With tequila, it has to be blue agave. But then you need blanco, reposado and anejo. Staff training is essential with all spirits because as they become more complex and diverse, their versatility increases. Every Thursday we have a different rep come in to lead the staff in tasting mezcals or tequila brands. That’s so the entire staff has heard about the product, tasted it and seen it. They’ll then be able to communicate that effectively to the guest.


When it comes to vodka, I believe it should always be Polish.


Within the whiskey category, you’ve got to include rye, bourbon, Irish and Scotch.

For Caroline Galzin, Nicky’s Coal Fired will be the second project she’s built in Nashville with husband Tony, who will also act as executive chef. It’ll open this fall with a coalfire pizza oven cranking out cracker-crust pizzas, plus wood-fired seafood and steak entrées. As managing partner, one of her duties will be to oversee the beverage program. She’s already set her sights on what the top spirits will be behind the bar:


It’s a really delicious ingredient that’s good to drink on its own. I personally love to use amaro in place of vermouth in cocktails such as the Manhattan, Negroni or Old Fashioned. It adds more complexity to the drink.


It is a personal favorite of mine. It has a ton of applications for craft cocktails that you can mix with a lot of different stuff and it tastes really great. I just love the bitterness of Campari. It’s a perfect aperitif and I always want to drink it before or after dinner.


Bourbon and rye are so popular, and scotch sometimes gets overlooked. There are so many good and interesting scotch brands out there. Investigate!


I really like Carpano Antica (in this category). Vermouth is in classic cocktails for a reason. They’re supposed to add a very specific flavor.


It’s not the trendiest thing, but every bar needs to offer one good vodka that people have heard of. You don’t need all name brands, but it’s important to make all your guests feel comfortable.

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