Cocktail Hour

Cocktail Hour Stock the ultimate bar for the holiday party. by Dan Clapson December 1, 2017 Photography by Daniel Wood Cattelan Italia Profil bar cart (black lacquered frame, chromed steel details, glass shelving and tray, made in Italy), $2,198, Finesse Furniture and Interiors; Ceramic mugs by Sam Knopp, $40 (white) and $30 (black), available…

Cocktail Hour

Stock the ultimate bar for the holiday party.

December 1, 2017

Photography by Daniel Wood

Cattelan Italia Profil bar cart (black lacquered frame, chromed steel details, glass shelving and tray, made in Italy), $2,198, Finesse Furniture and Interiors; Ceramic mugs by Sam Knopp, $40 (white) and $30 (black), available at Alberta Craft Council and The Royal Bison; Deer cocktail shaker, $67, Bella Casa; Bar spoon, $11, Kent of Inglewood; Stainless steel double jigger, $14, Bella Casa; Fferrone Bessho Collection tumblers, $165 for 2, The Artworks; Yukiwa stainless steel triangle-shaped strainer, $22, Kent of Inglewood; Henckel glass bowl, $35, Bella Casa; Reusable ice cubes, $40 for 18, Bella Casa; Brass tray, $380, The Artworks; Stainless steel stemless Martini glass, $23, Bella Casa; Pine cone glasses, $5 each, Ibon Antiques; Vintage gold-coloured glasses, $155 for 6, Ibon Antiques; Ribbed decanter, $138, Finesse Furniture and Interiors; Tall ribbed decanter, $138, Finesse Furniture and Interiors; 1920s rectangle decanter, $155, Ibon Antiques; Vintage etched glass decanter, $80, Ibon Antiques; Exquisite by Belfor decanter, $95, Ibon Antiques; Vintage etched glass coupes, $125 for 6, Ibon Antiques

As we approach peak holiday entertaining season, it’s important to be prepared. Appetizers, mixed nuts and sweet, sugary confections are one thing, but a well-stocked home bar truly helps bring everything – and everyone – together. From basic bar tools to Alberta-made liquor and all things in between, here’s what you need to make your at-home holiday party a boozy breeze.

The Basics

You can’t make a good drink without a few basic tools. These items won’t cost much and can all be used long after those holiday decorations have been packed away for the year.

Bar spoon – Your drawers are full of spoons, yes, but the tall, slender shape of a bar spoon makes stirring cocktails an easy and clean process.

Double-sided ounce measure – Because free pouring is an American tradition, best keep those ounces of liquor consistently in check.

Empty wine bottles – Great for holding simple syrups, juice, cordials and anything else you might need to have pre-made before slinging cocktails at your holiday party.

Stainless steel liquor bottle spouts – These handy spouts help you pour anything cleanly and accurately.

Shaker – A great way to infuse fresh herbs and citrus zest into a drink, and an absolutely essential tool if you’re planning to make a layered drink, like a gin sour, for your guests.

Small fine mesh strainer – To catch any little bits you don’t want landing in your cocktail from strainer to glass.

Ice cube trays of varying sizes – Depending on how fancy you want to be, purchasing trays that will produce different sizes of ice cubes may come in handy. For punch cocktails, just freeze water in a large metal bowl or deep loaf pan.

Microplane – Perfect for finishing certain cocktails with a quick grate of lemon of lime zest or a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon.

Good quality vegetable peeler – Use to remove peel from different types of citrus. Curl, fold, slice and garnish cocktails as applicable.

Serving tray – For more intimate gatherings, find a nice serving platter that you can  use to transport drinks from the counter to your guests. When not in use, set all of your bar tools on it to keep your drink-making area uncluttered.

Glassware – It’s a shame to put a dirty gin Martini into a rocks glass and, well, pouring an Old Fashioned into a Martini glass just doesn’t feel quite right. Make sure you’ve got the proper glassware to get the drinking job done.

Collins glasses: Caesar, vodka cocktails

Coupes: Champagne, gin sour

Rocks glasses: Old Fashioned, gin and tonic

Martini glasses: Martini, Cosmopolitan

Ceramic mugs: Perfect for any hot, boozy drinks you have on the agenda.

Splurge Items

Here are a few items that can help you take things to the next level.

Spherical ice cube maker  If you’re looking for a true wow factor during cocktail hour.

Gold-coated bar accessories – A little bling is never a bad thing, right?

Etched glassware – Make all your guests feel like VIPs with glasses of all shapes and sizes that boast etched designs.


With the distilling scene exploding across the country, we don’t have to look much further than our own backyards to find top-tier spirits. Always make sure you have essentials like white and red wine and prosecco on-hand, but here are 10 unique liquor products from Alberta to add to your bar cart this year.

Eau Claire Distillery Three Point Vodka – A high quality vodka perfect for any classic cocktail.

Eau Claire Distillery Gin Rummy or Christmas Gin – Christmas in a bottle. Try spiking brewed chai tea with this one.

Raw Peppercorn Badland Seaberry Gin – Because Caesars know not a season, have this peppercorn-infused gin from Canmore ready and waiting for anyone craving the signature Canadian cocktail.

Strathcona Spirits Vodka – With a slightly sweeter finish, this vodka is especially nice served as-is, ice-cold.

Strathcona Spirits Badland Seaberry Gin – Perfect for drinks complex or simple.

Alberta Premium – In any setting, this Alberta-made, award-winning classic does the job for anyone looking for a brown, booze-forward drink.

Park Espresso Vodka – Need a little pick-me-up? This rich, espresso-infused spirit out of Banff will hit the spot. Great in a weekend morning coffee too, if you’re up for it.

Fallentimber Meadery Pyment – This mead-red wine hybrid beverage is on the sweeter side and best served slightly chilled.

Hansen Distillery Cinnamon Rye Spirit – Add a bit of warmth to any drink with this seasonal sipper.

Liquor complements

Porter’s Tonic – Based in Okotoks, Canada’s premier tonic producer offers up four signature flavours to help match the spectrum of flavours one finds in gin. Great when added to mulled wine as well.

Upson’s Classic Cordial – Made by Wishbone’s Shaun Hicks, these citrus-forward cordials are a welcome addition to punch bowl cocktails or vodka and sodas, but are also ideal to have on-hand for any non-drinkers in the crowd.

Black Cloud Bitters -Head to your local boutique liquor store to find this Alberta-made line of bitters. The charred cedar flavour is their signature and the most pronounced.

Eau Claire Tonic Soda – Only slightly bitter, this soda is a far cry from the commercially produced tonic you’ll find in the grocery store and much more palatable.

This article appears in the December 2017 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.

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