The Essentials Ina Garten Always Keeps On Her Bar Cart

It can be fascinating to learn what those who cook for a living — particularly those who do so in the spotlight — keep stocked in their own homes. These people tend to have access to any kind of ingredient they want so their fans and viewers tend to want to know what they deem to be the best or at least the most essential. Take Ina Garten, for instance; she has given folks plenty of peeks into her Hamptons fridge and pantry. They know that she stocks her fridge with extra large organic eggs and homemade chicken stock while there is a steady supply of San Marzano canned tomatoes and Texmati rice in her pantry. Certainly, the queen of entertainment must also keep a supply of booze on hand for her famous dinners and cocktail parties.

In the "Ask Ina" section of her website, Garten shared that, indeed, she likes to have a handful of types of booze on hand for any given occasion and they include Scotch, vodka, bourbon, gin, and wine. These choices are nothing if not convenient; while these spirits won't take up a ton of room on your bar cart or cabinet, the liquors create an array of popular cocktails. Of course, she leaves room for mixers like tonic water, club soda, and ginger ale. While these are her recommendations, she also advises you to stock up on whatever you and your guests love.

Make it personal

If you're known for making a mean margarita, you'll probably want to have tequila and triple sec on hand. If mojitos are more your jam, obviously you'll need plenty of rum. And if you and your crew find your joy in wine, then fill your bar cart with white, red, rose, and sparkling wines. The mixers Garten mentions are great because they can be mixed with any of her favored booze to create a cocktail; think vodka with club soda, bourbon with ginger ale, and a classic gin and tonic. But your mini bar might also require pomegranate juice, fresh citrus juices, lemon-lime soda pop, or cola. There's really no set formula except to know what you like and shop and stock accordingly.

It's always a good idea to have some garnishes around, as well. A jar of olives for martinis, some great maraschino cherries for Manhattans and Old Fashioneds, fresh lemons and limes for several drinks, and perhaps some sprigs of fresh mint are good garnish choices to keep handy.

Go big or keep it simple

Garten's viewers know she adds to her bar cart essentials from time to time because they have seen her mix up drinks like Campari Orange Spritzers which require Campari, and Dark Rum Southsides. If you truly want to be able to stir or shake up any given spirit at any given time, you're going to want to make some room on your countertop and build what's known as a full bar. A full bar really can be as big as you want it to be. It all starts with having what are called the six base liquors stocked: vodka, gin, tequila, rum, whiskey, and brandy. With these, you can create almost any cocktail imaginable.

There are also secondary liquors which typically impart a specific flavor to a drink. Some examples are crème de cassis, hazelnut liqueur like Frangelico, coffee liqueur such as Kahlua, and elderflower liqueur. Alcohol-free mixers like club soda and cola need to be present, plus juices like orange, cranberry, and pineapple. Throw in things like sweet and sour mix, simple syrup, and both sweet and savory garnishes and you can see how a bar cart can turn into a cocktail lounge very quickly.

With Garten's suggestions, you'll create a bar that is manageable, flexible, and generally able to fit in any living space. What you add from there is only limited by your imagination and your personal tastes.