Home Bar Basics (And not so basics) by Dave Stolte

August 5, 2013

Home Bar Basics is a lovely book written by Dave Stolte. 

I know Dave from Social Media and from the times that I’ve seen him down in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail.  

Dave always has a ready smile and a firm handshake.  He is soft spoken and has always been kind to me.  (Thank you)

Dave wrote this book to help home bartenders play in the same sandbox as the professional bartenders with very little differentiation in style, only maybe in speed... 


After turning the first couple of pages in this gorgeous little book I came to the realization that the mystique of the bartender is only as mysterious as their profusion of tattoos and handle bar mustaches! (On the men of course.)

The book is quite small, about 3x5, smaller than I would have liked with my “older” eyes.  I know it is very expensive to publish a book, no matter what the size, but I still feel that the book size is too small.  The type set is attractive and easy to read, it looks like the Times New Roman font so it’s crisp and clear on the slightly “aged-looking” pages.  In fact, with all the retro styled books on the market, it makes perfect sense to give the pages an old-time feel and color. 

I like this very much.  As an added benefit, the pages are waterproof and tear proof.  This is helpful when spirits splash on to your book during overly ambitious forays into the cocktail universe.

Dave’s book begins with the inside covers showing a little chart for units of measure.  This chart is broken down between US Ounces and Metric amounts so if you are in Europe OR America you can mix drinks with ease AND technicality!

I especially like his chart that calibrates your capacity for intoxication with this little illustration named:  Safety: Drinks Per Hour- broken down by Weight and Drinks.

Dave shows a drink =1.5 oz of 80 Proof spirit, 5 oz. of wine, 12 oz. of 5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and then in much smaller lettering he writes: Most people can process one drink per hour with food and water.  I like that.  Food and water.  My recommendation if you are drinking any alcohol is 2 glasses of water (fizzy or flat) for every drink.  That is the recommendation. 

Dave’s chart shows weight from 100-240 pounds.  The lower part of the scale shows 1-5 drinks.  If you are 200 pounds and you drink 3 drinks in an hour, you are intoxicated.  There is no way around this!

My rule of thumb is two glasses of water (if not more) per drink.  Sure you'll have to relieve yourself a bit more often, but it's better than waking up with a swelled head.  And for that my friends there is both Fernet Branca and also a marvelous German product named Underberg... But I digress. 

The book goes into bitters and discusses the hardware needed for your bar.  He is clear and concise in his instructions and it’s obvious that Dave was smiling when he wrote the book.  It’s humorous and fun!  I especially like his section on ice.  I've long held that ice is the make or break ingredient in a cocktail.  If you use off-tasting ice your drink will greatly suffer.  If the ice you use smells like spoiled food, your drink will be ruined.  And if you use 1/4 cube ice from a commercial ice machine you should not read this book- unless you are prepared to DO something about it.  I believe that ice is as an important of an ingredient as the liquor.  Maybe even more so on the esthetic side of the equation!  Good ice says I care about my customers.  Good ice says I want to do the very best for these people who pay my wages!   Bad ice says all bad things. 

Dave helps us understand what it means to have passionate ice!

Dave goes into glassware - essential as well and then a brief synopsis on many different varieties of spirits.  Mixes, juices, accents and garnishes all have a place in your drink, so they are exemplified in this book.  And God forbid you are interested in Whipped Cream or other LAB produced flavors for Vodka, please don't even get Dave started!

Dave is forthright in his constructive instructions.  His sample cocktails and whimsical illustrations are carefully chosen.  This is a lovely little book!  The back cover contains a “build as you go” list and the “Not so Basics: Take your Time. 

Did you know that the Rusty Nail cocktail was invented in either New York OR Los Angeles in the 1950’s?  The section on diving deeper is a mixologists dream chapter with easy to read instructions and engaging cocktail recipes. 

Home Cocktail Basics offers 12 BASIC drinks.  Then he fills the readers mind with 18 Not-so-basic drinks as if to mock our sensibilities and our abilities.  With Dave's concise and patient writing, even the more complicated drinks are relatively easy to make and even easier to enjoy. 

This little book is anything but little!  I love it and it is on my Christmas list already for friends.