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Home Bar 101 - Guest Post by Suzanne Johnston

Home Bar 101 - Guest Post by Suzanne Johnston

Image by Lisa Landrie (Lost River Distillery)

Image by Lisa Landrie (Lost River Distillery)

Who doesn't love having a well-equipped home bar?! It's always good to be prepared at home when having guests over and I find it's nice to offer a beverage. To offer that beverage having a well stocked home bar is essential. Saskatoon's Suzanne Johnston paired up with her friends to create your very own home bar check list.  

Photos and content by Suzanne Johnston and Kathleen Crowther of Saskatoon.  

 How to Build Your Home Cocktail Bar: Essential Ingredients

There’s nothing I want more on a Friday after work than a swanky cocktail. Cheers to the weekend, to a week’s worth of hard work. A good cocktail, slippers and the comfiest clothes in my closet. The perfect ingredients for a night in.

A “cocktail” at home often consists of white rum and Diet Coke, or if I’m feeling extra naughty, gin and tonic. I even splurged once and bought peach bitters. It seems I’m more likely to use it in smoothies, scones and salad dressings than figure out how to mix it in a cocktail. But I’m in my thirties now and for pete’s sake, I need to grow up and learn to make a proper cocktail.

So I decided to invest in an at-home cocktail bar that contained all the necessary ingredients to make fancy cocktails. But, where to start? The friend with the bar cart. Enter my long-time pal, Kathleen Crowther, the mixologist behind the Instagram account @cocktailmanifest. Not only do her cocktails look amazing, they’re also bursting with flavor and enough alcohol to make you feel (and talk) like Carrie from Sex and the City. If you look at Kathleen’s ingredient combinations, you feel dazzled and out of your league. She assured me I was overreacting and was happy to provide some guidance.

Under the guise of “doing research” for my cocktail bar, I popped over to Kathleen’s apartment one sunny Saturday afternoon for some taste testing. “Have on hand whatever you like to drink,” she said, pouring local Lost River Distillery vodka into copper glasses for Moscow Mules. In other words, don’t buy scotch if you hate the taste.


Kathleen gets her inspiration from different restaurants and lounges around Saskatoon (the Penicillin at The James is a favourite), as well as online. “I started Cocktail Manifest as a cocktail recipe book for myself, to keep track of the different ingredients and ideas.” As she added a mint sprig to our drinks, she said, “Oprah famously served these when she and Gayle went camping. The lime gives it a bit of tartness.” I took a sip. Mother of pearlI bet Oprah’s wasn’t half this good. One drink in and I’m wondering if it’s just easier to come over to Kathleen’s place whenever I need a drink.

The Cocktail Manifest At-Home Bar

The Booze

• Top four spirits: gin, vodka, tequila (reposado or blanco), and whisky*

• One or two bitters: Angostura aromatic or Orange

Again, shop accordingly for what you like. If that’s Sidecars, splurge on a bottle of Cognac and Cointreau.

The Tools

• Cocktail shaker (a large glass jar works too)

• 2-ounce shot glass

• Muddler

• Hawthorne strainer – if you have something fine to sieve

• Variety of glassware – Collins, Martini, Rocks, Highball, Coupe glasses and anything antique

The Essential Extras

• Ice – lots of it

Easy simple syrup recipe:

Bring to a boil in a saucepan 1 cup of water, ½ cup of sugar for 1 minute, then let it simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. It’ll keep for months in a glass jar. (Note: You can flavor it by muddling in fresh herbs or ginger.)

• Citrus – lemon, lime and/or grapefruit

• Herbs – basil, mint and/or rosemary


Moscow Mule

• 1.5 oz vodka

• 0.5 oz fresh lime juice

• 1 small ginger beer

• Lime wedges

• Mint (optional)

Fill copper glass with ice and top with ingredients. Stir gently. (Serves 1)

As Kathleen prepares our second cocktail, we talk about her favourite Friday after-work drink. “Lately, I’ve been loving grapefruit and tequila. Sometimes I add Campari, sometimes lavender simple syrup with some salt. Generally, I like anything with citrus and a booze-forward flavor.” She passes me a jar of dried lavender and I inhale its luxurious scent. This is going in my drink? I ask her what she likes to drink with Sunday morning brunch. “A classic mimosa. But it’s nice to experiment and bring in local ingredients, like sea buckthorn.” We’re also using Lost River Distillery vodka in these cocktails, courtesy of the lovely Lisa Landrie.


• 2 oz vodka

• 1.5 oz fresh lemon juice (about 3/4 of a lemon)

• 1 oz lavender simple syrup

• 1 egg white (optional)

• Sprinkle of dried lavender and bee pollen (optional)

Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with dried lavender and/or bee pollen. (Serves 1)

Lavender Simple Syrup: Follow the simple syrup recipe below, but add in 2 tablespoons of dried lavender and strain the syrup after it’s cooled.

The Holyfield

The Holyfield

Delicious cocktails at home are just a few ingredients and tools away. With a bit of advanced preparation (e.g., making a simple syrup), you’ll be sipping in style in no time.



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