New York is iconic for its lively bar scene; the collection of characters, cocktails, and companionship give people good reasons to spend their free time out, posted up on stools with drink in hand. But what about the home bars? Some individuals in this city keep their liquor cabinet stocked just as well as the gin joints and beer gardens open to the public. We’re sporadically checking in on industry members and enthusiasts with awesome home bars. Here’s a look at one such set-up, courtesy of Sean and Emily McClure.
The McClures’ apartment has all the makings of a great party pad, not least because of the open kitchen and outdoor patio with a rooftop view. And then there’s the bar, a set-up composed simply of old wine crates and an upside down DVD shelf, which hold neatly stacked bottles of things like absinthe a Cuban rum. A container tucked away in a corner houses enough vodka to feed a frat party during fall rush.
The McClures have an advantage in building such a well-rounded collection: Sean did time as a bartender at Daniel and Craft , and now, he’s a brand manager for EWG Spirits and Wine which reps such spirits as G’Vine Gin, Excellia Tequila, and Esprit de June vine flower liqueur. Emily tends bar at Marea. Between the two of them, they bring home a lot of free samples. But Sean believes it’s possible to build your own personal Cheers even if you’re outside of the industry. “The concept of building a great bar is to simply just build a lot of different cocktails,” he explains. “A respectable arsenal of modifiers is really what’s important. … In order to have a proper home bar, you always have to have fresh oranges, fresh lemons, fresh limes, club soda, tonic. … If you want to have a good bar do your homework. That’s the bottom line.”
When he’s talking about modifiers, he means Curaçao, vermouth, and other cordials and liqueurs, which are used in connection with a base spirit like gin or vodka when creating many standard cocktails. To stock up, Sean suggests hosting theme parties like one based around cosmopolitans, margaritas, or another classic cocktail. “Tell everybody to bring vodka, and then just buy the Curaçao for your bar,” he says. “While the vodka will be gone by the end of the night, the modifier will still be there.” Repeat this with various themes, and you’ll quickly accumulate all the necessities.
Despite the couple’s focus on beverages, most of the McClures’ gatherings, of which they hold about three a week, are about the food first. Emily notes that the couple will make the decision to have a get-together, and before you know it, a smoked pig’s head is sitting on the counter (this actually happened when the couple threw a Super Bowl party). And they don’t attempt to pair cocktails with food: “Most of our friends have really specific tastes. … One guy only likes dirty vodka martinis,” she says. Other guests like to challenge the couple to dig deep into their arsenal. One guy, for instance, ordered a Ramos Gin Fizz just to test Sean’s egg cracking and shaking abilities (the drink requires the use of egg white foam and several minutes of shaking). This is a bar that has regulars, many of whom are in the hospitality industry. “People need a place, and I love knowing that I’m that place,” Emily says. “We are always open.”
So, what do the McClures drink after a long night of entertaining? “A Heineken and a Jameson,” Sean quips. “Sometimes, even the home bartender needs a night off.”
Hit the next page for a photographic look at McClures’ home bar.