Keeping it Simple with Staples

Every gal with a penchant for entertaining should have a few stand-by cocktails up her sleeve that can turn a simple get together into something a bit more special with the help of a few basic ingredients. Over the past few months, I’ve been working on growing my collection of what I refer to as Staple Cocktails. These drinks offer something more than, say, your basic vodka tonic or scotch and soda.

My Staple Cocktails have a few requirements.

  1. Ingredients must be readily available. So, if you never have OJ as a fridge-staple, then a screwdriver is clearly not a Staple Cocktail for you. Staple Cocktails are as unique as the liquors and mixers in your kitchen.
  2. Assembly must be minimal – these are cocktails that can be prepared at a moment’s notice. Anything requiring a blender or food processor is automatically out of the running.
  3. The flavors must be popular people-pleasers. Any “controversial” flavors – say, coffee or anise liqueur – are a no-no.
  4. A Staple Cocktail must have a great name.

This week, I discovered a new cocktail to add to my simple, satisfying and growing library of Staple Cocktails. This particular drink came to fruition when I was faced with some stock ingredients which I hoped to transform into a special cocktail for friends, without an extra trip to the liquor store or grocery. Some quick googling resulted in what I found to be a delectable bourbon drink: the Brown Derby.

The sources of – and ingredients for – this particular cocktail are a bit sketchy. Some say it comes from the famous Hollywood institutional restaurant of the same name. Some say it calls for rum, others say bourbon. I had some Jim Beam on hand so opted for the latter, and replaced the recommended honey with my perennial fave, agave nectar.

Brown Derby
Serves one.

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce grapefruit juice (I only use Simply Grapefruit or fresh juice)
  • 1 squirt agave nectar

Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker (if you can, do mix up a large batch using a fabulous, oversized, graphic vintage shaker like the one pictured here, a fantastic birthday gift for Miss Mojito). Pour over ice cubes in a tall glass.

Miss Mojito wants to know: What are your favorite Staple Cocktails?

Posted by Miss Mojito.

2 responses to “Keeping it Simple with Staples

  1. Miss Mojito,
    These are some really great tips for at-home cocktails! I completely agree that anything requiring a blender is no “staple.” I understand where you are coming from with the “non controversial” flavors, but sometimes I like to mix a drink for guests that they otherwise wouldn’t fix for themselves. So, sometimes that means a splash of an anise (or other herbal) liqueur — nothing too overwhelming though — think Corpse Reviver.

    But understandably, all this (including my staples below) is coming from someone who has a cocktail blog, so it may not be 100% applicable to many.

    Some of my staples:
    * Fresh lemons — I always have them on-hand. Between the zest, juice, garnish (for drinks and food)–there are so many uses. I often have fresh limes too, but not as often (or as many).

    * Bitters — A fellow cocktail blogger (Scofflaws Den) once advised me to think of bitters like salt and pepper. Meaning, they can add flavor to a drink, but just use a little.

    * Champagne (or other sparkling wine) — I know I say this every other post, but I use it all the time. Often as a substitute for seltzer, or on its own, with bitters and/or one of my specialty herbal liqueurs :-) It is so easy, and when you serve someone a drink in a champagne glass, there’s an automatic “wow” factor.

    Lastly, one of the cocktail bars I am most eager to try, Death & Co. in NYC, also has some great recommendations for your at-home bar. Visit and look under “Cocktails At Home.”

    Great post!

  2. LOVE these recommendations. And am so excited to discover the Death & Co. site, it’s a fantastic resource.

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