The Ideal Supporting CastStore shelves are crowded with mixers you've never heard of, most of which you'll never use. Below, the five exceptions.
This classic Italian aperitif is back and as bitter, herbal, and citrusy as ever.
• Pour over ice, top with seltzer, and garnish with an orange slice.
Blenheim Ginger Ale
($14 for six; blenheimgingerale.com)
The medium version of this South Caroline distilled cult soda is plenty spicy (the hot variety sort of hurts).
• Add to bourbon and lots of ice.
Sutton Cellars Brown Label Vermouth
A product of Sonoma County, this white-wine-based vermouth is infused with 17 botanicals and bottled without filtration, hence its ciderlike hue.
• Drink on the rocks with a lemon twist.
This agave-sweetened water's dryness can be jarring at first, but you'll learn to love what it does—all eight bucks' worth.
• Pour two fingers of vodka over ice, top with tonic, and twist in a big strip of grapefruit peel.
The Bitter Truth Bitters
Stock a few flavors from this now-essential German producer.
• Add grapefruit flavor to a martini or mix chocolate into tequila.
The Three Essential Drinks for Fall Entertaining
The Festive Wine Option
Every get-together has its share of winos. To offer them something beyond the basic uncork-and-pour, Kelley Slagle of Terroir Tribeca in New York City suggests a seasonal spin on sangria.
The Improvisational Cocktail
Drinks consultant Alex Ott approaches mixology as both a scenester and a scientist. Between gigs for the Book Bindery bistro, in Seattle; the nightclub Zanzibar, in Los Angeles; and his own upcoming lounge, Featherplane, in Brooklyn, he engineers flavors for NASA's astronaut rations and is the spokesman for New Amsterdam gin, an easy-drinking booze that's made for experimentation. For us, he took a smart seasonal pairing (apples and ginger) and applied a surefire formula (sweet + sour + fizzy) for a drink that can be tweaked based on the night's menu and the contents of your liquor cabinet.
Unexpected NightcapsWhen the party wanders over to your place, the best drink is the one you just open and pour.
(From $47; rarewineco.com)
This once-essential, now overlooked fortified wine, made in the Portuguese islands of the same name, can be unearthed online via the large selection at Rare Wine Co. Serve neat.
Art in the Age Root
A robust and spicy liqueur from a new Philadelphia purveyor tastes a bit like, yes, boozy root beer. Serve neat.
($15 for 10; amazon.com)
Essentially Campari without the alcohol, this classic Italian soda makes abstainers feel like they're on the VIP list. Serve chilled.
Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Maple Wood Finish
The Kentucky distillery's latest experimental bourbon features a dense, toasty sweetness. Serve over ice.
A limited-release collaboration between Samuel Adams and the Bavarian brewery Weihenstephaner, this hefty beer has the effervescence of champagne. Serve chilled.