Winter Essentials for Your Bar & Pantry

Today is a beautiful crisp, sunny late-autumn day here in London – just perfect for sharing the last part of my recipe for a joyful pandemic winter: how to stock your kitchen and bar for the season.

With COVID still in full swing, it is more important than ever to have your home environment set up to support your mental health and overall wellbeing.  That’s why I dedicated the first part of this series to help prepare the heart and mind and the second part on how to create cosy comfort at home.  

In this post, you’ll find seasonal culinary & cocktail indulgences that can help you create festive experiences at home.  It’s conveniently in a list format so you can print it or refer to it on your phone while you’re shopping. So, the next time you google a winter dinner or cocktail recipe you’ll have that key ingredient ready to go! Happy stocking!

Later this month I’ll release my winter wine recommendations. And, in December I’ll share seasonal food & wine pairings.  I’m also cooking up several Instagram TV sessions on food & wine pairing in partnership with Marmalade & Kindness – stayed tuned for the details!

The Essentials

There are five categories of cooking and cocktail essentials that underpin most seasonal recipes, including winter:

  • Herbs & spices
  • Cocktail-making staples
  • Alcoholic & non-alcoholic beverages
  • Fresh fruit
  • Dry pantry goods

Herbs & Spices

Winter meals are generally heartier and richer than in other seasons, and this is especially true when the weather is cold or damp.  Many foods – from soups to mains to desserts – are served warm and feature warming spices and herbs. Even winter cocktails are spiced. So here’s a shortlist of favourites that I keep on hand all season.

  • Allspice
  • Bouquet Garni (a must for stews, soups and roasts)
  • Cardamom pods
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Cloves, whole
  • Coriander, ground
  • Cumin
  • Ground Ginger
  • Herbs (fresh): Bay Leaves, Marjoram, Mint, Rosemary, Sage
  • Nutmeg, whole
  • Ras el Hanout
  • Star of Anise
  • Vanilla Beans (a.k.a. Vanilla Pods)

Fresh Fruit

Poached, baked or dried, fresh fruit can enhance the flavours of winter sauces, cocktails and desserts. Think pork chops with apples or duck breasts with figs, for example.  Poached pears or baked apples for dessert. Homemade sweet dried orange and apple slices for winter warming cocktails or mulled wine. Boozy cherries and pomegranate seeds to add a splash of colour to your cocktail or bubbly.  These favourites are key to have on hand for cooking and cocktail making:

  • Apples: Granny Smith for pies, Braeburn & Honeycrisp for baking, Pink Lady for applesauce
  • Fresh berries & black cherries when you can find them, frozen if needed
  • Cranberries
  • Ginger
  • Grapefruits
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Pears: preferably slightly underripe Bosc or Anjou if you’re going to poach them
  • Persimmon (if you haven’t tried them yet – they’re yummy!)
  • Pomegranates or Pomegranate Seeds

Dry Pantry Goods

To me, dried goods are more important to have on hand in the winter than in the summer, and I always kick myself when I’m out of something essential.  Dried beans are great to have on hand for soups. Dried fruit can be mixed with fresh ingredients in chutneys, granola or used to spruce up an otherwise simple recipe. And, of course, brown sugars, flour and oats are excellent to have on hand for homemade granola, cookies and other tasty treats. These pantry essentials help me cook and cocktail throughout the winter:

  • Beans: butterbeans (a.k.a. baby lima beans), red, green & brown lentils, cannelini, kidney beans
  • Brown sugar: both light and dark & either light or dark muscovado  
  • Shredded coconut
  • Dark chocolate (squares for eating, and baker’s for cooking)
  • Flax seeds 
  • Flour (all purpose and cake flour)
  • Dried fruit: apricot, cherries, cranberries, currants, figs, prunes etc.
  • Maple syrup (great with butternut squash and hot buttered rum)
  • Nuts: almonds, cashews, macadamia, walnuts, pistachios
  • Oats: Steel-cut for porridge, rolled for granola
  • Popcorn
  • Sugar: granulated and caster
  • Stocks: pre-made for when you don’t have time to make your own…

Cocktail-Making Staples

Ah, a good winter cocktail – my favourite! But, in addition to the booze, cocktails are so much tastier with creative additions. Winter cocktails are best when they’re warming (but served cold) or when served warm. And, bitters – well, they’re essential. I’ve just ordered an exciting new bottle of bitters: winter spice from the House of Botanicals here in the UK, made with all the winter warming spices you know and love – can’t wait to try it! Here are few items that I plan to use to spice up my cocktails this season…and I’ll probably keep adding to this list!

  • Apple cider (or, in the UK, cloudy apple juice)
  • Bitters: angostura, orange, winter spiced etc. – look into bitters – so many great ones!
  • Cocktail cherries: Try Bourbon Cherries from Woodford Reserve (US) or Jack Rudy Cocktail Co., (UK) or Luxardo Maraschino (global)  if that’s what you can find!
  • Fruits (listed above): sweet dried orange & apple slices, macerated cherries, pomegranates & pomegranate seeds
  • Coarse Sea Salt
  • Spices (listed above): Cloves, Cinnamon sticks, Star of Anise
  • Sugar (listed above): Homemade cinnamon sugar (for fabulously sticky rims of glasses!)

Spirits & Non-Alcoholic Beverages

I love to stock my bar with spirits & non-alcoholic beverages to create festive cocktails and mocktails at home throughout the season.  

The list below supports my household well, but I’m sure there are a wide variety of opinions on this list! I’ve included named brands only where I have a specific recommendation to share.

You’ll notice that I’ve left out wine and bubbles…that’s because I’ll soon be sharing my winter wine recommendations via a separate post.  After all, wine deserve its own attention!

Spirits

  • Amaro (or another type of vermouth for sipping or mixing)
  • Apple brandy a.k.a. Calvados
  • Bourbon: my favorites include Woodford Reserve, Michters & Bulleit
  • Gin: For winter, I prefer a spicy gin like Opihr or Portobello Road Director’s Cut No. 3 Pechuga Gin…and I’ve just ordered a Maple Gin!
  • Grand Marnier, or something similar with an orange essence
  • Rum: preferably dark for winter warmers or spiced if that’s your thing
  • Scotch Whisky: Laphroaig, Ardberg are among my favourites, but I like peaty whiskies.  Others may prefer Famous Grouse or Glenfiddich, for example.
  • Tequila: Smoky Mezcal

Non-Alcoholic Beverages (for mixing cocktails & mocktails)