For Geoffrey Zakarian, There’s No Time Better Than Breakfast To Connect With Your Heritage

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Some underrated pantry staples that you think home chefs should always keep on hand?

That’s a fun question. I’ll tell you stuff that I think everybody should have; I just mentioned it: tapenade. Whether you buy it or make it, you should have a tapenade. You should have pickled onions. You should have a sambal oelek, like a beautiful spicy chili sauce. You should have miso paste, Pommery mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco sauce.

Those are sort of wet and cold pantry items. Then, on the dry side, cinnamon, star anise, whole cardamom, and whole cloves. I’ll give you canned anchovies and canned Portuguese tuna.

How about non-negotiable ingredients that mixologists should include within their bar?

Non-negotiables? Well, I’ll go on the non-booze side. You’ve got to have a couple of beautiful bitters. You should have two or three kinds of simple syrup, maybe a honey simple syrup and a regular simple syrup. Those are real backbones. Definitely three or four Amaros so you can make some beautiful Amaro cocktails and bitters, Italian Amaros.

Then I go for real good London dry gins, two or three, not too many. I’m not into a lot of the new gins because they’re often flavored. It’s fun to have a couple of bottles of fun-looking gin, Gunpowder gin, and those kinds that are sort of quite good. Hendrick’s, it’s fun to look at that bottle, but it tastes like cucumbers. I’m a Plymouth gin drinker. I think Plymouth and Beefeater are two really good London dry gins. Two vodkas, a whiskey, a bourbon, a Japanese scotch, a scotch from Islay.

And then, I mean, it’s up to you what you want to add to that. Definitely really good vermouth, a red vermouth, a white vermouth, Noilly Prat. Some Castelvetrano olives and some fantastic cherries in brandy. And you basically have a bar that pretty much will suit anyone. Some nice Fever-Tree products, mixers, soda, tonic, ginger, quinine.

A bar is relatively simple. It’s the thing when you get all this esoteric stuff, most people don’t have room for all this stuff, right? So you really have to understand, “Okay, well, what is it that I’m going to be good at?” You should be good at an Aperol spritz, you should be good at a Manhattan, you should be good at a nice whiskey sour, and you should be good at a martini. If you get those, anybody can make a margarita, anybody can have vodka and tonic, gin and tonic, but you want to be good at those four. And those four things I just mentioned don’t take a lot; it’s not a heavy lift to have those on your bar.

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