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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Backcountry Bartender: Build a Bar Kit

Can't decide on just one cocktail for your adventure? Put together a mobile backcountry bar kit.

by: Crystal Sagan

Build your own backcountry bar kit. (Crystal Sagan)
Build your own backcountry bar kit. (Crystal Sagan)

A hiker’s bar kit is as personal as a pair of boots or a favorite baselayer. And although this kit will set the foundation for any kind of cocktail you want to take into the backcountry, we’re going to show you how to put one together with all the fixings for whiskey served five different ways: a Hot Toddy, Manhattan, Upper Peninsula Black Maple Spice, Mint Julep, and whiskey neat.

First step in this endeavor is finding a toiletry kit or other sealable package within which to store all the necessary ingredients. REI’s Stasher Kit ( is the perfect size- it has separate  compartments to keep everything organized, zips completely shut, and has a handle for easy carrying on the outside. To properly prepare this mini-mobile bar for stocking, you’ll also need the following (available at

The Gear
REI Stasher Kit
1 8oz. flat oval bottle
3 2oz. flat oval bottles
1 3x5 zip-top bag

The Ingredients
Once you have all necessary equipment, the bar will need to be stocked with the following ingredients. A little bit of prep at home will go a long way here whether sharing with friends or enjoying solo over several days:

8 oz. Whiskey (we like Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey)
½ oz. Vermouth
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
¾ oz. Simple Syrup (equal parts sugar and hot water)
5-8 mint leaves
1 individual packet of honey
2 slices of lemon
¾ oz. maple syrup
1 packet of black tea
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
small piece of ginger, sliced
1 straw (optional)

At Home Prep
Pour 8 ounces of whiskey into the 8 ounce bottle. In the three smaller bottles, combine vermouth and bitters in the first, simple syrup and mint in the second, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in the last. Plan ahead so these ingredients have at least a day to infuse. Lastly add 2 lemon slices to the small zip-top bag and pack everything into the Stasher Kit.

On the Trail
  • Hot Toddy: Heat 4 ounces of water, add honey, squeeze of lemon, and 1.5 ounces of whiskey. Stir to dissolve honey.
  • Manhattan: Add 1.5 ounces of whiskey to the smaller bottle containing the vermouth and bitters. Give a gentle shake to mix, and allow to chill slightly before enjoying (pack in snow or secure in a cold stream).
  • Upper Peninsula Black Maple Spice: Heat 4-6 ounces of water and brew black tea according to instructions. In a glass, combine tea, 1.5 ounces of whiskey, a squeeze of lemon, and contents of the maple syrup bottle. Stir until dissolved.
  • Mint Julep: Assuming its winter in your neck of the woods, find a nice clean patch of snow and pack a snowball to fit in your glass. Add 1.5 ounces whiskey to the small bottle containing the simple syrup and shake to mix ingredients. Pour over the top of the snowball and enjoy. Tip: Straw comes in handy here.
  • Whiskey Neat: Enjoy the remaining 2 ounces of whiskey straight out of the bottle or in a glass with a dash of water.

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Reader Rating: -


Star Star
May 09, 2014

Southern Comfort goes down quite smoothly as is, from the plastic flask it's sold in, or you can transfer larger quantities into stylishly decal-ed Nalgenes...
To each his own.
Just sayin'

Jan 31, 2014

Wow!, a new BM low. Giving advice on cocktail recipes? Great if you horsepack or use sherpas.
But not recommended if backpacking. Amendment 64 strikes again at BM.

Star Star Star Star Star
Dec 19, 2013

Great idea! However, REI is currently out of the Stasher Kit. Any other suggestions on travel packs?

Grizz in IL
Aug 07, 2013

I don't waste my time with recipes. I carry straight Crown Royal in platypus bladders. My trips are in Sept. and Oct. and the whiskey tastes extra good when it's cool. They weigh next to nothing and fold down as they become empty. I put some pipe thread tape on the threads for added protection and leave an inch or so of space in the bladder. I've never had a leak yet during many 10-12 day adventures. I admit I was skeptical at first, but now I wouldn't consider anything else.

Jack Darrington
Jul 12, 2011

This is a pretty cool idea. People just coming up with new stuff to take out on the trail and I love it. Sometimes I feel over-packed when all I have is my <a href="">Dakota 20 GPS</a>, I can't imagine how I'd feel with all this too.

Jan 21, 2011

Hi, my name is...and I became an alcoholic when Backpacker magazine started running stories about...

Jan 21, 2011

Hi, my name is...and I became an alcoholic when Backpacker magazine started running stories about...

JD @ Seattle
Dec 27, 2010

Yeah Aaron, that's how we pack around here too.

Robert S
Dec 27, 2010

An old field expedient Whiskey Sour:
1 pint of Yukon Jack in the unbreakable bottle
1 box (10 packages) of lemonaide flavored electrolyte replacement (e.g. Propel)
Mix the lemonaide flavor with half the recommended water to make sours. Mix with whiskey to taste.

Dec 27, 2010

I think that Backpacker should have an entire section of the webpage dedicated to these types of topics. Booze it up!

Dec 25, 2010

take a 5'th of cheap can use the heavy glass bottle to hit the bears in the head with.just be sure to pick up the broken glass.lnt!

Marc Beutler
Dec 24, 2010

A good alternative to the hot toddy is to use lemon ginger tea ( Just the whiskey, a tea bag, and a packet of honey.

aarons new friend
Dec 23, 2010

I couldn't have put it better.
- -

Charles Leiserson
Dec 23, 2010

If you're in the northeast, maple candy (pressed maple sugar) is going to be lighter and more easily packed than maple syrup.

Aaron Bagby
Dec 23, 2010

Cool ideas, but seems like a lot of work and extra weight for the backcountry. I usually just grab a plastic flask, fill it with a good amount of booze, and hit the trail. Done and done.

At the same time, you can't beat the weight to feel-good ratio of some of nature's finest herbs. :D


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