The Essentials of a Great Home Bar

The Essentials of a Great Home Bar
  • Opening Intro -

    You might be planning a big party — or, you might just like to mix your own cocktails after a long day.

    Either way, you need a home bar.

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And you need it stocked with all of the essentials that will allow you to flex your mixology skills for a crowd or yourself. As tempting as it may be to buy every type of liquor, multiple drink-making tools and glasses small and tall for imbibing your brews, it’s best to start with the essentials.

1. Set up a Bar

Before you can do anything, you’ll need a proper place to store all of your drinks, mixers and tools for combining the two. So, designate a corner of your kitchen for bartending, or invest in a piece of furniture that’ll hold all of it in one place.

Just make sure the spot you choose isn’t in direct sunlight — even better if it stays cool round-the-clock. Otherwise, your liquor won’t have as long of a shelf life as it’s supposed to.

2. Stock It With Tools

You won’t know what type of drinks you can make — and, therefore, what kinds of liquor and mixers you need — until you have the tools to mix everything together. When you go shopping for mixology tools, you’ll find there are so many smart gadgets to make the task easier.

You may be tempted to invest in a ton of them, but you should start with these must-haves and go from there:

  • Jigger:
    Also known as a shot glass. This will help you measure the amount of alcohol you put into your concoctions.
  • Bar spoon:
    An extra-long utensil for stirring.
  • Muddler:
    An essential tool for making drinks like mojitos with freshly crushed herbs. You can muddle citrus and other flavorful additions to create seemingly endless muddled cocktails.
  • Cocktail shaker and springed strainer:
    Ideal for mixing and pouring.
  • Ice bucket and tongs:
    Best for grabbing the perfect number of ice cubes.
  • Lewis bag and smasher:
    Should you need crushed ice.

As you grow in your bartending expertise, you might add more to your collection, but these are what you need for now.

 

3. Choose Your Glassware

Again, you’ll find shelves full of fancy glassware, and you might think you need to invest in every single one. For now, though, steer clear of the glasses designed to hold a particular type of cocktail. Instead, buy six to eight highball glasses, old-fashioned glasses and stemmed glasses. If wine is perpetually on the drink menu, be sure to invest in wine stems, too — six to eight should do the trick here as well.

4. Stock the Bar

Once you have your bar, your supplies and your glasses, it’s time to fill your cabinets with the booze you need to bartend. Some of this process will be easy — take beer as an example. To stock up on the fermented stuff, it’s recommended that you pick up two popular brews, a craft brew and perhaps a cider to fill out your bar. Wine is just as simple since you only need a bottle of red and a bottle of white to cover everyone’s tastes.

The liquor is where it gets slightly tricky because, again, you won’t be wanting for choice in this aisle of the store. And, not only are there multiple kinds of liquor, but there are seemingly endless different brands and price points to choose from.

 

The best advice is to select your preferred brand of the following types of booze. If you don’t have a favorite, then pick the most popular variety or ask the shop’s staff for a recommendation, especially if you have a particular cocktail in mind. Here are some examples:

  • Vodka, for martinis, screwdrivers, vodka tonics, etc.
  • Gin, for gin and tonics, Tom Collinses, martinis, etc.
  • Tequila, for margaritas, Palomas, etc.
  • White rum, for mojitos, daiquiris, etc.
  • Bourbon or whiskey, for Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, etc.

These are the five most important liquors to have on hand, but you may have a favorite cocktail that needs another type to complete the recipe. If so, add that bottle to your essentials list and stock up.

It’s also vital that you take proper care of your libations once you’ve cracked open the bottles. Although liquor has a long shelf life, the flavors tend to dissipate as more air gets inside. In other words, use your favorite bottles first before they lose their kick.

5. Don’t Forget the Mixers

Your cocktails wouldn’t be complete without the flavors provided by mixers, so your bar will house the following must-haves:

  • Seltzer, for added bubbles
  • Tonic water
  • Freshly squeezed juice and citrus slices, for screwdrivers, mojitos, etc.
  • Cointreau, a margarita ingredient
  • Red and white vermouth, for Manhattans and martinis, respectively
  • Bitters, which finish off an Old Fashioned
  • Simple syrup, for an added touch of sweetness

To that end, you might want to finish your beverages off with a garnish, too. Stock up on Maraschino cherries, citrus wedges and peels, herbs and olives to complete your chosen cocktails.

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Now, Get the Party Started

With that, you’ve got a fully stocked bar and all the tools you need to whip up tasty cocktails. It’s time to get the party started — measure, pour, mix, drink and, most importantly, enjoy.

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