Creating a home bar is fun and exciting. It helps transform your home into a happening gathering spot, and you are the heart of it.
To create a home bar that you and others enjoy, you might want to do some planning and prep work. The best and most satisfying home bars are created step by step, from the bottom up to the final vision. What is your dream for your home bar? Whatever it is, we’ll help you get there with this guide to stocking your ultimate home bar.
Setting a Good Foundation
Just as a solid house is built on a sturdy foundation, so too, is its bar. This guide will help you stock it with the essentials of entertaining.
An important first step is finding the right place to store your liquor. Liquor needs to stay cool and out of direct sunlight. With this in mind, use your kitchen counter or table, console table, or any other surface that is a comfortable height. You can invest in a bar cart to make your work easier and more pleasant.
Keep this important principle in mind: start small, and let your own personal tastes and preferences be your guide.
Trying to recreate a full-scale bar with its size and diversity will undoubtedly lead to frustration. Begin with a few things that you enjoy, and gradually add to your repertoire as you continue to entertain.
Some inspiring and useful bartender’s guides are available to help you master the basics and advance to new levels as the tender of your home bar.
Three Highly Recommended Bartender’s Guides
- The Bartender’s Bible: 1001 Mixed Drinks and Everything You Need to Know to Set Up Your Bar by Gary Regan.
- Meehan’s Bartender Manual by Jim Meehan
- The Home Bartender: 125 Cocktails Made with Four Ingredients or Less by Shane Carley
Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get ready to stock your ultimate home bar.
Without a doubt, alcohol exists in seemingly endless forms. For anyone just beginning their foray into home bartending, it can be overwhelming. Where to even start? Guided by the principle of starting small, you can begin with just four types of alcohol.
Four Types of Alcohol That Form Your Foundation
These are the “must-have’s” for just about any bar you’ll find. So, let’s start here.
Gin is light-bodied and flavorful. The notes of flavor come from juniper berries and other botanicals like anise, almond, coriander, and lemon/orange peels.
Different styles (in dozens of brands) of gin offer different experiences. Some are dry, especially the famous London Dry style gin. Bols Genever is a rich, full-bodied style with a high concentration of malt. Plymouth gin is full-bodied and fruity, and it mixes well in many drinks. Old Tom gin is good in cocktails because it’s neither too dry nor too intense. New American gins don’t have a distinctive feature defining them.
Gin forms the basis of over 30 different cocktails. The two most famous, and likely requested at your cocktail party, are the Martini and Gin & Tonic.
Vodka in its traditional form is flavorless. The lack of flavor makes it a perfect alcohol for mixing.
Depending on how it’s distilled, it can have either a watery or an oily feel.
Approximately 75 brands of vodka give you a multitude of choices. Much comes down to personal preference. When you’re first stocking your bar, it’s reasonable to begin with a single brand, or if you feel the need to let people have a choice in their vodka, two brands.
Vodka is used to make popular cocktails like the Cosmopolitan, Bloody Mary, White Russian, and Sex on the Beach.
Scotch is a malt or grain whisky made in Scotland. If it’s not from Scotland, it is technically (and legally) not Scotch.
Two main types of Scotch whisky are available: single malt and single grain. Both varieties are strong with a distinctive smoky flavor.
Scotch is often drunk straight or with a bit of ginger ale. It can be used in cocktails such as the Rusty Nail or Rob Roy.
Bourbon is an American (traditionally Kentuckian) whiskey that is distilled from corn with another grain like rye often in the mash.
The flavor and tone of bourbon will vary slightly depending on what grain or grains are used in addition to the corn, how long it is aged, and other factors. In general, though, bourbon is smooth and sweet. Undertones of different flavors, such as vanilla, spice, caramel, tobacco, toffee, and fruit can make an appearance, too.
Make simple, classy cocktails with bourbon. Many of your guests may request drinks such as a Manhattan, Mint Julep, or Whiskey Sour.
Make dozens upon dozens of different types of drinks at your parties with just these four liquors. As you gain both experience and requests from your regular guests, you can gradually begin to add variety to your liquor stockpile with staples like tequila, rum, cognac, triple sec, and vermouth.
To be sure, alcohol can be served in pure form, perhaps over ice (or “rocks”). Often, though, making cocktails is much more fun than pouring alcohol over ice.
To transform alcohol into cocktails, you need a variety of mixers. The mixers you have in your bar will depend on the drinks you are making.
- Club soda
- Tonic water
- Sprite or 7-Up
- Ginger ale
- Orange juice
- Tomato juice
- Pineapple juice
Cocktail garnishes enhance your drinks with color, flavor, and flair. This list contains popular garnishes and examples of the drinks they enhance.
- Cocktail olives are used in Martinis or other drinks to make them a bit savory.
- Cocktail onions are used in Gibsons.
- Horseradish and/or Tabasco sauce is added to a Bloody Mary or Captain Nemo for a kick.
- Oranges, Limes, Lemons, or other fruit wedges or twists add to tropical drinks.
- Pepper gives a jolt of spice to drinks such as the State Fair and Peat’s Dragon.
- Salt is a garnish that rims a Margarita glass or is added to drinks like the Angry German.
- Sugar can rim a margarita as well as drinks like Champagne Sparklers.
Another absolute essential is ice. It’s recommended that you have approximately one pound or one and a half pounds of ice per guest, based on three drinks per guest.
Glasses and Other Supplies
You have alcohol, mixers, garnishes, and ice. Your bar is almost, but not quite, ready. You need to put your drinks in something, and you need certain must-have tools for the home bar.
For your convenience, here’s a quick list of primary supplies you need from the beginning.
- Martini glasses
- Rocks glasses
- Red and white wine glasses
- Highball glasses or tall glasses
- Beer mugs and pint glasses
- Martini shaker and strainer
- Ice Bucket
- Bar spoon
- Lemon zester
What to Do in Between Events
When your first party is over, smile, make yourself one of your now-famous drinks, and start preparing for the next one. If home bartending is a passion of yours, you want to nurture it. Objectively considering how your evening played out will help you be ready for the next.
Keeping a bartender’s log will help you fine-tune what you need for supplies and how much of everything you should have for an event. What were the most popular drinks? What did people request? What things would you change? What would you keep the same? Assessing like this will allow you to shop more efficiently next time.
Finally, before heading to bed, be sure to store everything properly. Alcohol should be closed in an airtight bottle and kept out of sunlight. Put mixers and garnishes in the fridge. This way, everything will stay high-quality and you won’t have to dump and replace it.
Making your own bar and becoming a home bartender is pretty empowering. Stocking your home bar is a process that involves accruing alcohol, mixers, garnishes, glassware, and other supplies. Once you have these necessities, you can invite your first guests. Start small, and before you know it you just might be the next big hit!
Bio: David Scott is a veteran cocktail enthusiast who now shares his knowledge and passion on advancedmixology.com. He believes that the ritual is as important as the drink. His love for cocktails started with Moscow Mules which led him to India to find the best and most-beautifully crafted Moscow Mule mug. He’s now dedicated to sharing his knowledge and experience with fellow enthusiasts.
From Cocktails To Mocktails: 3 Boozy Drinks With Non-Alcoholic Variations
The summer season is fast approaching, and many people choose to enjoy it by drinking nice, cool cocktails under the warm, summer sun. Of course, there will be days when an alcoholic drink won’t work for any number of reasons. Maybe you want to enjoy the taste of a mimosa but not the late-afternoon hangover or drowsiness. Perhaps you really want that screwdriver at your favorite cocktail house, but you already volunteered to be the designated driver. Or maybe you could choose to avoid alcohol altogether as part of a sober lifestyle.
Even if consuming alcohol is a no-go, the idea of a delicious, mixed drink on a relaxing day or energetic night out still could sound appealing to you or someone else. Mocktails are a safe and healthy alternative to the original concoction.
The term “mocktails” originated during the 1970s and ever since has been a savior for people who want the delightful taste of a mixed drink but with one specific ingredient missing.
A few classic alcoholic recipes can be tinkered with to create non-alcoholic masterpieces. These variations of popular cocktails either replace alcohol with the ideal replacement ingredient or drop the booze altogether. Vodka becomes ginger ale. Champagne becomes grape juice.
In the end, the alcohol might be missing but the taste is nearly identical to, if not better than, the original.
The Recovery Village has a useful summary of how to craft the non-alcoholic version of this brunch-time favorite. They also offer treatment for anyone struggling with substance abuse like the Ohio drug rehab. Mimosas are usually created by combining orange juice with champagne or sparkling wine.
This Mockmosa recipe trades the champagne out for some sparkling white grape juice, which makes a perfect non-alcoholic replacement. Look for grape juice brands that are dry in flavor, with little or no sugar or corn syrup, to replicate the champagne taste. Combine them in a champagne flute and, if you want to add a unique touch, garnish the drink with a mint sprig.
Usually, screwdrivers are made by combining vodka and orange juice. Replacing the alcoholic ingredient with ginger ale doesn’t drop the tastiness level at all. Leaf.Tv shows how to prepare this variation of the simple two-ingredient mixture.
Start with ice cubes, fill half the glass with ginger ale, and then top it off with a pulpy orange juice brand of your choice. Finish the process with a swizzle stick to combine the two liquid ingredients until the colors have swirled together to mimic a screwdriver. Before the ice melts, sit back and drink up.
Virgin Cucumber Mojito
This smooth-tasting drink is a favorite when temperatures rise and the summer season hits its peak. The alcoholic version includes rum, but it’s not really necessary to create the drink’s refreshing taste. A Frugal Chick has a great alternative to this classic, and the only change is dropping the alcoholic ingredient. Combine one lime, some mint leaves, white sugar, two cucumber slices, ice cubes and soda together for another version of perfection.
Cocktails are a staple of American drinking culture, especially at restaurants or bars with a group of friends or on a date. In the summer, they become staples for days spent by the pool or on the beach. But don’t give up — or give in to temptation — if you originally hoped to spend your day or night without any alcohol. These mocktails not only flatter the originals with their imitation, but they sometimes raise the bar even higher.
Space Beer Is The Final Frontier Of Beer
If you’ve ever seen people drink those little travel bottles of booze on an airplane because they are nervous about flying, imagine what you’re going to need when you are flying toward outer space to stay in one of those fancy space hotels.
Space Beer, that’s what you need. It will help you to blast off while you’re blasting off. Hailed as the world’s first beer for space, Vostok Space beer is specially designed to be drunken in space. Is that proper English? You’ll get drunken in space alright.
Anyway, 4 Pines Brewing Company and Saber Astronautics have teamed up to not only create a space beer but also a space beer bottle so people can drink it in space. Why? Because, beer.
These guys know that space travel is our destiny and they want to be ready with the necessary beverages. As they point out on their Indiegogo page, there is now more recreational space flights that have been booked than there have been astronauts in space in the last 57 years.
Space tourism is happening, and soon. Do you want to take your trip without beer? Of course not. Whether it’s a suborbital flight or a trip to Mars, a beer would be great. You need a space beer bottle because physics are different in space. There’s no gravity for the liquid to pour. They equate it to making a fuel tank for beer.
This is a noble cause. When you are that first tourist on the moon, you’ll stop and say, *BURP* “That’s one small burp for man, one giant burp for mankind.”
If You’re A Fan Of Jack Daniel’s, You’ve Got To Make The Pilgrimage To Lynchburg
Earlier this month, the folks at Jack Daniel’s flew us down to Lynchburg, Tennessee to visit the iconic Jack Daniel’s Distillery, where the world-famous Old No. 7 has been produced for over 150 years, to learn firsthand about how their Tennessee Whiskey is made.
As someone who’s been drinking Jack Daniel’s for the greater part of 20 years, I was excited to learn more about the brand’s history of making whiskey, and the man behind it.
Our journey began in Nashville, about an hour and a half north of Lynchburg. During our ride to the distillery, our guide gave us some history about Jasper Newton Daniel (Jack), and the interesting road that led him to start Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
Born in 1849, Jack Daniel was the youngest of 10 children, with his mother dying shortly after his birth (likely due to complications from childbirth). A few years later, his father remarried and had another 3 children with his new wife. Jack leaves home at a very young age and he is taken in by Reverend Dan Call, where he works on the family farm. And on his farm, he had a still, which Jack quickly took interest in it.
It’s here where Jack learns the art of whiskey making from the preacher and his head distiller, Nathan “Nearest” Green. In 1866, Call decides to focus on his calling as a minister, selling his whiskey business to Jack. Jack in turn hires Nearest as his Master Distiller. A few years later, they open the now-famous distillery in Lynchburg, and the rest is history.
A short while later, we arrived at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, and gathered together for a VIP tour hosted by none other than Assistant Master Distiller Chris Fletcher! As you can imagine, he’s got extensive knowledge of the whiskey making process, which he shared with us in great detail as he took us through the entire facility.
Not only that, but Fletcher is actually the grandson of retired Master Distiller Frank Bobo, the distillery’s fifth master distiller from 1966-89. Needless to say, whiskey is in his blood.
The first stop on our tour was Cave Spring Hollow, which houses Lynchburg’s greatest natural resource – clean, pure, spring water. The cave’s layers of limestone naturally impart a variety of minerals to the water which contribute to Jack Daniel’s character. More importantly, the limestone also removes iron (which is bad if you are making whiskey) from the water.
Did you know that every bottle of Jack Daniel’s sold around the world is made with water from this source? I actually got to take a drink from the spring, and it was perhaps the purest water that I’ve ever tasted.
From here, we made our way to the Rickyard, where they stack 5-foot tall pallets of hard super maple, douse them in raw, unaged whiskey, before setting the wood ablaze. The inferno peaks at over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit before burning down into smoldering embers. The resulting charcoal is used in the charcoal mellowing process.
We got to take part in this process, and it was pretty wild, the heat getting so intense that you had to walk away after awhile or risk getting burned. How these guys manage to keep cool in the hot Tennessee summers is beyond me, but my hats off to them.
Afterwards, we walked down to the Distillery Building, where we got to learn more about the whiskey making process including the whiskey stills, the fermenting tanks and the charcoal-mellowing vats. That last part is perhaps the most important, filtering the 140-proof, unaged whiskey drop by drop through 10 feet of handcrafted charcoal.
It’s this extra step that imparts the distinctive smoothness you have come to expect from Jack Daniel’s, and it’s what makes this a Tennessee Whiskey and not a bourbon.
Next, this whiskey goes into American White Oak barrels that are hand-built at Jack Daniel’s Cooperage. Once assembled, the barrel’s interior is toasted and charred using a proprietary method to coax the wood’s natural sugars out and caramelize them. The whiskey enters the barrel colorless and raw, but during the maturation process, the whiskey draws all of its rich amber color and much of its distinctive flavor from the barrels.
As you can imagine, if Jack Daniel’s were to reuse their barrels, they’d get diminishing returns, as the first batch of whiskey already draws out most of the flavor from the barrel. That’s why they only use a barrel once, after which they sell them off to third-parties.
Interestingly enough, a number of variables determine how long a barrel of whiskey stays in the barrelhouse, including the barrel itself and where it’s located in the barrelhouse. Barrels located on the upper floors (where temperature changes are more extreme) tend to mature faster than barrels on the lower floors, where it’s generally cooler.
So rather than rely on age, a team of whiskey tasters sample each and every barrel to decide when they’re ready for bottling. Master Distiller Jeff Arnett showed us this process by bringing us to one of the barrelhouses and taking us up to the 6th floor, where he tapped into a couple of barrels and let us sample them right from the source. In a word.. incredible!
If that wasn’t enough, they also set up a tasting for us, where we got to sample every product in their portfolio, including Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, Gentleman Jack, Single Barrel Select, Rye, Honey, Fire, and more. I really enjoyed the Single Barrel Select, but Honey and Fire were also standouts for me, and I definitely need to pick up a few bottles of these for myself.
Overall, I had a great time visiting the Jack Daniel’s Distillery and seeing everything that they have to offer, and I’d highly recommend taking the tour if you’re coming through Tennessee, even if you’re not a whiskey drinker. There’s a ton of history here, and it’s sure to give you a newfound respect for Jack Daniel’s, and the man who started it all.