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.