Setting up your first home bar or upgrading to a more sophisticated collection of alcoholic beverages can leave you overwhelmed at all of the options. Perhaps you can’t decide where to begin, what to include, or how much to budget. This is a common conundrum many homeowners face when deciding to establish their home’s first official wet bar, so you’re not alone! Today, we’re sharing our list of home bartending must-haves.
Just the Basics
If you don’t drink often, or have simply never mixed alcoholic beverages before, you may still want to have the supplies on hand for guests who would enjoy a drink when they visit. Follow the below (EASY) five steps to set up a basic at-home bar cart and add to it each month as you learn to make new drinks (see #5)!
1.) Decide on One Cocktail
If you aren’t ready to invest the time and funds into a fully-stocked home bar, choose the one cocktail that you dream of making at home, but are currently unable to.
2.) Purchase Essentials
Do some research to determine what barware, liquor, and other ingredients you’ll need to create a top-notch version of this special cocktail.
3.) Practice Preparing
You won’t want to make your guests cocktails until you’ve practiced several times. Make them for yourself, your close friends, and your family members. Choose people who will give you informed, honest feedback once they’ve tasted your creations.
4.) Enjoy and Share!
Once you’ve mastered one cocktail, you’re ready to entertain!
5.) Repeat This Process
It’s possible to create a custom home bar setup based on perfecting a cocktail each (or every other) month. After a year or two of gradually expanding your repertoire and liquor library, you’ll be astonished at the number of cocktails you’ll be able to offer your guests. At this stage, you’re ready to host holiday parties, formal dinner parties, birthday bashes, and more.
A More Advanced Approach
If you’re ready to fully commit to the process of building your best home bar right away, the following recommendations are for you. Our suggestions will ensure that you have a liquor selection and full barware array that will surely impress even your most discerning guests.
Be warned, though: once word gets around that your house is a better bar than anything within 10 miles, expect to be playing host throughout the year!
- Victorinox Classic Paring Knife
- Zulay Professional Lever Citrus Juicer
- CHEFSOFI Mortar and Pestle
- Cocktail Kingdom Barspoon
- Leopold Large Weighted Shaking Tins
- Koriko Hawthorne Cocktail Strainer
- Cocktail Kingdom Julep Strainer
- Cocktail Kingdom Fine Mesh Strainer
- OXO Steel Angled Jigger
- Lewis Ice Bag
- “Schmallet” Ice Mallet
- Silicone Ice Mold
- 2 Fine Sieve Spice Shakers of Nutmeg and Cinnamon
- Swizzle Sticks
- Highball Glasses
- Lowball Glasses
- Wine Glasses
- Beer Mugs
- Martini Glasses
- Hurricane Glasses
- Double Rocks Glasses
- Coupe Glasses
- Shot Glasses
- Mason Jars with Lids
- Snifter Glasses
- Copper Mule Mugs with Stirrers
We’ve made it easy for you by adding brand-specific recommendations here, but if your tastes differ, feel free to use the following list as a guide.
- Bourbon Whiskey (Old Weller Antique 107 proof, Knob Creek Single Barrel)
- Rum (Flor de Cana White, El Dorado 5 Year Demerara, Appleton Estate)
- Rye (Rittenhouse)
- Vermouth (Carpano Antica, Punt e Mes)
- Tequila (Azul Silver, Herradura Reposado)
- London Dry Gin (Broker’s)
- Triple Sec (Cointreau)
- Liqueur (Luxardo Maraschino, Green Chartreuse)
- Absinthe (Lucid Absinthe, Pernod)
- Bitters (Angostura, Peychaud’s Aromatics, Regan’s Orange)
- Brandy (Paul Masson Grand Amber)
- Vodka (Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Zubrowka)
- Old Tom Gin (Ransom)
- Gin (Tanqueray No. 10)
- Scotch Whisky (Bruichladdich Rocks—pronounced ‘brook-LA-dee’)
- Irish Whisky (Redbreast)
- Your top 3 favorite wine and beer selections
Hand-making your own syrups with which to sweeten your mixed cocktails is very easy, kind on your wallet, and will improve the flavor of your final product. Here are the essentials:
- Simple Syrup
- Demerara Syrup
Keep local, flavorful honey on-hand, since several cocktails are improved by this rich addition, and will specifically recommend honey. Many high-volume honey distributors either filter unique flavors out of their final product or substitute some or most of the liquid with corn syrup. For this reason, we find that small-batch, local honey performs at a far superior level when mixing drinks.
Just before hosting a large party, squeeze fresh lime, lemon, orange, and bergamot juices. Set the juice on the bar in labeled squeeze bottles. You’ll be glad you got this task out of the way once the drink orders start rolling in! Also, remember to stock chilled carbonated water or invest in a home carbonation system.
The following fresh ingredients are necessary for several popular cocktails:
- Grated ginger
If you stock your home bar with every item on our list, you’ll be able to create practically any commonly ordered mixed beverage. Of course, if you want to fully immerse yourself in your home bar hobby, you’ll find that the available accessories and accouterments are vast. For example, a countertop ice crusher, though a large, single-tasking appliance, will allow you to create many mixed drinks at once without stopping to crush more ice with a bag and mallet.
Pro-Tip: Make sure any ice you use is clean and untainted by off-flavors from your freezer. If, after taste-testing, you’ve been able to detect that your own ice maker tends to result in less-than-perfectly-flavored cubes, head out before a party and bring back several bags of ice.
Do you have a well-stocked home bar? What are some essentials you’ve realized you always keep on hand? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.