So, you have decided to take that never used corner of your home and turn it into a bar. Or maybe you have a man cave and now is the perfect time to really make it that oasis you have dreamed about. Whatever the reason, filling your bar with the essential stock of both home liquors and bar tools is something to not take lightly.
Every bar should have the right mix of booze, tools, and glasses to create the basic, or ‘classic’ drinks, as well as a variety of customised recipes and made to order beverages.
To start, every bar needs to stock the following:
- 9-12 Different Bottles of Liquor
- 6 Basic Tools For Your Bar
- 5 Proper Glasses
Essential Bottles of Liquor
In no particular order, these are the most important home liquors to stock your home bar with when hosting parties or just relaxing with a drink:
You may find this a bit of a shock, but of all the liquors I list, vodka is the one I could do without. The reason I listed it first is because it is usually the first liquor people think of and not having it in your bar seems taboo.
Vodkas are mostly flavourless, unless of course you decide to pick up a couple bottles of the flavoured ones just to have as an on-demand type drink. Vodka is used in a variety of drinks and getting a medium grade vodka in fine. I prefer Tito’s, but any second shelf brand will do the trick.
The opposite of vodka is gin. This libation, if used in moderation, can be the star of your bar. Many classic drinks have gin as a base, including the Tom Collins, Martini (a real martini), a Gimlet, and the ever-popular Gin and Tonic.
For gin, I prefer Tanqueray, which is reasonably priced, as well as Bombay Sapphire, which is a little more expensive, but my personal favourite.
Now we are talking. If I were asked what one bottle do I need to have stocked in my bar at all times, bourbon would be the hands down winner. A good bourbon is great to have in your bar when you are not sure what you are in the mood for. My personal favourite brand is Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight, but you can always go with a cheaper bottle.
My suggestion is to keep the good stuff for yourself and hide it on the back shelf.
Staying within the family, a good Rye Whiskey is another must have for your bar. I prefer to stay with American whisky such as Jack Daniels or Jim Beam. This bar staple is used in a variety of drinks, but most novice drinkers will look for the standard rye and soda, so always have a bottle of pop on hand.
You might think to yourself – hey, I am looking for the essential stock for a bar, nothing super fancy. You would be surprised to learn that Absinthe is becoming a more popular liquor and that its black liquorice taste is quickly catching on. Unlike the other liquors I have previously mentioned, you do not need a large quantity of Absinthe.
Having a small bottle on hand is perfect for both your bar and your budget.
Nobody is going to walk up to your bar and ask for a shot of vermouth, but they may seek a classic gin martini (mentioned above) and without a little vermouth, you would just be serving them straight gin.
As with Absinthe, you do not need a lot to have a properly stocked bar, but luckily vermouth will not break the bank, as it is a reasonably priced item. Keep in mind that vermouth comes in both sweet and dry. It is worth having a small bottle of each on hand.
With rum, you will want a bottle of both light and dark so you can best serve your guests. Light rum is used to make the classic Mojito and is typically used in rum punches. Dark rums have a richer taste and are used to make drinks such as the Dark n’ Stormy and a Rum Old Fashioned.
When purchasing rum, pay careful attention to pricing, as this can vary from brand to brand. I prefer to stick with the better-known brands, such as Captain Morgan’s and Bacardi.
One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor. As far as I am concerned, tequila is a must have for two reasons. The first is the classic margarita. No home bartender should be without the ability to grab a blender and make this refreshing drink. The second is for your basic shot.
A shot of tequila has stopped many an argument from escalating, as well as bringing friends new and old together. Grab a bottle of silver and another one of gold and you are all set. I highly recommend Patron for all your tequila needs.
Cointreau & Grenadine
I have combined these two as they are typically used as mixers for many drinks. Cointreau is a liquor while grenadine is not. Cointreau is an orange flavoured liqueur and a good bottle can run you about thirty dollars.
On the flip side, grenadine has a sweet, tart flavour and gives drinks a bright red colour. My favourite use for grenadine is to make Shirley Temples for the younger ones so that they leave the adults alone but are happy to ‘join in’ with the drinking festivities.
You will notice that I did not list any wines as ‘must haves’ for starting your bar. If you entertain enough, your wine rack will fill up by itself with people bringing a bottle here and there. If you want, picking up a bottle of red and a bottle of white cannot hurt.
Tools For Your Bar
Now that your bar is fully stocked with alcohol, you need the right tools to put your drinks together. Most of the tools I mention below can be purchased both individually, and as a set. A word of caution, it is a better use of your funds to get high quality bar tools than to spend money on a set that is cheaply made and contains many tools you will rarely, if ever, use.
You might be thinking to yourself; a shaker is a shaker. You would in fact be wrong. The basic shaker you see has a large, usually metal cup, that comes to a narrow top with a small cap. This is the usual shaker found in most home bars. I strongly suggest you upgrade to the Boston Shaker. This shaker comes with two stainless steel cups, one slightly larger than the other so that they fit together properly. A little more expensive then the classic shaker, but well worth the cost.
The one hang up with the Boston Shaker is that, unlike the cheaper shakers, there is no built-in strainer. Not to worry, the Hawthorne Strainer is perfect to use with your Boston Shaker. It comes with a coil spring that fits your shaker and glass as needed to perfectly strain your cocktail.
We will address the need and use of the classic shot glass later, but for now we are focusing on the jigger. A two-sided jigger comes with a small (1 ounce) cup and large (2 ounce) cup. This tool helps pour the precise amount of booze into your cocktail. Some jiggers come with demarcation lines to help you measure in increments smaller than 1 ounce. The size of the jigger allows for a more controlled pour and also adds a touch of class to your home bar.
Believe it or not, you do not have to use a mixer to make all of your cocktails. Having a large mixing glass to stir drinks in is a must have for anyone who is making mixed drinks. Sure, you can mix a drink in the same glass that you plan on serving it in, but having a separate mixing glass, large enough for your liquids and ice, makes the whole ordeal that much easier.
True, a cocktail can be mixed with a stirrer, regular table spoon, or even your finger. What makes the bar spoon a better choice is that is long enough to reach the bottom of almost all drink-ware, and if you are making a lot of drinks, it is more comfortable for you to use, not to mention a lot more sanitary then your finger.
Get ready for that Mojito. Similar to a mortar and pestle you may have in your kitchen, a muddler is used to mix solids into your drinks, such as mints or peels. Muddlers can be plastic, wooden or metal. If you do not make a lot of drinks that require a muddler, then any of these are a good option. For heavy use, nice stainless-steel muddler would be best.
You have the liquor and the tools to make almost any cocktail. All that is left is to serve them to your guests. In order to do that, you need the proper glasses. Red solo cups will just not cut it at this level.
A rocks glass is sturdy, hence its name. It is made of thicker glass, usually with an etched pattern and is short and stout. The Rocks glass holds up to muddling and can withstand pressure without cracking.
Unlike the Rocks glass, the Collins glass is tall and is made from a thinner, yet strong glass. The Collins glass is part of a family of glasses, differentiated by their height. The Collins glass is the tallest, followed by the Highball, then the Delmonico. The Delmonico is similar in size to the Rocks glass, so duplication is not needed when starting your bar.
A tall, narrow glass, the Sling glass is perfect for perfect for long drinks. Think Bloody Mary or Mai Tai. The Sling glass completes your set of standard glasses and with this array of glassware, you can serve most any drink.
The one unique glass that I recommend you add to your bar is the Martini glass. Serving a martini in any other glass is considered pour taste. This V-shaped glass, also known as a Cocktail glass, should always be chilled before serving.
No bar is complete without a few standard shot glasses. Clear, glass shot glasses without wording or logos show that you are sophisticated and past that stage in your life where novelty shot glasses are a necessity. A set of four is perfect as a start.
Easy Way To Stock Your Bar
When you add up all the items listed above, the costs could seem a little overwhelming. Obviously, you do not need to buy all of these at once, but to have a properly stocked bar, you should have as much of these items on hand. One method that I have found to be very successful in stocking a new bar is to hold a Bar Opening Party. Invite friends and family to help you open your new bar in style.
Purchasing the bar tools and glasses in advance of the party will put you in a god situation for serving your guests as they arrive, bringing with them a gift of spirits to help you get your bar started. You provide the food and let the guests do the rest.
Stocking these liquors, tools, and glasses will during that empty bar into the ideal place to hang with friends and family and enjoy a nice cocktail.