HOW TO BUILD A SEMI-DECENT HOME BAR

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If you are here reading this post, chances are that you want to get your home bar kicked-off and just need a little bit of help knowing where to start, or what you are missing from what you already have. To be honest, building a home bar takes time (and money); so, unless you want to splash a solid amount of cash, just trust the process…or just splash the cash if you’ve got it.

I’m going to break this down nice and easy for you but, before I do, I just want to point out that everyone’s home bar will most likely take a different shape depending on its purpose and audience. Is the purpose of your bar to make drinks more often at home for yourself instead of spending money out? Or, do you want to have a decently stocked home bar for the occasional gathering with friends and family - meaning you won’t be using your bar as frequently as the situation I mentioned prior. 

While I will be giving recommendations on must-have bottles for your basic home bar, what you choose will ultimately be up to you. For all I know, you may want to start a specialty gin-focused bar at home and revolve ingredients around that (which would be pretty sweet). Regardless, I will help break it down for you as best as possible and give you a solid framework to build off, leaving room for any sort of creativity you’re looking to bring to the table - which I highly encourage.

Booze

Photo: Marcel Howard

Photo: Marcel Howard

While you will know your palate much better than I, as well as what your guests will be into, you will want to break your booze down into 3 categories: base spirits, modifiers (liqueurs, amari, etc.), and bitters. If you decide to go with the basic home bar, I’ll drop some names below on which bottles to pick-up. But, if you’re looking to be adventurous and move forward with a tequila bar, or whatever your heart desires, then feel free to contact me and I can help you work through that one. My overarching recommendation though: invest in a variety of great brands for that specialty, and have all the modifiers needed to create the classic cocktails made with that base spirit. For the basic home bar though, here is a “grocery list” of bottles that are great for the enthusiast who is looking to up their drink game with some quality booze to get the party started.

Base Spirits

  • Whiskey: Wild Turkey 101 (Bourbon)

  • Tequila: Avion

  • Gin: Bombay Sapphire

  • Rum: Plantation 3-Star

  • Mezcal: Montelobos

  • Vodka: Reyka

Modifiers

  • Cointreau

  • Luxardo Maraschino

  • Campari

  • Dolin Sweet Vermouth*

  • Dolin Dry Vermouth*

If you want to splurge: Chartreuse

*Pro Tip: vermouth must be refrigerated after opening so it doesn’t oxidize and lose its quality as it’s a wine-based product.

Bitters

  • Angostura Aromatic Bitters

  • Angostura Orange Bitters

  • Peychaud’s Bitters

Non-Alcoholic

I’ll be brief here, but I’d buy Fever-Tree or Q Drinks for the mixers below.

Photo: Justin Sisson

Photo: Justin Sisson

  • Tonic water

  • Soda water

  • Ginger Beer

  • Fresh citrus (lemons & limes)

  • Simple syrup

Bar Tools

Now that you have all of your basic ingredients to get mixing, let’s talk about the bar tools you’ll need to get rocking and rolling. I always go with Cocktail Kingdom’s products as they’re great quality, but feel free to surf the web for whichever tools make the most sense for you.

  • Shaking tins (one large, one small)

  • Mixing glass (optional, but recommended - a pint glass can suffice)

  • Hawthorne strainer

  • Julep strainer (optional, but recommended)

  • Bar spoon

  • Y-Peeler for garnish

Glassware

Glassware is pretty open-ended since there are so many varieties you can purchase across many different sites. I, oftentimes, pop into thrift stores and try to catch some steals - a completely viable option. If not, Cocktail Kingdom also has exquisite glassware for purchase.

  • Rocks glass

  • Highball / Collins glass

  • Coupe or Martini glass

As I mentioned, starting your home bar is not a cheap date but if you invest slowly but surely, you will be able to build this foundation that I mentioned above and then the home bar world is yours!