Stocking your home bar with all the essential tools, glassware, mixers, and—of course—spirits will give you the ability to mix classic cocktails and invent new ones without rushing out to purchase missing ingredients each time the urge strikes. This checklist can help ensure you have all the items to make all the most essential drinks:
Liquors. To make most classic cocktails, you’ll need a solid stock of basic liquors, including:
- Vodka—used in more mixed drinks than any other spirit, vodka is necessary. Choose one affordable and one high-end vodka for your home bar.
- Whiskey—as there are numerous types of whiskey, go with your preference. Choosing one great, sippable bourbon and one blended rye allows you the ability to serve whiskey on the rocks or in a cocktail.
- Rum—white rum is most commonly used in mixed drinks, so choose one quality white and one darker or spiced rum to round out your home bar.
- Tequila—most margaritas are made with tequila blanco, so choosing an inexpensive version for blended drinks and a top-shelf version for sipping is a good strategy.
- Gin—although gin is a divisive spirit that seems to be either loved or hated, you should choose a quality gin to have on hand behind your home bar.
- Liqueurs—these flavored liquors should be stocked according to your taste. However, starting with triple sec, Amaretto, and vermouth will allow you to make most classic cocktails.
Mixers. Unless you’re serving your liquors straight up, you’ll need essential mixers to make your cocktails, including:
- Juices—keep lemon, lime, tomato, orange, pineapple, and cranberry juice on hand.
- Sodas—be sure to have a cola, a lemon-lime soda, and a club soda behind your bar.
- Blended mixers—store-bought mixers like sweet and sour, grenadine, and even bloody Mary mix are helpful (you can make simple syrup yourself).
- Bitters—one bottle of Angostura bitters should work for most cocktails.
Glassware. While there are seemingly endless types of bar and beer glasses, you’ll need just a basic few to get started. Then, increase your bar glass selection as your mixology skills improve. Start with:
- Beer glasses—the pint glass is the most versatile, however they can be used for mixed drinks, too
- Rocks glasses—these short glasses are a staple for any drink served straight up or on the rocks.
- Wine glasses—stock both red and white wine glasses, or purchase a medium-sized glass suitable for either.
- Martini glasses—mixed drinks like Manhattans, martinis, and even the odd margarita can be served from a martini glass.
Bar tools. To make most mixed drinks, you’ll need a cocktail shaker, a durable mixing glass, a jigger to measure liquor, and a bar spoon to stir your mixed drinks. Also, most home bars include a beer opener, a corkscrew, and a cutting board and citrus knife or zester for garnishes.
Don’t worry if you aren’t able to check off all the items on this list right away. Simply begin with a bar stocked with your preferred liquors, and add spirits as you go. For more information about spirit selection, mixers, or equipment, inquire at your friendly neighborhood Payless Liquors.