Home Bar Necessities

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Home Bar Necessities

A proper home bar is one thing every grown-up home should have — even if you don’t drink, you should always have something on-hand to offer your guests. Whether you’re just beginning to make cocktails and appreciate spirits, or you’ve been mixing for years, this guide will help you set up a home bar that not only has all the essential tools you need, but is also beautiful and inspires you to try new things. First, we’re guiding you through where and how actually arrange your bar, and then we’ll show you all the must-have essentials, including specific bitters, bar tools, must-read cocktail books, spirits, glassware, mixers, and garnishes. Whether you have room for a single tray or a full built-in wet bar, you’ll find that setting one up isn't as daunting as it may seem.

Home Bar Necessities

Home Bar Rule #1: Pick alcohol you actually enjoy imbibing. When I first started my own home bar, I only picked spirits that I thought would impress guests when I had them over. I ended up spending a fortune for alcohol that I hardly ever used. While you’ll use your home bar for entertaining, don’t forget that a home bar’s main customer is you. When you mix yourself a cocktail to sip on the weekends while you sit on the patio with your dog, you want to enjoy it. The dog doesn’t care what your favorite gin is. That is of course if this pooch isn’t your dog. He’s so smug.

Home Bar Necessities

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Remember Home Bar Rule #2: Start small. If you don’t have room or any place to store your home bar, keep your home bar small. Pick two or three different liquors and stick with those. When I was in an apartment, I kept my small bar in a cabinet above the fridge, and I kept my mixers and garnishes in the fridge.

Home Bar Necessities

If you do move into a bigger place and you’ve really enjoyed being a home mixologist, then I can’t recommend installing a permanent home bar in your home enough. Many homes today come with wet bars and storage space for a home bar. If you don’t have that, with a little initiative and sweat, you can install your own bar in an unused room in the house.

Home Bar Necessities

If you’d like something a bit more distinguished than your kitchen cabinet to serve as the home for your home bar, consider getting a cocktail cabinet or mini bar. They’re small pieces of handsome furniture that you can usually put up against the wall. They’re nice because they can serve as a gathering point without having a huge bar installed in your home. Cocktail cabinets take up very little space, but can hold quite a bit of alcohol and glassware. I have friend who picked up a vintage cocktail cabinet at the antique store. It was a bit rough, but with a bit of elbow grease he was able to spruce it up. Here’s a nice example of a retro cocktail cabinet from the 50s:

Home Bar Necessities

First, we’re guiding you through where and how actually arrange your bar, and then we’ll show you all the must-have essentials, including specific bitters, bar tools, must-read cocktail books, spirits, glassware, mixers, and garnishes. Whether you have room for a single tray or a full built-in wet bar, you’ll find that setting one up isn't as daunting as it may seem.

Home Bar Necessities

There’s no denying that bar carts are one of the hottest furnishings around — we blame Don Draper for making them trendy again. If you have the space for it, bar carts make a great dedicated area for mixing a drink, and they’re welcoming, too, so guests can feel comfortable walking up and making their own. If your bar cart is open, be mindful of organizing it neatly. You may even want to store your less frequently used items in a pantry, so it doesn’t look too cluttered or messy.

Home Bar Necessities

It might feel like a home bar should have one of everything, but the best way to stock your bar is to start with the cocktails you love to drink. Plan your cocktail shopping the way you plan your meal shopping. If, say, you’re making a lasagna, you’ll make a list of the things you need for that, and you’ll shop accordingly. So when you want lasagna, you buy what you need for the lasagna; why buy ribeye steaks and turkey breast and spare ribs when all you really want is lasagna?

We always have lemons and limes in the kitchen, as they're essential to many great and favorite recipes. Sugar cubes, or fine white sugar, is also a must for every home bar. It's also great to have a basil plant and a mint plant in the house, so you can make herbal cocktails at the ready. Other herbs like sage and thyme are also wonderful garnishes. If you like martinis or Bloody Marys, cocktail olives, onions, horseradish, salt, pepper, and hot sauce can also be essential. Once you've stocked bar, shake or stir up some of our favorite cocktail recipes.

Now of course, in the kitchen, it helps to always have some pantry staples around, such as various dried beans, pasta, canned tomatoes, spices, and so on. In the same way, it’s always good to have bar staples around. The two most important bar staples are bitters and simple syrup. The latter’s easy. Add one part water and two parts sugar to a saucepan, heat it long enough for the sugar to dissolve, and then let it cool long enough to be bottled.

The first rule of stocking your bar is to choose spirits you actually enjoy. This is the only way to develop a knack for making and appreciating cocktails. Once you nail a few favorite cocktails, your interest and palate for other spirits is bound to expand — we guarantee it. The second rule is don't do it all at once. Liquor is expensive, so start small. There's no need to spend your car payment at BevMo in one afternoon. All you need is one great cocktail to impress your guests, and if you learn to craft a few things well, others will take notice and appreciate that. Liqueurs, mixers, apéritifs, and digestifs in particular are things you will and should accumulate over time. That said, the most classic and popular drinks include a handful of spirits. So, we recommend these basics if you want to begin with a few: – Gin – Bourbon Whiskey – Scotch Whisky – Tequila – White Rum – Dark Rum Vodka may be notably absent from this list to you. Designed to taste like nothing, it is devoid of both aroma and flavor, and thus, it isn't a spirit that will help a beginner learn the craft of the cocktail. While it has no place on our bar, we occasionally keep it in the freezer if we're expecting guests who prefer it — or for when we want to blend up a boozy frozen fruit cocktail that tastes like, well, fruit. Keep scrolling for our most recommended spirts — as well as essential glassware, mixers, and garnishes.

9 of 9 The Nonalcoholic Bar No one should be punished for passing up a cocktail, but if plain soda and canned juice are the only alternatives, an abstainer is likely to wind up pouting in the corner. Fortunately, there are enough flavorful nonalcoholic beverages to fill an entire bar and bring cheer to the soberest of souls. Mix fresh-squeezed orange or grapefruit juice with a splash of seltzer to make a light cocktail. Also try sweetened, diluted lime and lemon juice served over crushed ice, or whip fresh or frozen berries in a blender with ice and a dash of lime. Get our Nonalcoholic Drink Recipes

4 & 5. Tequila (Silver & Gold)The good folks at 12 Bottle Bar have based an entire cocktail blog on the idea that a good bar can be complete with only 12 bottles. Tequila, however, was left off the list. Their justification? The only classic cocktail you can make with tequila is a margarita. Right – but where would we be without margaritas? (Look for bottles labeled “100 percent de agave” – anything else contains ‘fillers’ made from tequila-flavored grain alcohol. Gross.)

Also, you don’t have to have your bar always stocked and prepared for a big party. When you host a party, stock up your bar to fill your needs. When you’re not anticipating a party, there’s no need to have gallons of tonic water or dozens of lime wedges on hand.

There’s no denying that bar carts are one of the hottest furnishings around — we blame Don Draper for making them trendy again. If you have the space for it, bar carts make a great dedicated area for mixing a drink, and they’re welcoming, too, so guests can feel comfortable walking up and making their own.

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