How To Set Up A Home Bar

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How To Set Up A Home Bar

Even though “Mad Men” has ended its highly successful, award-winning run this year, its impact will continue to be felt for years. The show, set in the 1960s and ’70s, helped usher in a rise in cocktail culture, especially whiskey. With the resurgence of cocktailing out at bars and restaurants, many people have also started entertaining more at home again, something that had faded from popular culture over the prior decades. “I think we’re seeing a resurgence of home bars since cocktail culture is coming back,” says Eric Hay, beverage development manager for Wirtz Beverage Illinois, one of the state’s largest distributors of wine, spirits and beer. “There are all these neat spirits, bitters, and sexy barware so people are entertaining in their homes more.” Setting up your own home bar, whether you drink often or want to offer guests a drink, doesn’t have to cost a lot or require an actual bar. You can set up your home bar in the kitchen, on a sturdy bookshelf or cabinet or on top of an existing piece of furniture, like a credenza. Or if you want, you can get a bar cart (check out antique markets and vintage shops for some really cool ones or search Pinterest for inspiration). Or you could check out a cabinet from a store like Pottery Barn or West Elm, made specifically for a home bar, that includes space to display bottles, cabinets to store more bottles, drawers for tools and a place for glassware and decanters. So what do you need? Get Your Base Spirits A home bar doesn’t have to look like the back bar of your favorite local watering hole. “A home bar need not be grand and it doesn’t have to include an actual bar,” says Sean Ludford, founder and editor of BevX.com. You can set up your home bar in your kitchen if you have some extra counter and cabinet space. As an added bonus, you also have a sink and easy access to ice there. Regardless of where you put it, you will need to stock up on booze. While Ludford says you should “start with what you like and build up an inventory one bottle at a time,” you could also knock it all out in one fell swoop. Whatever you do, don’t skimp and get the cheap stuff. “Get a little better quality because you’re entertaining people you have a relationship with,” Hay says. “Don’t get an off-brand vodka, but aim for middle or higher tier.” Hay believes every home bar should contain at least one bottle each of: Vodka Gin Rum Tequila American whiskey like bourbon Irish whiskey Blended Scotch whisky Single malt Scotch

How To Set Up A Home Bar

It’s easy to reach a zen-like trance when you have a truly tasty drink in your hand. The feeling is further amplified when you’re in the comfort of your own home, surrounded by friends and family members, and not shelling out $10 per cocktail. Sadly, the prospect of setting up a home bar is daunting to many aspiring home drinkers. For help setting up and stocking a home bar, we’ve turned to Tim Heuisler, former bar manager and current general manager of Time, a bar/restaurant/club/music venue in Philadelphia, PA. As it turns out, setting up a home bar really isn’t that hard.

How To Set Up A Home Bar

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Setting up your own home bar, whether you drink often or want to offer guests a drink, doesn’t have to cost a lot or require an actual bar. You can set up your home bar in the kitchen, on a sturdy bookshelf or cabinet or on top of an existing piece of furniture, like a credenza. Or if you want, you can get a bar cart (check out antique markets and vintage shops for some really cool ones or search Pinterest for inspiration). Or you could check out a cabinet from a store like Pottery Barn or West Elm, made specifically for a home bar, that includes space to display bottles, cabinets to store more bottles, drawers for tools and a place for glassware and decanters. So what do you need?

How To Set Up A Home Bar

A home bar doesn’t have to look like the back bar of your favorite local watering hole. “A home bar need not be grand and it doesn’t have to include an actual bar,” says Sean Ludford, founder and editor of BevX.com. You can set up your home bar in your kitchen if you have some extra counter and cabinet space. As an added bonus, you also have a sink and easy access to ice there.

How To Set Up A Home Bar

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.

How To Set Up A Home Bar

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.

How To Set Up A Home Bar

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.

How To Set Up A Home Bar

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.

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:

Don’t let this list intimidate you. Instead, do your best and think of your home bar as a work in progress. No man goes to the hardware store and buys $10,000 worth of tools at once; rather, he collects the tools in his garage over time. Consider taking the same approach with your home bar. Start out simple, then slowly increase your collection of spirits, liqueurs, and equipment. After a while, you’ll have a formidable bar that will make your place a top hangout spot.

To mix your drinks, you’ll need a set of bar tools. You don’t have to spend a lot, but remember that if you’re entertaining, you want your tools to look good, right? “Your home is your showplace so you should have nice, visually pleasing items,” Hay says. If you’re on a budget, Libbey makes a 9-piece mixology set that you can pick up at Bed Bath & Beyond for about $30. If you want bar tools with a more professional feel, Hay suggests logging on to Cocktail Kingdom, where you can find it all. Here are the things you’ll need:

Bar Spoon: If you’re not shaking a cocktail, you have to make sure it’s properly stirred. Generally speaking, a typical spoon won’t cut it for a tall cocktail, which is why it’s a good idea to have a long bar spoon. That said, you can probably do without a bar spoon if James Bond is your roommate.

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