Stocking Home Bar

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Stocking Home Bar

Now, stocking a great home bar is really not that hard to do. It is just based on how much you can afford to spend, and how large you want your arsenal to be. If you have a lot of money to blow and want a top notch bar with the finest curated liquors, then by all means, go forth (also, let’s be friends). However, you can also achieve a successful bar at home filled with the components that you’ll need to make a wonderful selection of drinks without costing you an inordinate sum of cash. However much money you have to spend on creating the perfect home bar, you’ll need to start with the basics. We’ve come up with a grocery list of essentials you’ll need to stock your home bar depending on your budget.

Stocking Home Bar

See? A not too shabby price tag for a pretty sweet (and very well-stocked!) home bar. We’d call that a win-win situation in our book. And, once you’ve got all your glassware and bar tools together, the cost of stocking your bar only gets cheaper from there on out. Now all you need to do is get shopping, learn some bar terms and signature cocktail recipes (Google can seriously be your best friend here), and invite over all your friends to show off your inner bartender.

Stocking Home Bar

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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.

Stocking 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.

Stocking Home Bar

Most articles about stocking a home bar go briefly over the major categories of spirits: vodka, gin, bourbon, scotch, tequila, and so on. And then they say, basically, buy one of each of those. And maybe some triple sec and vermouth and even perhaps a bottle of bitters.

Stocking Home Bar

So my advice to the man just starting out: start small, grow gradually. Stocking a home bar is a marathon, not a sprint. I recommend beginning by getting the ingredients needed to make the cocktails you enjoy and know how to make well. Like Manhattans? Canadian whisky and vermouth. Martinis? Gin and vermouth.

Stocking Home Bar

The point is, when you invite people over, you want to be able to make them what they actually want to drink. It's a lot more fun that way. No need to get fancy, but low-key bartending abilities are still good to have. It's an impressive skill, really. And if you go through all this bar-stocking and you still want some weird dry-ice cocktail, then the world is your oyster, or in this case, your orange peel.

Stocking Home Bar

Next, it’s expensive. Stocking a bar by buying one bottle of every category of spirit, even if you go down-market, will cost you at the very least $150, unless you’re buying stuff bottled in plastic, and even then, such a shopping trip still won’t be cheap.

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.

There are few things more enjoyable than having a properly stocked bar in the comfort of your own home. We’re not talking about having one go-to bottle stashed away in the back of your freezer and a 6-pack of beer that you picked up on your way home from work. What you need, friends, is a solid bar stocked with the basics so you can entertain (and impress) guests, as well as treat yourself to the gift of a properly mixed drink. Starting a home bar may seem daunting or superfluous, but when your lady friend (or your boss or anyone else that needs to be impressed) comes over and you can artfully craft for her a cocktail of her choosing, you’ll surely be glad you took our advice. We’re not saying that procuring the perfect Moscow Mule or Gimlet for your lady or your boss is guaranteed to help you score that second date or that promotion… but we’re not not saying that, either.

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:

The cocktail authority Robert Hess suggests picking a drink you want to explore and stocking accordingly. So if you like the Sidecar, buy a cognac and a triple sec. When you have money, buy a second cognac and compare the two. Then buy a second triple sec. If you’re really serious about the Sidecar, buy a third bottle of each. Suddenly, you have a great supply of cognac on hand. Then move on to another cocktail.

Rum: Make sure you have a white rum in your home bar, which is quintessential for mixing many cocktails. For punches, dark rum is key. If this home bar is for your personal use, white rum will do you just fine. If you plan to throw a party, add a dark rum into the mix.

All you need to stock the perfect home bar is a dozen bottles and a few essential tools, according to David and Lesley Solmonson, authors of The 12 Bottle Bar. From there, the cocktail combinations are practically limitless.

Other: These aren’t necessarily essentials, but it’s good to add a few extras to your bar, depending on what you like. If you’re a wine drinker, have a good white and red, at the least, in your home bar. If you enjoy a nice brew, beer is always welcome to the party. If you’re entertaining or throwing a party, be sure to pick up a little of each to imbibe all of your guests.

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

We have a follow-up chapter called the three-bottle bar, where we introduce bitters and vermouth. Then a four-bottle bar, where we introduce liqueur. You can mix and match. If you only drink one spirit, you still find use in the recipes.

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.

I always tell people to stock their bar with the spirits they love. If you like drinking rum or gin, for example, have several different types on hand. Ultimately, it’s your bar—and there’s no need to have vodka in there if you’re never going to drink it. As long as you’re using the right techniques and ingredients, you will be able to make great cocktails for you and your guests.

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