How To Set Up a Home Bar: The Essentials You Need

Over the past few years, we have seen the return of the bar cart in home design. Everywhere you turn these days, there is another great bar cart. In fact, we’ve even told our readers that they need one. And that’s all well and good but how do you set up a proper bar cart?

Setting up your perfect home bar doesn’t have to be difficult. Just follow these two easy steps: invest in basic bar equipment and then stock up on essential liquors. Don’t worry we are here to help.

Home bar equipment essentials
The equipment you will need to mix most classic cocktails are:

  • Ice bucket or bag
  • Bar spoon
  • Muddler
  • Jigger
  • Cocktail shaker
  • Strainer
  • Ice cube trays

Glassware you need to serve almost any drink
For everyday use in your home bar, you only need six or eight (which really depends on on the number friends you plan on having over at one time) of each of these three basic types of glasses: a lowball glass aka short glass, a high ball glass aka tall glass, and a glass with a stem. To keep things simple, we suggest investing in a stemmed glasses in a shape that is  is appropriate for both red and white. But if you are a big wine drinker, perhaps separate sets of glasses for red and white. And bubbles too.

Once you have those basics covered, feel free to add what you are most likely to drink. For example, if you are someone who often makes martinis, then by all means invest martini glasses. But even those could be served in a lowball glass on the rocks in a pinch.

The booze you need to be a decent Mixologist
To make delicious, fantastic, and creative cocktails, you do not need to  stock your bar with multiple brands of expensive vodka, gin and brown liquors. And there really is no need for some of those brightly colored liqueurs. Stick to one or two of each of the classic base spirits that appear in most cocktails. Throw in a few mixers and you will be well on your way.

Vodka will be the workhorse of your home bar. It is used in most basic drinks and is often requested by many as their go-to drink. Just think of all your friends who order vodka sodas, or screwdrivers, or even a vodka martini. Stock up on a classic neutral vodka like Grey Goose or Belvedere. They are both known for being clean and clear – exactly what a vodka should be.

Tequila has been making a comeback in recent years. Many people shy away from this drink because they have often only experience cheap tequila shots. But is essential for many cocktails. And has even been used to update some cocktails that never called for Tequila. It is a must for when you make a round of margaritas or sunrises. The best tequilas are always made from 100 percent agave; just check the label. Try some of the new kids on the block like Aguamiel or Casamigo which are both made from 100% agave. And if you want to up your game, opt for some sipping tequila like Roca Patrón. But be warned, it has a hefty price tag.

Now a good Cognac can be quite pricey. Which is fine when you are serving in on the rocks. But since cognac appears in many classic cocktails: from sidecars to brandy milk punches, and even smashes, we recommend a good affordable cognac. So why not try Remy Martin VSOP or Hennessy Fine de Cognac.

Rum probably left a bad taste in your mouth during your youth – all those rum and cokes. But that was probably a darker rum (which can be great in a Dark N Stormy). But we would definitely recommend a White Rum in your reserves. White rum is required if you are going to stir up some daiquiris or mojitos. Opt for a great blanco from Bacardi – it’s smooth and subtle and perfect for a refreshing mojito.

Gin has been making a comeback in recent years, evident from all the new artisanal gins that have flooded the market.  Gin is a must for a proper martini, gin and tonics, or a Tom Collins. There are often two camps of Gin fans: team Tanqueray (stronger juniper taste) and team Bombay Sapphire (dryer and smoother). So why not opt for one of each to keep your guests happy? Throw in some Hendrick’s Gin and you’ve got everyone covered.

Bourbon might be the last staple you need to add to your home bar, but certainly not the least. Bourbon is a type of American whiskey, a barrel-aged distilled spirit made primarily from corn. Thanks to the men of Mad Men, many drinkers are opting for Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. And you can’t make either without some Bourbon Whiskey. Opt for a Woodford Reserve or Maker’s Mark.

Home bar mixers: The basics
Cointreau is a bar essential. It is clean and full of natural orange flavor, and not too sweet. A must ingredient for classic cocktails like a Cosmopolitan or a Margarita. It can also be served on the rocks.

Sweet Vermouth and Dry Vermouth. While the former makes a delicious classic Manhattan. The latter is required for a classic dry martini.

Bitters seem to have overtaken the world of cocktails lately. They now come in every flavour you can imagine. But for starters, you should grab yourself some Peychaud Bitters, Angostura Aromatics, Regan’s Orange, The Bitter Truth and Bittermens.

Just follow all these steps and and you can have a spread that will impress your friends and perhaps you will even make the bartenders in your life nod with approval.

Christian Dare

Christian Dare

Christian Dare spent much of his formative years working in the fashion industry as a Visual Manager before pursuing a Masters’ Degree in Design. He is the Principal at Christian Dare Creative, the co-founder of Stylist Box and runs a successful men’s lifestyle blog, Christian Dare Edited,focusing on menswear, interior design and craft cocktails. You can find him online at www.christiandareedited.com or follow him on Twitter @christiandare but he is more fun on Instagram christian_dare. 

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