When the joy of drinking at a crowded bar slowly gives way to annoyance, learning to make your own cool concoctions at home becomes crucial.
If you’re looking to build a home bar of your own, make sure you have everything on this list:
The equipment you need for your home bar needs to fulfill just four basic functions: opening, measuring, prepping, and mixing. If an item does something outside these four, it likely isn’t essential. You can buy it later.
Waiter's friend from Wineware
In terms of opening tools, a waiter’s friend is probably the most efficient item you can buy. It combines a corkscrew, a foil cutter, and a bottle opener in a single, compact package. Invest in a sturdy one with a good grip; plastic-tipped ones tend to show wear and tear after a few months.
Measuring cups and spoons from Williams Sonoma
For measuring, your home bar won’t need jiggers–unless you plan on serving a large amount of people in a short period of time, leave this tool to the professionals. All you need to measure out your portions are a measuring cup, measuring spoons, and a good eye.
Chef's knife and paring knife from Shun
Ice bucket and strainer from Crate & Barrel
Prep tools are all about cutting, straining, and cooling. A paring knife works great for slicing and zesting fruits, though you may need a chef’s knife for larger items. You can go with either a Julep or a Hawthorne strainer, but if you had to pick one, the Julep—with its longer handle—is the way to go. And while using ice straight out of the freezer is fine, nothing beats the convenience of having a filled ice bucket at the bar.
Shakers from KegWorks and Crate & Barrel; bar spoon from Crate & Barrel
Most home bars will do fine with a single long-stemmed bar spoon for mixing cocktails, but if you’re serious about your drinks, then you’ll need a Boston shaker. Shaking incorporates small bubbles into your drink, adding a bit of volume to the mouthfeel. It can spell a world of difference for martinis, sours, and the like.
Although glassware come in all shapes and sizes, you just need four basic glasses for now:
Coupe and old-fashioned glass from Williams Sonoma; highball glass from Crystal Classics
1. Coupe or V-shaped long-stemmed glasses for frozen or chilled cocktails
2. Short old-fashioned glasses for serving drinks on the rocks
3. Highball glasses for cocktails that use higher proportions of mixers, such as a gin and tonic
4. Wine glasses
Wine glasses and beer mug from Williams Sonoma
If you’re a beer drinker, you may want to invest in a strong, durable glass mug.
The rule of thumb for stocking up on liquor is to simply buy what you drink the most. However, if you’re not quite sure on what you actually like drinking, or if you’re the sort to do a little bit of mixological exploration, these five will give you a lot to work with:
3. Sweet Vermouth
Sipsmith gin, Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon, Martini sweet vermouth, Grey Goose vodka, Kraken rum
These serve as essential ingredients for a wide variety of cocktails, giving you dozens of options with just five bottles and a few mixers. You’ll want to round out the rest of your stock with beverages you enjoy drinking straight, like tequila, wine, and scotch.
Aside from the usual cola, soda water, and tonic, it’s a good idea to have fruit juices in stock. For the most bang for your buck, you’ll want to keep lemon, lime, orange, tomato, and cranberry juices readily available. Go fresh whenever possible, but it’s okay to go store-bought for items that aren’t that easily juiced.
Boylan ginger ale, Bold triple sec, Le Sirop de Monin curacao, Le Sirop de Monin grenadine
You’ll also want to have some simple syrup—basically sugar water heated until slightly thicker—handy for sweeter drinks. For extra flavor, triple sec, grenadine, and Curacao syrups give you a lot of cocktail options. Ginger ale can also add sweetness to a drink, adding a little bite depending on how strong it is.
Bitter Truth citrus bitters and Angostura bitters
Most bartenders swear by Angostura bitters for their flexibility and quality, but you’ll also want a few citrus bitters on hand.
While garnishes aren’t exactly what most people would call essential, they do add a lot to the experience. Thankfully, most garnishes are kitchen staples: sugar, salt, pepper, and fresh fruit slices. Mint leaves and cocktail olives are nice to keep by the bar, however, as are ground coffee and Tabasco sauce.
- Cocktails are only as good as their worst ingredient, so don’t be stingy when it comes to stocking the bar.
- Although not absolutely essential, giving your home bar its own refrigerator makes night drinking at home a lot more relaxed.
- Keep a notepad near your bar. You’ll want to take notes about proportions and techniques as you practice making cocktails.