You’re hosting a party, and your guests are having a great time. That’s no coincidence — you’re serving the best drinks in town. Whether hosting a big event or simply enjoying a nightcap, having the right types of liquor and equipment at home can elevate the cocktail-making experience. Here’s how to properly stock a home bar.
Before even getting into the types of liquor you want on hand, you need to figure out the perfect location for your home bar. You might store these items on the counter, in a built-in bar in your home, or on a portable bar cart. Displaying the booze and equipment in the open is a great way to entice guests and show off your options.
Types of Alcohol
No home bar is complete without a mix of clear and dark spirits. Clear alcohol is the base of many popular mixed drinks and can also be sipped on its own. Must-have clear liquors include:
• Vodka: A versatile liquor that mixes well with everything from orange and cranberry juice to soda water and Bloody Mary mix.
• Gin: A key ingredient in negronis or served as a simple gin and tonic.
• Tequila: An essential ingredient in margaritas.
• Darker spirits can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in a mixed cocktail. Some must-have dark spirits include:
• Whiskey: A popular spirit, especially for people who enjoy old fashions and highballs.
• Bourbon: A type of whiskey with a subtly sweeter flavor that works nicely in a Manhattan.
• Rum: A key ingredient in tropical cocktails like piña coladas and daiquiris.
In addition to liquors, a good home bar should have soda water, tonic, flavored soda, and juices like orange and cranberry. However, you can elevate any cocktail's flavors by mixing in bitters and syrups. Bitters, which are added to sweet drinks to help balance the flavor, come in various flavors, with orange being the most popular.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is simple syrup, which you can make by stirring equal parts sugar and water in a pot on the stove until the sugar has dissolved. There are also tons of flavored sugar syrups on the market, with grenadine being one of the most popular.
Sour mix is also a bar must-have and is often used in margaritas. You can make your own by combining 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of lime juice in a pot on the stove until the sugar has dissolved. Sour mix is also available online or at most liquor stores.
Presentation is just as important as flavor. Be sure to have cocktail olives, onions, maraschino cherries, and orange rind. Also, stock your home bar with fresh limes and lemons, which are important to many drinks and beers.
Invest in glasses that truly bring out the flavors of each drink. Sturdy tumblers are great for drinks like whiskey on the rocks, while stemmed glassware is better for drinks like Manhattans and martinis. Don’t forget the wine glasses, champagne flutes, and pint glasses.
If you want to make great drinks, you need great tools. Start with the basics: a cocktail shaker for mixing martinis and other mixed drinks, a strainer to filter any ice when pouring a shaken drink into a glass, and long bar spoons to mix any “stirred” drinks.
You should also have a jigger, which measures liquor, and a muddler, which helps break down fresh herbs and sugar cubes to release their flavor. Last but not least, get yourself a rind peeler for slicing off fresh citrus zest.
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