Easy Guide to Stocking Your Home Bar

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Recent global events resulted in a 25% rise in demand for at-home mixology kits in 2020. This does not mean that people are turning to alcohol in stressful times! There are far cheaper ways and quicker ways to get drunk than making cocktails.

But it does mean that people are expanding their hobbies and finding new ways to have fun at home.

And if you want to learn the fine art of mixology, you need to know how to stock a home bar. Half a bag of margarita mix and a bottle of Jack Daniels does not leave you with a lot of options or room for creativity.

This easy step-by-step guide will show you exactly how to stock a home cocktail bar and all the home bar basics you need to host fun cocktail nights.

  1. Buy a Bar Cart, Cabinet, or Actual Home Bar

First, you need to figure out how you are going to store your home bar essentials. Whatever you choose needs to be appropriate for the space available in your home and how much you are willing to spend.

Bar carts might be ideal for you. If you are not going to move your bar cart, a cool cabinet or stationary drinks bar might work best. Many keen mixologists love those drinks globes.

Or, you may want to spring for a full-sized home bar with bar stools and the whole shebang.

It is 100% possible to learn how to stock a home bar on a budget. Choose a modest-sized cart so your bar still looks plentiful and focus on acquiring the basics.

  1. Invest in the Essential Liquors

And what are those basics? Every bar needs the five liquors that are the main ingredients for the vast majority of cocktail recipes. These are:

  • Whiskey
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Rum
  • Tequila

If you are on a budget, you can choose one type of vodka, gin, and tequila.

When it comes to rums, in an ideal world you would have a white rum, a dark rum, and a spiced rum. White rum is essential for mojitos and daiquiris but dark rum is great for more adventurous cocktail recipes like Mai Tais and Zombies.

Tequila is essential for exotic cocktails like Tequila Sunrises and Margaritas.

For those with more to splurge on an essential home bar list of liquors, you could have flavored vodka and gins, too. Pear vodka is delicious and elderflower gin is a crowd-pleaser. Vodka is one of the most common cocktail ingredients as you need it for almost every classic cocktail including Long Island Iced Teas.

Gin is the second most common cocktail ingredient as you need it for Negronis and gin martinis.

Having a scotch whiskey as well as a bourbon whiskey would be ideal, too. Rye whiskey is a fine choice if you serve a lot of whiskey cocktails like Old Fashioneds or Manhattans.

Your essential liquors should be of a high enough quality that you can serve them neat or over ice upon request. Brandy is a nice-to-have liquor you should consider if you have the space and budget.

  1. Choose a Few Key Home Bar Liqueurs

Your cocktails would be nowhere near as exciting as they should be without liqueurs. Choosing the right liqueurs is down to personal preference. But some liqueurs are in so many cocktails that they are essential for stocking your home bar.

These are:

  • Triple Sec and/or Cointreau
  • Amaretto
  • Campari
  • Vermouth

Triple Sec is cheaper than Cointreau so if you are on a budget, it is the better choice of orange liqueur. But if you can have both, then you should.

You will need more liqueurs when figuring out how to stock a home bar. But what you should stock depends on the cocktails you like to drink. Some people dislike Aperol Spritz cocktails so Aperol would be a useless liqueur in their home bar, but others love them.

If you need inspiration, here is a list of popular liqueurs that you should consider stocking your home bar with Jack from Brooklyn Sorel Liqueur and:

  • Limoncello
  • Absinthe
  • Aperol
  • Chambord
  • Schnapps
  • Coffee Liqueur
  • Irish cream
  • Sambuca

It is a good idea to not buy all these liqueurs at once if you are not sure what you like to drink. Source cocktail recipes that list many of the same ingredients and experiment with those liqueurs first.

  1. Get Basic Mixers and Garnishes

You cannot mix cocktails without mixers. And paper umbrellas are not acceptable embellishments for your delicious homemade cocktails. If you want to learn how to stock a home bar cart the proper way, you need good mixers and garnishes.

These are the essential mixers that any bar cart needs:

  • Simple syrup
  • Grenadine syrup
  • Sodas
  • Juices
  • Bitters

Essential sodas include club soda, tonic water, lemonade, and Coca-Cola. If you do not use a type of soda often, buy it in individual cans or glass bottles so you do not waste a whole bottle on one drink. And those materials are easier to recycle than plastic.

The same goes for juices. You should have orange juice, lime juice, lemon juice, and cranberry juice. Tomato juice might be an essential juice if you mix a lot of Bloody Marys.

You may not need many bitters stocked in your bar if you do not drink many sours or other cocktails that need them. Angostura bitters are the backbone of many sour cocktails. But orange bitters are nice to have if you are already adventurous with cocktail flavors.

Maraschino cherries, citrus fruits, and olives are the holy trinity of cocktail garnishes. The types of garnishes you need to stock depends on the type of cocktails you like to make.

Whatever you do, don’t skip the garnishes. They elevate your cocktails from homemade to a professional standard.

  1. Refresh Your Glassware Collection

You likely already have glasses at home, but are they the right glasses? Let’s find out. You may not need every type of glass in your home bar depending on the drinks you serve, but these are the basics:

  • Beer glass
  • White wine glass
  • Red wine glass
  • Champagne flute
  • Tumblers
  • Tall and/or highball glasses
  • Martini glass

While this guide does not cover wine or beer, it is important to still have the glasses in your bar. And you do not have to stick to the regular beer pint glasses, either. Everyone loves the German-style tankards with the handles.

Red wine glasses have a larger bowl than white wine glasses to allow the strong aromas to waft up through the glass. White wine glasses are smaller and narrower.

Flutes are the best glasses for champagne, but others prefer the tulip or saucer shapes. If you are lacking space, flutes take up less space and are easier to store.

Tumblers should be short and wide. And if you want to save space, you can opt for either a tall or highball type of glass. Having both is not a necessity.

  1. Create a Home Bar Toolbox

All these liquors, liqueurs, mixers, and garnishes need mixing, chopping, cutting, and measuring.

So you will not only need to learn how to stock a home bar, but how to assemble everything too. And to do that, you will need bar tools and appliances. Here is a list of the essentials:

  • Cocktail shaker
  • Mixing glass
  • Stirrer
  • Grater
  • Ice cube box
  • Cutting board and knife
  • Bottle opener
  • Measuring tools

Of course, you likely already have some of these kitchen tools like chopping boards and knives. So, if you are on a budget, don’t double up on tools. But if you have the money to spend, splashing out on small fancy chopping boards will help your bar look more professional.

You might not think you need measuring tools at first, but you will after one or two very strong Long Island Iced Teas.

  1. Learn How to Make Cocktails

There is a chance you are already a cocktail connoisseur and already know exactly what you are doing. But it’s likely you are a newbie and want your own bar because you just love drinking cocktails!

If you are the latter, invest in some classic cocktail recipe books to get started. Here are some recommendations:

  • The Savoy Cocktail Book by Henry Craddock
  • The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff
  • The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan

Learn how to make Manhattans, Negronis, Old Fashioneds, Long Island Iced Teas, and Vodka Martinis first. These are the classic cocktails. Then, progress to your favorite cocktails and exotic cocktails like Mai Tais and Margaritas.

How to Stock a Home Bar in Seven Simple Steps

Figuring out how to stock a home bar when you are starting from scratch can seem daunting. But that’s often only because there are a lot of upfront costs involved in buying all the booze!

Start small and focus on perfecting one cocktail at a time. Then, branch out to similar cocktails with a similar ingredient list. Before you know it, you will not only have a well-stocked bar but you will know what to do with it, too.

If you need more useful lifestyle hacks, our website has tons of helpful guides and advice no matter what your interests are!


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