I am in the process of creating a real home bar after years of using my bar cart or, I should say, my console table. Finally, finally, I am ready to commit to creating an at-home bar. It has been fun designing it, and I am close while I have not yet committed to a final design. My goal is to have it completed by Autumn.
I have been a grownup for some time now [well, I would like to believe I have], living on my own, but preparing for my at-home bar feels so grownup and exciting. So if you plan to up your mixology game or are thinking of entertaining more often at home, then you are in the right place.
Today I am sharing all I have learned about creating an at-home bar.
While I am not an expert, I have figured out what is needed, what is not, and how to put it all together fabulously. An at-home bar setup needs core spirits, mixers, essential barware tools, and glassware. I have included some of my favorite barware, but you can also check out our Amazon Storefront for a curated list of at-home bar accessories.
I want you to embrace this project confidently, so do not worry if an actual bar cart or space to house a bar is not readily available. Before you begin, though, I would like you to make one commitment and ask yourself a few questions.
- Commit to taking your time to build out your home bar.
- Answer these questions: What purpose will your bar serve?
- Who will your bar serve?
- Will it be a statement piece?
- Or is it a place you will use to store your alcohol?
I want you to understand that just about anything can be turned into a bar, and like me, many people do not have a permanent bar setup, but it is not impossible to have either.
For example, add shelving and turn it into a bar if you have a bare wall. Or you can utilize a piece of furniture you already own, like my console table that I have used as a bar cart for many years.
Consider this article a fabulous introduction to creating your at-home bar that fits your needs, budget, and style.
Let us begin with a list of bar tools.
- Ice bucket or bag [or both][here is an ice bucket I own and love]
- An ice pick or mallet [or both]
- Ice Tongs [one of my faves]
- Shaker and strainer [here is one I own]
- Mixing glass [Here is a set I own and love from Pottery Barn]
- Muddler [here is another set I received as a gift]
- Bottle Opener
- Ice molds and trays [here is one that I own]
- Bar or mixing spoons [here is a fave]
- Corkscrew [here is a fave of mine]
- Coasters [I have different ones, but these are some of my faves, they are very chic and are on sale]
- Bar Bottles Coaster [here is one I own, and it is on sale now]
- Picks [here are some of my faves]
- Stir stick
- Handheld juice press [I use this one and the one in my Amazon Storefront equally]
- Bartender’s knife [here is a set I love and one I received as a gift]
- Chef’s grade citrus peeler
If you can only afford a few tools, then I would suggest you start with:
- A shaker and strainer
- Bar or mixing spoon
- Bottle opener
Do not forget cocktail napkins [I adore these cloth ones]. I also prefer a mixing glass instead of a shaker and strainer [I own both but experiment with both and see what you like].
Stock your core spirits—a few things to note here. If you can ONLY afford a few bottles, purchase what you drink the most and select top-shelf options to elevate your cocktails.
Beyond the Basics
Specialty spirits are a MUST, but this depends on what your favorite cocktails are. I love stocking the specialty spirits, which I use frequently. When I plan on entertaining, I stock what I need and my holiday faves during the holidays.
- Dry and sweet vermouth: Dry Vermouth is for fabulous Martinis, while Sweet Vermouth is a critical ingredient for Negroni and Manhattan.
- Campari or Aperol: To make a Negroni, you will need Campari with Gin and Sweet Vermouth. Aperol Spritz needs a splash of white wine.
- Orange Liqueur: Do you like Margaritas or sidecars, then you can select, budget permitting, either a basic triple sec, Cointreau or Grand Mariner.
- Amaretto: If you like Amaretto Sours, then this Almond-flavored liqueur made from apricot kernels is a must-buy.
Specialty Liquors for Special Drinks
- A single malt scotch
- St Germain Elderflower Liqueur
- Kahlüa Coffee Liqueur
- Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
- Crème de Menthe
Mixer and Garnishes
Many of these are pantry items.
- Club soda: Or seltzer or sparkling water.
- Tonic water
- Soda: Coca-cola, Sprite, grapefruit soda, or
- ginger beer
- Juice: Orange juice, cranberry juice,
- pineapple juice, Clamato, or Bloody Mary mix
- Milk: Whole, half, and half, or heavy cream
- Bitters: Think big flavors. Bitters are concentrated liquids designed to be added in small amounts to cocktails. There are many options, but I suggest you start with Angostura and Peychaud, perfect for classic drinks [here are some of the bitters bottles I use].
- Simple Syrup
- Sour Mix
Simple Syrup is easily made and fun. Here is the simple Syrup and sour mix recipe:
Place one cup of water and sugar into a small saucepan over medium heat. Gently stir sugar until it is dissolved [do not boil]. Remove from heat and cool completely. It will last up to one month; however, if you do two cups of sugar to one cup of water, it will last six months.
Add one cup of fresh lemon juice and ½ cup of fresh lime juice into the simple Syrup [equals two and a half cups of sour mix].
If you love Bloody Mary’s or Micheladas, then this is a MUST. A bottle of Tabasco or Cholula or your favorite hot sauce [I love a Trader Joe’s super spicy option. I will link it if I can find it on their site].
Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs
- Fresh lemons
- grapefruit and
- oranges are handy for juicing and cutting into wedges, wheels, and twists.
- And Maraschino Cherries for sweet drinks [Here is my fave].
- Celery ribs
- cocktail onions
- and fresh herb leaves like mint, basil, or thyme.
Sweet and salty rims
Do not be afraid to be creative here. Homemade Margarita
salt, coarse salt, sugar, shaved chocolate, and even edible flowers for glass rims.
The vessel you serve your cocktails in matters; I adore stunning glassware—this is where you can show off your fabulous style. But, be careful because this is where you can also get carried away [I have a secret obsession]. So, you will want to get a variety of glassware.
- Highball Glasses: I use these for cocktails that contain a large proportion of a non-alcoholic mixer. I also use these for my mojito [I have 12].
- Old fashion Glasses: I use these for various cocktails [I have 24; do not ask me why].
- Coupe glasses: My go-to for champagne. I like these much better than champagne flutes [although I own various colors and designs of flutes] because it allows them to breathe better and open up more.
- Shot glasses: My go-to shot glasses [I own 12].
- Tequila shot glasses: I used my go-to Tequila Shot Glass for sipping, not shooting [I have ten].
- Snifter: This is my go-to for sipping excellent tequilas, brandy, and scotch [I have six].
- Wine glasses: There are a variety of wine glasses for different types of wine. However, you can start with six standard white wine glasses and six standard red wine glasses.
- Decanter: Decanters serve two purposes.
- The first is to remove the sediment from the wine. Sediment impacts the flavor and can be found in older, more tannic wines.
- And second is to allow air into the wine, which lets it open up and release Hydrogen Sulfide (sulfur scents) after just opening.
A variety of glassware can be added to this list, but let us stick to what is here. If it is not in your budget or you have limited space for a ton of glassware, that is perfectly ok; you can invest in 8 to 12 stemless glasses.
And there you have it. I know this is a lot of information, but I encourage you to start small and get there one step at a time. Visit us later this week as we share Bar Cart Basics with you. Also, visit our Amazon Storefront for our selection of at-home bar faves. Happy Entertaining.