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How to Stock Your Home Bar: Essential Liquors, Mixers, and Tools

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Mar 24, 2020 • 8 min read

Having a well-stocked home bar gives you a great place to entertain guests and practice your mixology skills. By stocking your bar with a small collection of basic spirits, mixers, glassware, and bar tools, you’ll be able to make almost any standard mixed drink and even invent a few new cocktails of your own.

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World-class bartenders Lynnette and Ryan (aka Mr Lyan) teach you how to make perfect cocktails at home for any mood or occasion.

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3 Things to Consider When Stocking Your Home Bar

Stocking a home bar might seem like a daunting task, but the fact of the matter is, you only need a relatively small selection of supplies to make a wide array of popular drinks. Here are a few things to consider when stocking your bar:

  1. Cost: How much do you want to spend on your home bar? High-end drinks and barware can end up costing you quite a lot of money, but there are plenty of budget-friendly options on the market. Set a clear budget for your home bar before you start shopping to help you make informed choices as you go.
  2. Space: The space you have set aside for your home bar can limit the size of your drink and barware collection. Your home bar might take up an entire basement, or it might reside on a single bar cart. Be realistic about the number of bottles and glasses you can fit in your home bar.
  3. Drinks: Make a list of some of your favorite cocktails as well as popular drinks you’d like to be able to serve to guests. For each drink, list out the necessary ingredients, bar tools, and glassware. This will help you build a shopping list and ensure that you have the supplies needed to make the drinks you think are most important.

6 Essential Liquors for Any Home Bar

New mixologists tend to overestimate the amount of alcohol necessary for a home bar. You only need a small collection of basic staples in order to make most standard cocktails. Here are some types of alcohol that every home bar should be stocked with:

  1. Vodka: Vodka is an ingredient in more mixed drinks than any other type of spirit. It’s an incredibly versatile spirit that can be purchased at a variety of price points. Every home bar should be stocked with at least one or two different types of vodka.
  2. Gin: Some people are more enamored with the taste of gin than others, but you should always have a bottle of gin behind your home bar regardless of your personal preference. Gin Martinis and Gin and Tonics are popular drinks you should be able to make when guests ask for them.
  3. Tequila: Margaritas are fun and festive drinks that are especially popular during the summer months. A good rule of thumb for home bartenders is to have a cheaper bottle of blanco tequila on hand for margaritas and a nicer bottle for those who prefer a tequila straight or mixed with soda.
  4. Rum: Having one bottle of white rum for Daiquiris and Mojitos and a secondary darker rum to cover more adventurous rum-based drinks. This is a great way to start building your rum collection.
  5. Whiskey: There are many styles of whiskey, each with its own distinct flavor profile and attributes. This makes choosing a single whiskey bottle for your bar a tricky proposition. A good way to start your whiskey collection is to buy one bottle of bourbon and one bottle of blended rye whiskey. The bourbon should hold its own when served on the rocks or neat, and the rye will work in most classic whiskey cocktails like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan.
  6. Liqueurs: A small selection of liqueurs comes in handy for making cocktails, and many work on their own as after-dinner digestifs. Some basic staples include: Amaretto, Campari, Cointreau (or another Triple Sec suitable for Margaritas), and Vermouth.
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6 Basic Mixers for Any Home Bar

Most cocktails require a mixer or two. Having a basic collection of liquors and a diverse array of mixers allows you to make most standard cocktails. Here are some mixers that every home bar should have:

  1. Juices: Juice is a basic ingredient in many cocktails. Every home bar should be stocked up with bottles of orange juice, cranberry juice, tomato juice, lemon juice, and lime juice. This set will allow you to make most standard cocktails.
  2. Bitters: Having a bottle of Angostura aromatic bitters or Peychaud’s Bitters will cover most of your needs, and each bottle should last at least a year. You can have more bottles of bitters, like Scrappy’s or Regan’s Orange Bitters if you like to experiment with flavors in your cocktails.
  3. Simple syrup: You don’t have to add this one to your shopping list, as simple syrup is just a fancy term for sugar and water. Make your own simple syrup at home, and keep a fresh bottle behind the bar as a quick and easy way to sweeten your cocktails. Learn how to make a simple syrup with our recipe here.
  4. Grenadine and sour mix: Two essential mixers that are found behind every bar, grenadine and sour mix can either be bought in store or made at home.
  5. Sodas: Every bar should have a collection of basic sodas as well as club soda and tonic water. Sodas can be mixed into cocktails or served on their own to non-drinking guests.
  6. Garnishes: Though not technically mixers, garnishes are a great way to improve the presentation and taste of a cocktail. Keep your bar stocked with maraschino cherries, oranges, and grapefruits to give you a diverse array of garnishes to add to your cocktails.

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How to Choose Glasses for Your Home Bar: 7 Types of Glassware

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World-class bartenders Lynnette and Ryan (aka Mr Lyan) teach you how to make perfect cocktails at home for any mood or occasion.

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As a home bartender, you’ll want to understand the differences between some basic cocktail glasses. Here’s a list of the types of glasses you’ll likely find in a well-stocked home bar:

  1. Beer glass: Beer is served in a variety of glasses depending on the type of beer. Beer mugs and glasses are a staple of every professional and home bar. Varieties of beer glasses include standard pint glasses, pilsner glasses, and stein glasses.
  2. Champagne flute: Champagne flutes are a type of tall and slender stemware used for champagne and other varieties of sparkling wine. They are designed to prevent heat from transferring from the hand to the champagne and also to keep sparkling wine from going flat. There are a variety of other types of champagne glasses including the champagne tulip and champagne saucer (or champagne coupe), but champagne flutes are the most popular glass for serving sparkling wine.
  3. Collins glass: A tall and skinny glass usually used for mixed drinks, the Collins glass is similar to a highball glass but slightly taller and more narrow. Collins glasses can be used for a variety of mixed drinks including the Tom Collins from which it gets its name.
  4. Martini glass: Martini glasses have been a staple of cocktail glassware since the early 1900s when they were invented as an alternative to the coupe glass. The Martini glass is an iconic cocktail glass, and most home bars are stocked with a Martini glass set in order to make mixed drinks like Martinis and Manhattans.
  5. Red wine glass: Designed for the bold aroma and flavor of a red wine, standard red wine glasses have a very wide bowl meant to allow the smells of a red wine to waft up towards the drinker’s nose and mouth.
  6. Rocks glass: A rocks glass set is a staple in any home bar. Rocks glasses come in two varieties: single rocks glasses and double rocks glasses. Both are small and sturdy, with the double being slightly larger than the single glass.
  7. White wine glass: White wine glasses look very similar to red wine glasses but are slightly narrower because the lighter smells and tastes require less space to mix and aerate.

8 Essential Bar Tools for Home Bartending

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Part of bartending is learning about each piece of bar equipment and the technique to use it appropriately. Here’s a list of basic bar tools and a short description of how each tool can be used:

  1. Bottle opener: A handheld or wall mounted bottle opener is a necessary bar tool for home bartenders. Bottle openers allow you to quickly open bottles of beer and mixers with ease.
  2. Cutting board: A good home bar should be stocked with at least a couple of cutting boards in order to prepare the garnishes and ingredients for a variety of cocktails. Having a few on hand will allow you to alternate and prepare drinks for longer periods of time without having to wash your cutting board.
  3. Cocktail shaker: A cocktail shaker set is a must-have in order to prepare any shaken cocktail. There are a variety of types of cocktail shakers to choose from. As long as your shaker is durable and made of a strong material like stainless steel, it should do the trick. Whether you end up buying a cobbler shaker or a Boston shaker will depend on personal preference and how much you’re willing to spend.
  4. Grater: A grater, peeler, and zester set allows you to prepare citrus fruits to use as garnishes. Different drinks call for different types of garnishes and a good grater will allow you flexibility in the types of garnishes you choose to prepare.
  5. Ice maker: Every bar needs a supply of ice. Whether this is a full industrial ice maker or a hotel ice bucket, the important thing is to have an insulated and clean place to keep ice for use in drinks. Some bartenders prefer to use an artisanal ice mold to make ice mounds instead of regular ice cubes. Whatever ice-making method you choose is fine, just make sure you have a designated place that will keep your ice cold.
  6. Jigger: A jigger is an hourglass-shaped measuring tool that is a staple of any bar set. One side of a jigger contains a measuring cup for a standard shot and the other is for a slightly smaller “pony” shot.
  7. Mixing glasses: A durable mixing glass gives you a designated place to stir and combine ingredients for cocktails. Some mixing glasses are designed with decorative etchings and can be a nice decorative addition to the top of your bar.
  8. Stirrer: Cocktail stirrers are long stirring implements that allow bartenders to quickly mix a stirred drink without splashing ingredients onto the bar top. A bar spoon can also be used for stirring if you don’t have a stirrer on hand.

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