Home Bar

How To Easily Create The Perfect Home Bar

By: Cayla M.

5-17-19

Okay, let’s talk about something a little controversial: the proper home bar. In my honest opinion, every adult should have a set-up at home, even if you don’t drink that much. It’s an amazing tool for entertaining and learning things about yourself and your friends, and if you’re in the industry, you’re gonna need to study up. But what truly is THE proper home bar? How do you know what’s right for your skill level? Where should you start? Let’s explore.

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What Tools Do You Need For Your Home Bar?

In addition to basic motor skills and a mild amount of self-control, making cocktails requires some concrete tools and a knowledge of why we use those tools the way we do. This list might seem kind of redundant, but it needs to be said. These are the basics everyone needs:

JIGGER

A jigger is really the liquor’s delivery vessel. I don’t give a shit how good your free pouring is, either, and if you’re new to this, you’re learning the basics of drink chemistry. All of the ingredients that are being used absolutely need to be distributed in a specific amount. That’s why drinks taste good. This is art AND science. Also, cost-effective. Use a jigger to keep yourself in check and your bottles will last as long as they should, keeping your budget in line.
There’s a bunch of different styles, but you should start with a basic double sided jigger. Here’s a recommendation.

SHAKER

You’ll know when you need it, and you’ll need it a lot. And again, for science, please know how to use and shake it properly. You don’t need anything wild, just get a Cobbler to start. Check out this one on Amazon. 

STRAINER

Don’t let anything interfere with how your drink is going into a glass. You don’t want ice floats, you don’t want muddled bits to fuck with someone’s pallet. Hawthorne strainers do the trick. Keep it simple, pick this one up.

BAR SPOON

This is for stirring drinks. It’s a skill that takes a lot of practice, and you should be very proud of yourself if you can master it. Every skill level should know how to use a bar spoon properly. Study it. Wax on, wax off. Here is our pick.

PARING KNIFE

Keep it sharp and in good condition. Great for cutting fruit in half and making garnishes.

MANUAL JUICER

Everything needs to be fresh, especially mixers. You should be shunned if you use a single juice from a weird bottle that isn’t fresh. You’re not a cocktail factory, either, so don’t bother getting anything electric unless you’re going to use fresh juice in your everyday life. (I mean, good for you if you do?) Manual is perfect and easy to maintain.

ICE

You need access to ice! Decent ice, preferably. (Unless you like spending money on expensive spirits and fucking up flavor profiles.) Never underestimate how much ice you need. Nature takes a minute to do her work and if you run out, that’s gonna be a big bummer.

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There are tons of tools used in the bartending scene. Some you absolutely must have, some you don’t.

It might not seem like much, but seriously… these things are a necessity. Yes, pour spouts are convenient, high-end equipment can be dope as hell, and everyone loves a fancy glass, but do you really need to blow a ton of cash on those things? Nah. Any bartender at any level can make magic with these beginnings. Quit making shit complicated for yourself. For beginners, these tools will help you shape your skills. For intermediate and advanced imbibers, this shit will keep you humble when you’re down to the wire with limited resources, so always make sure these things are handy.

What Liquor And Mixers Do You Need To Buy?

I absolutely hate the answers that come up when you search this question on the internet. I’m here to give it to you straight, friend: you need to buy what -you- fucking like. Forget all of those dumb lists you saw from bullshitters who think they need to spread their opinion on this subject like it’s gospel. What do you like to drink when you go out? Start there. Find out what that fruity blue drink is from the club you hit up last weekend and discover what’s in it. Do you only drink vodka? Explore different labels, find some from a local joint, learn more about them.

The reason why I’m choosing to stress this to you is a simple one– if you spend a bunch of cash on things other people are telling you that you need and you don’t even end up liking them, you’re wasting your time and resources. This is the only way to develop a knack for making and appreciating cocktails. Once you nail a few favorite drinks, your interest and palate for other spirits are going to expand– guaranteed.

Now, if you just want to keep some stuff on hand because you’re adventuresome, or you want to be a good host and have plenty of options for everyone, keep it straightforward. Middle shelf basic liquors (Brandy, Gin, Rum, Tequila, Vodka, and Whiskey) are your best friends. For the love of all that is holy, fresh fruit and fresh fruit juice are mandatory. Don’t cut corners with gross concentrates unless, once again, you really just love wasting money. Having these things on hand will keep you prepared for almost any guest while keeping you from going broke. When you’re ready to add onto this foundation, you can diversify your spirit selection, liqueurs, and non-alcoholic mixers, but don’t bother stocking things you won’t use.

many liquor bottles on shelf lit from behindSideshowPete

Having stocked shelves is pretty… Pretty expensive. Stock your home bar with what you love first.

Are Pre-Mixed “Cocktails” Worth It?

Hell no. Don’t even go there. Pre-mixed shit is just nasty. You want to know what’s going into your drink, you want to know where it came from, and you definitely don’t want to waste anything. They completely defeat the purpose of having your home bar, really. This is an opportunity for you to learn what you like, the history behind it, and how you can elevate it with your own creativity and ingenuity.. You’re not going to be able to find that in a weird margarita mix. It’s so much easier to just make that on your own. Take it from anyone who has dabbled in the art of cocktail making and mixology– this shit is fun, and you’re only cheating yourself if you cut corners.

Conclusion

Use what you like, create an easy budget, research, and execute. There’s no right or wrong way to set up your home bar as long as you’re making it your own. If you’re a beginner, stick with the basics until you feel comfortable enough to branch out into intermediate and advanced mixing. The internet is filled with a lot of bullshit that tells you that you gotta go all the way; don’t buy into it. Make your own way, do what you want to do and create the best home bar that fits your lifestyle. Go get’em, tiger.