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Essential Components of a Full Bar

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yong

Dec. 06, 2023
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Sure, you can buy a few cases of beer and call it a day, but if you really want to set the stage for a special evening and impress your friends, play bartender and mix guests a real drink. From liquor to jigger, here’s everything you need to set up a full bar at home.

Liquors

Ideally, stock a bottle of each: cognac, white rum, gin, bourbon, vodka, tequila, and blended Scotch. However, if you don’t have the room or the budget to collect them all, start with your favorites; after all, it’s your bar. Alcoholic mixers to have on hand: triple sec, dry vermouth, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Nice to have: a liqueur or two (for example, Irish cream or coffee- or almond-flavored).

Nonalcoholic Mixers and Drinks

Go ahead and pick up your favorite mixer, whether it’s a citrus-flavored soda or margarita mix, but also stock up on the basics: club soda, tonic water, cola, ginger ale, cranberry juice, and orange juice. These can also double as beverages on their own for those who don’t care to imbibe.

Wine

Though wine is the most common host(ess) gift (in other words, you don’t need to buy a lot of it), you should have at least a couple of bottles of your favorite red, white and rose on hand when the first guest arrives.

Beer

For those who want nothing more than a nice cold one, keep some bottles of light and dark brews in your fridge or an ice chest.

Garnishes

Garnishes add a splash of visual appeal and flavor to a finished cocktail. At a bare minimum, provide lime and lemon wedges, pitted green olives and kosher salt. Extra points for mint leaves and lemon twists.

Glassware

In order to have a full bar you must also have a full glass set: beer mugs, shot glasses, martini/cocktail, rock glasses (tall/short), and wine glasses. This collection ensures that your guest will be able to enjoy absolutely anything that your bar can offer.

Tools

Cocktails don’t just pour out of a bottle and into a glass. Here are the standard bar tools for most mixed drinks:

  • Ice cube trays and/or ice: If you have room in your freezer, start making ice the day before your party and store it in large plastic bags as you make it. Otherwise, get a few bags of ice for drinks on the rocks and a few more if you plan to have a cooler.
  • Bar spoon: A cereal spoon or a straw just doesn’t cut it for a proper cocktail. A bar spoon is tall and thin enough to stir in any type of glass, allows you to pour one liquor over another for a tequila sunrise or other layered drink, and even serves a measuring tool.
  • Muddler: If you plan to make an old-fashioned or mojito, you’ll need this big, fun-to-use tool to give the ingredients the little extra crush they need to release all their flavors.
  • Jigger: A jigger is a small measuring device, much like a shot glass. It usually has two barrels — the standard, larger end holds 1.5 ounces, while the smaller end holds an ounce.
  • Cocktail shaker: Most cocktails must be shaken before they’re served; some shakers even include their own strainer.
  • Strainer: The last thing you want in a drink is a bunch of pulp and ice bits falling in after it’s shaken and ready to be served. To avoid that, just pour the drink through a strainer.
  • Citrus press: If you use fresh fruit in your drinks, this tool is a must. An essential for any drink that calls for a kick of citrus.
  • Others: Corkscrew, bottle opener, straws/stir sticks, ice tongs, pour spouts.

You’ll also need a place to keep bar tools, equipment and your favorite spirits and mixers. Having them within easy reach means you don’t have to walk to the kitchen for supplies.

Evaluate your space to determine what works best for your home’s layout—cabinets with closed shelves, open shelving or a combination of the two. “Set the scene with a combination of cabinetry and open shelving, so you can decide which wares to display, and which useful-but-less-aesthetic items should be tucked away,” says Eve Lowey, president of Chameleon Design in Costa Mesa, CA.

If you already have a built-in bar area, all the better. But you don’t need fancy custom cabinetry to craft a stylish home bar. Standalone bar cabinets and carts take the guesswork out of storage by including spots for bottles, glassware and supplies. For home bars on table tops, consider a tray or two to display your choice spirits and glassware along with baskets to hold bar tools.

If your space allows, consider a small bar refrigerator or wine chiller to amp up the luxury factor. “Adding a wine fridge or under-the-counter bar cooler is a must so prized bottles are always kept at the perfect temperature, and the easy access makes happy hour a breeze,” says Lowey.

Even if you forgo refrigeration, you’ll still want ice nearby for mixing drinks. Having an ice bucket makes it easy and is helpful for chilling white and sparkling wines.

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