Long lines. Cover fees. Crowded restrooms that haven’t seen a deep clean since the Reagan era. While there may be a lot to love about bars and nightclubs, sometimes going out for a drink can make you, well, need a drink.
But what if it was possible to avoid the hassle and high cost of cocktails? What if it was possible to unwind with a high-quality drink at home?
It is. Once you know how to stock a home bar and understand what to mix with rum, tequila, and vodka, you can capture all of the magic of your favorite local watering hole—and none of the chaos. Below, we’ll break down what to stock a bar with, including the tools and ingredients you’ll need to open up shop.
Tools You Need
Embarking on any kind of adventure—including becoming your own bartender—means investing in the right gear. If you were training for a marathon, you wouldn’t get very far without a solid pair of running shoes. Likewise, if you’re interested in making cocktails at home, you’ll probably want to acquire a set of tools to help concoct your creations.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- Cocktail shaker
- Mixing glass
- Jigger (for measuring ounces of liquor)
- Bar spoon
If you’re tight on money or time, don’t worry about purchasing every bar tool right away. Cocktails, after all, lend themselves to resourcefulness and creativity.
Before you abandon your dreams of a Manhattan, consider what you might already have on hand. Measuring cups can double as jiggers,1 while chopsticks or skewers can make nifty stirrers in a pinch. Can’t spring for a fancy mixing glass or shaker? A trusty pint glass should work just fine for most at-home stirred drinks and a mason jar can readily shake things up.1 For slushies, a blender is necessary! Read our post on how to make a slushy with a blender for more details.
Glassware to Dazzle
What’s the best part about drinking in a cocktail bar? (Okay, besides the opportunity to lock eyes with a dazzling stranger.) It’s the gorgeous glassware—or rather, how each glass perfectly complements the drink that it holds.
It’s possible to recreate this synergy at home, without spending a fortune. Stunning glassware is readily available online, and you’ll be able to make it pretty far with just a few classic styles.
Here are three essentials to get you started:
- Coupe glass – Not only do these elegant, classic cocktail glasses come with a story (rumor has it their shape was inspired by Marie Antoinette’s breast2), they are also bound to play a starring role in your home bar. Although favored as champagne glasses by 1920s flappers, the versatile coupe works even better for any cocktail that’s served up—namely martinis, Manhattans, and sours.
- Highball or Collins glass – The tall, narrow highball glasses and Collins glasses work well with simple mixed drinks, allowing for enough ice to keep them cold while you sip.
- Rocks glass – Rocks glasses, also known as Old Fashioned glasses, are simply short tumblers with heavy bottoms. These classic cups accommodate larger blocks of ice (think: those oh-so-trendy ice spheres), but also work well for liquor served neat. If you think “whiskey” whenever a rocks glass is mentioned, our flavorful trio of whiskey ice pops are right up your alley.
Still have some space in your cabinet or bar cart? Expand your collection with the following styles:
- Shot glass
- Champagne flute
- Margarita glass
- Pint glass
- Hurricane glass
- Cordial glass
Now that you have the proper tools and glassware, it’s time to talk spirits. It’s probably not surprising that selecting the right liquor is an essential part of stocking a home bar. But with countless cocktail recipes and an endless array of picky house guests (your mother-in-law takes bourbon but your sister loves rye), it can be challenging to know exactly where to begin.
Let’s break down the basics.
When selecting your spirit assortment, begin by investing in one high-quality bottle of popular base spirits, including:
This mix of light and dark liquors will cover a broad base of tastes and provide a jumping-off point for most cocktails.
But you can—and should—take it a step further. Where you turn to next all depends on your favorite spirits and drinks:
- If you tend to turn to a whiskey at the end of a long day, explore different styles of bourbon and scotch.
- Consider indulging your affinity for all types of agave with a bottle of aged mezcal for a base spirit.
- If you’re drawn to a particular cocktail—say Old Fashioneds, Negronis, or martinis—prep accordingly with liqueur and fortified wines, including:
- Dry vermouth
- Sweet vermouth
- Angostura bitters
Mixers and Garnishes
Mixers and garnishes are—sometimes quite literally—the cherry on top of a fabulous home bar. Inexpensive and easy to stock, they can turn your ho-hum cocktail into the whole shebang.
Keep these mixer options in the fridge:
- Tonic water
- Club soda
- Orange juice
- Cranberry juice
Keep these by the bar:
- Maraschino or Luxardo cherries
- Limes / Lime Juice
As special add-ons, take your at-home prep a step further with exciting ingredients like SLIQ alcohol ice pops, which can replace ice, fruity flavor, and the liquor in some of your favorite recipes. Read our post detailing the alcohol content in SLIQ alcohol ice pops so you know exactly what you’ll be getting!
Additionally, you can even stock up on fun classics like ginger beer, cola, and grapefruit juice to expand your bartending options.
Think SLIQ—Don’t Forget Your Freezer
For the coolest home bar, don’t neglect your freezer. That’s where you’ll store SLIQ Spirited Ice, the premium, delicious alcoholic ice pops that will add some whimsy to your at-home cocktail menu. Try SLIQ alcohol ice pops in your frozen drinks, muddled in your mojitos, or shaken up in your sours.
Or better yet, skip the prep and enjoy them right out of the freezer, for days you don’t feel like donning your mixology cap.
Bartending is tough. You deserve to take the night off. You deserve a cold SLIQ.
- New York Times. How to Stock Your Liquor Cabinet. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/24/dining/drinks/virus-stocking-liquor-cabinet-bar.html
- Food52. From Cup to Coupe: A History of Our Favorite Champagne Glass. https://food52.com/blog/12220-from-cup-to-coupe-a-history-of-our-favorite-champagne-glass