The 20 Best Home Bar Essentials

Jul 1, 2020

Category: Gear

In the hands of a good bartender, a few basic tools and ingredients can result in a spectacular cocktail. Of course, if you’re out at a bar, that can also mean even the most basic of drinks can be pretty pricey — especially with top-shelf liquor and fresh ingredients. As it turns out, the price drops pretty drastically if you’re making the cocktails yourself in the comfort of your own home.

If you want to take advantage of that steep decline in cash-spent, you’re going to need to outfit your kitchen with a number of necessities. That includes (of course) a collection of spirits, glassware, and a complement of bartending tools. Lucky for you, we’ve actually already gone to the trouble of rounding up the best pieces of bartending gear that can transform any kitchen, big or small, into a fully-equipped bar. The following list is comprised of the 20 best home bar essentials.

Essential Spirits

Cocktail Starter Kit

If you’re going to be setting up a home bar, you should probably start with the most essential piece: the alcohol you’ll be using to make drinks. While there are a lot of options out there, the following four are some of our favorites, especially if you want to craft some classic handmade cocktails. For Gin cocktails — like a Gin Fizz, Negroni, Gimlet, and Gin Martini — you can’t go wrong with Hendrick’s. If Cuba Libres, Mai Tais, and Daiquiris are more your speed, you’ll want Cutwater Three Sheets Spiced Rum. When an Old Fashioned, Sazerac, or a Whiskey Sour sounds appealing, we’ve got Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon. And, last but not least, lovers of Margaritas, Palomas, and Bloody Marias, there’s Casamigos Tequila Anejo.

Hendrick's: $28 Cutwater: $33 Woodford Reserve: $50 Casamigos: $66

Photo: Viski Double Summit Makoto Jigger

Home Bar Tools

Bartender Basics

It’s a pretty easy prospect to pour some liquor and mixer into a glass and stir, but if you really want to make the most of your home bar, you’ll need a little more to get the job done right. The following collection should round out any home bar in a manner that even the most seasoned bartenders will be happy with — should they ever find themselves in the comfort of your home.

OXO 11244200 Good Grips Citrus Peeler

Especially for those hot summer days, citrus is an essential ingredient in many cocktails. And almost every part of these fruits can be used in bartending — the fruit juice and pulp itself as drink ingredients and the peels as a garnish. But to get to either of them, you’ll need a reliable peeler like this one from OXO. It boasts a durable stainless steel dual-purpose blade — which can peel and zest — alongside an ergonomic handle. Best of all: it’s dishwasher safe.

Purchase: $7

Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds

There was a time when people thought that whiskey stones were the end-all-be-all of drink cooling options. Unfortunately, they turned out to be more of a disappointment than anything else. Thankfully, ice is still as trusty as ever — especially large ice spheres, which melt slower than the crushed or cubed variety and, therefore, dilute your drinks more slowly. And you can make your own in your freezer with the Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds you see here.

Purchase: $10

Viski Double Summit Makoto Jigger

Jiggers are one of the most essential bartending tools because they allow you to make quick, accurate measurements of any liquid you’re adding to your drinks. And most come in standard sizes, which is handy and convenient. This particular Japanese-made version is double-sided; has measurements for 0.5, 0.75, and 1.5 ounces; and is available in four handsome colorways — although, we’re partial to the gunmetal black you see here.

Purchase: $10+

Cocktail Picks

Martinis aren’t quite as good without olives and every Old Fashioned is just a little bit better with a Luxardo maraschino cherry. But you don’t want to be stuck fishing them out of your drink with your fingers. To bypass that issue, we suggest picking up some cocktail picks — specifically, reusable metal ones like these here. Not only are they creat at holding garnishes and keeping your fingers out of your beverage, but they can also be used to help distinguish your drink from those of your friends and/or family thanks to their unique headpieces.

Purchase: $12

SOLEADER Egg Separator

A whiskey sour simply isn’t complete without egg whites. Unfortunately, separating yolks from whites can be frustrating to do in the comfort of your own home — or rather it would be if you didn’t own an egg separator like the one you see here. This simple device can be set atop your drinkware of choice and all you have to do is crack an egg over it and the yolk will stay in the strainer while the white makes its way into your glass. It’s handy, simple, and takes the frustration out of making one of the best whiskey drinks around.

Purchase: $14

OXO 3110200 Steel Double Lever Waiter’s Corkscrew

OXO’s Steel Double Lever Waiter’s Corkscrew — better known as a wine key — is an absolute essential bar tool that everyone should own, as it gives users the ability to remove corks and foil from wine bottles, bottle caps from beer bottles, and it collapses down to a handy format that fits nicely in a pocket or drawer. It’s not as fancy, perhaps, as larger lever corkscrews, but it’s also less cumbersome and probably more reliable.

Purchase: $16

Cocktail Strainer Set

Put simply: different drinks require different strainers and if you think you can get away with using only one kind for everything, you’re doing yourself and your beverages a disservice. Thankfully, if you pick up this Cocktail Strainer Set, you’ll have all your bases covered from gimlets to margaritas and everything in-between. They’re all made from sturdy 304 stainless steel and they come with a handy bar spoon as an added bonus.

Purchase: $20

Cocktail Codex: Fundamentals, Formulas, Evolutions

Even the best bartenders in the world still need a refresher here and there when it comes to remembering cocktail recipes. Luckily, some of those bartenders — specifically the ones behind Death & Co, the famed Manhattan craft cocktail bar — wrote down their best recipes in the Cocktail Codex. This book is loaded from cover to cover with recipes that are so good, they garnered the tome a James Beard award. If you’re only going to buy one cocktail recipe book, make it this one.

Purchase: $27

Zulay Stainless Steel Juicer

As previously mentioned, citrus is an integral part of many a cocktail recipe. Of course, if you really want to get the most out of your fruit — waste not, want not — you should get your hands on the Zulay Stainless Steel Juicer. It will save your hands from some pain and will allow you to extract every last drop of precious juice from just about any fruit you’d want in a cocktail.

Purchase: $30

BrüMate Shaker

James Bond takes his martinis shaken, not stirred — and there’s a very good reason for that. You see, by shaking the ingredients with ice, it incorporates them better and even serves to cool the drink faster. That also means less dilution. And there’s no better way to make that happen than with a cocktail shaker — like this one from BrüMate. It’s leakproof, shatterproof, can hold up to 20oz of liquid, and won’t leave a weird metallic taste in your drinks.

Purchase: $35

W&P Bartender’s Knife

In the warm summer months, some folks prefer to have their beer with lime or orange, depending on the variety. Similarly, Mai Tais sometimes come with a slice of pineapple and Old Fashioneds with a sliver of orange peel. But you’re going to have a hard time adding any of those to your cocktails if you don’t have the W&P Bartender’s Knife. At 7″ and including a sharpening stone, this is an essential you won’t want to skip.

Purchase: $35

Izola 4-In-1 Bar Tool

You don’t always have to have an individual, purpose-driven tool in your kitchen to make your cocktails properly. In fact, some devices are better suited to a multipurpose device, like the Izola 4-In-1 Bar Tool. Incorporating a jigger, bottle opener, corkscrew, and ice hammer, this clever bronze-plated gizmo can help you get plenty of work done in your home bar without having to go in and out of cabinets or drawers looking for the right device.

Purchase: $36

Bulu Pineapple Barspoon

Some cocktails, like martinis, are better shaken than stirred. Others — especially those with carbonation and muddled fruit don’t necessarily work as well when shaken. In that case, a bar spoon is an absolute necessity. And they don’t get much better than the Bulu barspoon you see here. Available in a variety of colors, this long stirrer is suitable for individual drinks but also has enough length to it to use to stir up a carafe or pitcher, as well. Plus, the pineapple at the top is a nice stylistic touch.

Purchase: $38

Bitters “Triple Play” Variety 3-Pack

Without a doubt — especially for those who love whiskey drinks — a collection of cocktail bitters is an absolute must-have for any home bar. In fact, you can’t even make an Old Fashioned without bitters. The same can be said for a Manhattan, Sazerac, and more. In fact, whiskey drinks are only a fraction of the recipes that call for this aromatic, botanical, alcohol-based flavoring agent. There are also a wide variety of types — most commonly aromatic and orange, but it can be made with a wide variety of flavor profiles including those that are sweet, spicy, etc. If you’re just dipping your toes in, however, this trio should cover the essentials.

Purchase: $40

Craighill Ripple Bottle Opener

As convenient as they are, wall-mounted and magnetic bottle openers don’t exactly scream “classy” and “grown-up.” So skip the bachelor pad staple and opt for something with a bit more refinement — like the Craighill Ripple Bottle Opener you see before you. It’s crafted from solid stainless steel, available in silver or black, has an ergonomic and eye-pleasing design, it’s made in the USA, and it can be comfortably stashed in your silverware drawer or left on a desktop. Honestly, it’s beautiful enough that you may want to keep it out on display.

Purchase: $44

Über Bar Tools ProCrush Muddler

Muddling fruit for a cocktail can be a frustrating and time-consuming task, but its also necessary if you want to make sure your drink of choice is done right. You can, however, take some of the frustration out of it by investing in the ProCrush Muddler you see here. This heavy-duty bar tool was made to be ergonomic and effective, taking some of the effort out of crushing that pulp and/or herbs. It’s even tough enough to crush ice and was designed to be flipped over and used for just that purpose. It even has a replaceable head so you can ensure it stays in tip-top shape at all times.

Purchase: $60

Blade Runner Whiskey Glasses

Even if you’re not a sci-fi fan and you don’t recognize these as the rocks glasses from the epic ’80s film of the same name, these Blade Runner Whiskey Glasses are an exceptional addition to any home bar. They feature a unique, angular design, they’re handmade from mouth-blown Italian crystal glass — making them both beautiful and sturdy — and they come in a pair. You don’t have to know who Deckard (played by none other than Harrison Ford) is to enjoy a dram or two from these specialty rocks glasses, but they might inspire you to check out the groundbreaking blockbuster in any case.

Purchase: $166

Waterford Lismore Square Crystal Decanter

Unless you’re distilling it yourself in a backyard bootlegger still, most whiskey comes in its own bottle. However, even with high-end offerings, sometimes those bottles are ugly, put frankly. If you want to keep your favorite whiskey on-hand in a vessel worthy of putting on display, you’ll want to put it in the Waterford Lismore Square Crystal Decanter. Despite what some may think, there really aren’t any benefits to transferring your whiskey into one of these bottles, but it definitely looks good and, even if that functions as a kind of placebo, that’s good enough for us.

Purchase: $208

Libations Antique Brass Bar Cart

There are numerous benefits to keeping your home bar essentials on a bar cart rather than strewn about your kitchen. For starters, it keeps everything all together in a single place — meaning you’ll never have to rifle through cupboards to find the ingredients or tools you need. Secondly, most bar carts have wheels on the bottom — meaning you can scoot your home bar to whatever corner of the house you’re occupying while you drink, which is especially handy if you often host parties. This particular cart is special to us because it boasts a timeless minimalist appearance, it’s crafted from sturdy solid brass, it’s plenty spacious, and it has a glass top and mirrored bottom for a nice added touch of style.

Purchase: $599

15 Books & The Booze To Pair With Them

Few things go quite as well together as good literature and a stiff drink. Of course, that heaven-made match is all the better when there’s a connection between them — which is exactly what you’ll find on our guide to booze and book pairings.

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