Our first piece of advice for anyone looking to outfit their home bar is to do it a piece at a time. Many newbies try to get everything they need, spend a fortune, and then realize that’s half of their stuff is sitting unused on the sidelines. Rather, we suggest you keep this list (or whatever checklist suits you) and then as you need something, be it a muddler or a Boston-style shaker, you know exactly what to get. Setting up a bar is a marathon, not a sprint and should be given the chance to grow in the fullness of time.
Starting your bar is as simple as a few bottles and all the makings for a few of your favorite cocktails. At the beginning, you’ll be best served by inviting your guests over for a specific kind of drinking, say a Margarita Monday or a spicy cocktail mixer at your house. This gets you very comfortable with your new equipment, and gives you a chance to learn life behind the wood while also getting suggestions from your friends. Encourage people to bring gifts, like a bar shower. Then, pass out this registry of the 20 home bar essentials.
Drink Up: The booze you choose is entirely up to your own tastes and discretion, but we’re going to suggest you start off with a quality whiskey, tequila, gin, and maybe a rum. Don’t go insane with mixers or fancy brands right off. Learn what you like and stock that, so you know that you’ll always have a drink suited to you. If you’re completely lost, we offer a few libation suggestions:
Angostura Aromatic Cocktail Bitters
A Dab Will Do: A simple blend of spices, this comes from Dr. J.G.B. Siegert, who was a Surgeon General in Venezuela. These bitters enhance food as well as spirits, increase appetite, and put a heretofore missing tang into whatever drink they are spilled.
Ficks Cocktail Fortifier
Hangover Cure: Put it into whatever you happen to be sipping and you guarantee yourself an easier morning thanks to the Vitamins B, electrolytes, amino acids, and milk thistle that Ficks Fortifier provides.
Soapstone Shot Glasses
To The Buzz: Throw out those Mardi Gras shot glasses you have and get something that an adult would drink out of. Soapstone can be frozen for colder shots, and it won’t hold flavors or colors because it is non-porous.
The PDT Cocktail Book
Study Hall: From bar legend Jim Meehan, this is the wonderfully illustrated cocktail book you need for a set of recipes that delight the palette and befog the mind. Simple enough for anyone and made with delectable mixtures for every occasion.
Jack Rudy Tonic Syrup
The Cure: Possibly the path to the perfect G&T lies here. Quinine and real cane sugar combine for something that is beyond Canada Dry and able to send your gin, and your guests, into fits of ecstasy.
Corkcicle Whiskey Wedge
Chilled In: Here’s how you serve whiskey that isn’t watery, but still has a cold bite. The wedge is slow to melt and doesn’t interfere with drinking, but it keeps any drink cool for long-term sipping.
Hardened Grab Opener
Brew Buster: Able to work with one hand, you can now open a bottle and stir a drink as you spin plates and juggle chainsaws. This is the quickest way to get a beer open, and a handy accessory for your bar or your pocket.
Hard Knock Life: For chilled drinks and no dilution, a set of whiskey stones is a must. Keep them cool, then toss them in a glass for a cooling sensation that will never send your drink to a watery grave.
Bellemain Stainless Steel Lemon Squeezer
First Crush: It says lemon squeezer, but you can use this to mush up whatever citrus your special mix requires. It’s solid 18/10 stainless steel, which is food safe, has silicone handles for comfortable mashing, and is solid cast to prevent rusting, chipping, and scratches.
Cocktail Kingdom Teardrop Barspoon
Once Around: Your standard stirring spoon, this is 30cm of stainless glory that can work all night long, keeping everything mixed properly. It’s balanced for hard work with less fatigue so you can start it moving and let the weight of the spoon do the work.
Orb Copper Shaker
Throwback: A mixer is a staple of a home bar, but most of them look alike. From the Orb Copper collection, there’s a vintage style to this shaker that makes it catch the eye, while the smooth lining will craft a clean taste experience with every vibration.
Mixing Glass with Stainless Steel Strainer
Pour Me: Using a Japanese weave pattern on the side and a pour spout at the top, this facilitates easy drink pouring and mixing, while also making the glass easy to grip, even when covered in condensation.
Izola 4-In-1 Bar Tool
Sidearm: You might have a whole array of EDC multi-tools on your belt, but can you break ice, open a bottle, take a quick measurement of bitters for an Old Fashioned, and pull a cork with yours? If not, it’s time to get serious.
Uber Bar Tools ProCrush Muddler
Mash-Up: A heavy head and slender body give you great leverage for mashing and muddling, while the traction tread prevents slipping. With an ice crusher on the back, this is made for the hulk smash style of bartending.
Pewter Foxhead Measuring Jigger
Measure Up: The jigger is a necessity of any barman or barwoman, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be dull. With a pewter wolf’s head, you’ll be able to get exact mixtures, along with a sense of independent style.
Neat Ice Kit
Cold Shoulder: Though the name is a mite misleading since neat means without ice, this kit is still a must have for anyone who wants to make more traditional cocktails with ice that’s been chipped and picked to flawlessness.
Ralph Lauren Metropolis Decanter
True Transparency: A chef knows that presentation is part of taste, which is why making your spirits look good is almost as important as if they actually are good. With a splash of class and a nod to the past, no home bar should be without this decanter, about half full.
Williams Knife Co. Hammered Bar Knife
Paring Down: The way to discern a quality bartender from an amateur is how good their knife is. A black walnut handle trimmed in deer antler, along with a hammered blade, this can peel and zest like Jerry Thomas in his heyday.
Libations Bar Cart
Ride Along: You don’t need a fancy mahogany bar to become a quick hand with the cocktails. All it takes is a decent cart and you can take the party to your guests. Simple and timeless in fashion, with enough space for all your intoxicating contributions.