Famed singer Frank Sinatra once said, “I feel sorry for people that don’t drink because when they wake up in the morning, that is the best they’re going to feel all day.”
Unwinding with a well-made cocktail at the end of the day can be one of life’s most enjoyable simple pleasures. And you shouldn’t have to go to an expensive bar to experience it.
Stocking a home bar might sound overwhelming, but the truth is that all you need are a few simple staple tools and spirits to make many popular cocktails. Here are eleven things you’ll want to invest in—and before you know it, your living room will be the hottest happy hour spot in town.
1. Cocktail Shaker
This one’s an oldie but a goodie. About half of all cocktails you’re likely familiar with require a cocktail shaker, so of course, you’ll need one for your home bar.
Cocktail shakers accomplish two things: They help alcohol mix smoothly with fruit juice and other mixers, and the water from the ice tempers the cocktail slightly so it’s not quite so strong.
Fortunately, cocktail shakers are easy to find online or at any home supply store, and you don’t need to spring for an expensive one to get the benefits.
2. Mixing Glass and Spoon
For cocktails that don’t call for a shaker, you’ll likely be using a mixing glass and spoon. Stirred cocktails include Manhattans, mint juleps, and martinis—so you’ll want to invest in the proper stirring tools.
Another benefit of using a mixing glass is that you can make several cocktails at once, then batch them out. That’s a big help if you’re entertaining guests who are enjoying your home bartending skills.
3. Bottle Opener
At any party, you’ll likely have guests that prefer wine to a cocktail. You may also want to experiment with cocktails that are wine-based, like spritzers, for example.
That means any good home bar will need to include a bottle opener. But don’t just buy any old bottle opener that’s near the cash register at the liquor store. Instead, invest in bar tools that last a long time and convey your unique personality.
4. Glassware Options
Different cocktails call for different glassware—and some glasses, like the martini glass or the highball glass, are even named after classic drinks.
Of course, you don’t necessarily need to stock up on ten different cocktail glasses. But you ought to have the staples, including rocks glasses, collins glasses, coupe glasses, wine glasses, and martini glasses.
5. Juice Press
Sure, you could use pre-bought fruit juice in your cocktails—but with just a little extra effort, you can enjoy a far superior taste.
Investing in a simple, inexpensive juice press will allow you to squeeze fresh lime, lemon, orange, or grapefruit juice into any drink you’re making. It will taste more like the real thing you’re used to getting at the bar, and make your guests feel like you’re pulling out all the stops for them.
If you’re just making a drink for yourself, you might be able to get away with eyeballing your portions. But if you’re mixing up drinks for a crowd, properly measuring your alcohol servings is the responsible thing to do—and it will likely result in a better-tasting cocktail.
Jiggers are cheap, easy to use, and long-lasting, so there’s no reason not to buy one or two!
When stocking a home bar, there are two types of strainers you will want to buy: a Hawthorne strainer and a fine-mesh strainer.
Hawthorne strainers attach to the top of the cocktail glass and help filter out any ice or pulp from drinks as you pour them from a mixing glass.
Fine mesh strainers, meanwhile, provide an extra layer of protection for those especially finicky cocktails that might include a bit of eggshell or fruit peel. It might seem like an unnecessary purchase, but the time will come when you’re glad you have one.
Mint juleps, mojitos, fresh screwdrivers—some of the most refreshing, tasty cocktails you can drink involve muddling fruit.
Sure, it takes a little extra elbow grease, but when you take a sip you’ll realize it was more than worth it. You can pick up a muddler at any basic home or kitchen supply store.
9. Stocking a Home Bar’s Spirits
Now that we’ve gone over all the tools you’ll need when stocking a home bar, it’s time to get to the good stuff!
When you visit the liquor store, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the different bottles and brands. But really, all you need to get started is one bottle each of whiskey, scotch, rye, bourbon, gin, rum, and vodka.
When choosing brands, try to pick ones that are neither the most or least expensive option. Middle-shelf bottles will serve your cocktails well without breaking the bank.
The basic mixers you’ll want to always have stocked in your home bar are tonic water, seltzer or mineral water, angostura bitters, vermouth, dirty martini mix, and simple syrup.
Of course, some special cocktails might call for a particular type of bitters or an obscure fruit juice or liqueur. But you can pick up these extra-special mixers as needed—and in a pinch, the mixers we mentioned above should serve as suitable substitutions.
Whether you’re an experienced or novice home bartender, you probably don’t know every cocktail recipe out there!
Keeping one or two cocktail books at home will help you fulfill requests from your guests and give you new ideas to try when you aren’t sure what to make with the ingredients you have on hand.
Now that you’re up to speed on stocking a home bar, it’s time to starting making some cocktails! Start experimenting now so that you’re well-prepared the next time you have people over.
If you want recipes or other home bar tips, be sure to check out the other cocktail and bartending articles on our website. Cheers!