Everyone enjoys a delicious cocktail when they go out. There’s something special about an expertly crafted cocktail made with fresh ingredients and creative liquors, liqueurs, fruit juices, herbs, mixers, and more. Of course, these delicious and yummy drinks come at a cost — literally.
When you go out to the bar, you can easily end up spending fifteen to twenty dollars on any good cocktail that isn’t just a shot of well liquor mixed with a shelf-stable margarita mix. Making drinks at home can be cheaper and just as delicious, especially if you can perfect your setup.
Without a stocked home bar, you might find yourself going back time and time again to the same old boring drinks, having your favorite beer or wine every night, and never really branching out. A thought-out home bar can shake up your evening routine, so every night feels like a night out.
Getting your home bar set up nicely takes just a little bit of effort at the beginning. Once it’s ready, upkeep is easy — just replace any bottles and ingredients you use up! To help you get your home bar set up just how you like it, we’ve put together the complete guide for a home bar setup you will love.
What Are Home Bar Essentials?
There are a few different categories of essential bar tools, glassware, garnishes, and more that we need to assemble the ultimate bar and boost your mixology skills.
A Bar Cart - You can’t have an at-home bar without a bar area. This doesn’t necessarily mean buying a bar cart if you have a built-in bar already or have repurposed a bookshelf into a bar area. If your space is slightly smaller, a bar cart is an easy way to keep your essential bar items together.
Bartending Tools - It’s impossible to make full use of your home bar without the proper tools. You’re going to need a cocktail shaker, tongs, ice, a jigger, a citrus juicer, a knife, a peeler, a cutting board, a muddler, and a cocktail strainer to make any drink you could imagine.
Mixers - While the Long Island Iced Tea is a special drink that has its merits, most other cocktails require some non-alcoholic components. Most importantly, you have your simple syrup, but you should also have a variety of fruit juices on hand for mixing. Fresh is always best, so consider stocking fruits you can juice yourself when inspiration strikes. A skilled mixologist keeps Angostura orange bitters, tonic water, and other essential mixers nearby, along with a bar spoon and cocktail shaker in the bar cabinet.
Glassware - No wet bar is complete without rocks glasses, wine glasses, highball glasses, and other essential barware.
A Cocktail Book - Everyone needs to know how to make classic cocktail recipes like the Manhattan, old fashioned, Mojito, and more. Plus, it’s helpful to get a general sense of how to use unique ingredients like vermouth, Campari, or white rum to make your own great cocktails at home. A cocktail book can give you all that knowledge and more.
Alcohol - Last but not least, a home bar could not be complete without alcohol. You should start with a bottle of each of the five cardinal liquors and branch out from there.
Together, these four components make up the essential at-home bar. Now, we’re going to take a closer look into each area with tips and tricks to get the best home bar setup imaginable.
What Should I Look for in a Bar Cart?
Like we said earlier, you don’t need to go out and purchase some crazy expensive bar cart — all you need is a dedicated area to store your bottles and equipment where you can mix your drinks with ease.
If you have some counter space that you can dedicate to mixing drinks or shelves nearby to store ingredients, then you are set. However, if you are quite serious about your cocktails, having a dedicated bar cart can be a nice addition to your living room, kitchen, or wherever you decide to put it.
For a perfect at-home bar cart, look for something with wheels that lock to avoid your cart running away without you. Other than that, there are bar carts available for any need, any style, and any budget.
What Bartending Tools Do You Need?
We gave a brief list of bartending tools that you should have for your at-home bar, but without any explanation, this list may have just sparked more questions rather than answers. You should start with a nice cocktail shaker that you trust (Boston shakers or cobbler shakers are both fine).
Most cocktails you meet will be shaken, but stirred drinks can be mixed in the cup you are serving in or a mixing glass.
Next, you are going to need a jigger. A jigger is a bartending measuring device. They are equipped with two sides that are each a measure: one ounce and 1.5 or two ounces. They also have lines to show different measures for mixing. You should at least choose a jigger with measure markings at the half, one, and 1.5-ounce line for ease of use.
A cocktail strainer is an optional choice for many drinkers. For the ideal smooth drink, it really does come in handy. Having both a fine mesh strainer and Hawthorne strainer can be smart but a fine mesh strainer alone is enough as well. If you are serving fresh juice, then a citrus hand juicer, a knife, and a cutting board are going to be essential as well.
Lastly, bobbles like ice, straws, cups, tongs, a muddler, and a peeler can come in handy. Ice is a necessity as well as cups. Everything else is optional, so long as you are willing to make do with what you have.
What Mixers Do You Need for a Home Bar Setup?
There are a few delicious cocktails out there that call for only alcoholic ingredients, but most drinks will call for some sort of mixer. Most important amongst the group is your simple syrup.
You can make your own simple syrup by combining equal parts water and granulated sugar and heating until it is completely dissolved. Then, take it off the heat and let it cool. You can also buy simple syrup in-store!
Citrus juices are an important addition to any bar setup, whether you squeeze fresh juice or buy it bottled. If you’re someone who likes White Russians, then consider adding heavy cream to your mixer list, as well as tomato juice for Bloody Mary drinkers.
What Alcohols Do I Need for a Home Bar Setup?
Finally, on to the most important topic of discussion: Which bottles of alcohol do you need to set up a successful home bar?
For starters, you’ll need the five cardinal liquors: whiskey, gin, vodka, tequila, and rum. These five liquors stand apart as the most commonly used liquors in cocktails. With them at your disposal, you can make next to anything.
Choosing the right brands is also important for your home bar setup. While you can save money with bottom-shelf liquor, your cocktail quality will suffer. While buying nice liquor can be an upfront cost, buying by the bottle saves you tons over what you would pay during a night out.
You should aim for bottles that are of high quality but aren’t so expensive that you’re going to be hesitant to drink them. There is certainly room for a few incredibly expensive bottles on your bar, they shouldn’t make up your staples.
Oak and Eden Whiskey is the perfect whiskey for every at-home bar. Our whiskeys are all expertly crafted and delicious enough to drink neat, but they aren’t so expensive that you’ll be tortured pouring them into mixers. Oak and Eden whiskey is made with our distinct in-bottle finishing technique, giving our whiskeys a unique flavor you won’t find anywhere else.
Other important bottles to consider are a few of your favorite aperitifs, liqueurs, and flavored liquors for cocktails.
Feel free to start with only the ingredients you need for one of two simple cocktails, like a bottle of Oak and Eden, lemon juice, simple syrup, and some bitters. Then, slowly add bottles to your bar as your budget allows — low pressure, high reward, lots of fun.
Home Bar Setup Takeaways
Enjoying delicious cocktails doesn’t have to be a 20-dollar experience that you only get when you go out. Enjoying cocktails at home is cost-effective and just as good (if not better) than what you can get from bartenders during a night on the town. The key is creating a well-stocked home bar setup.
No at-home bar is complete without a bottle of Oak and Eden. Our whiskeys are all expertly made to give you a whiskey experience that you won’t forget. Whether you prefer bourbon, rye, or wheat whiskey, we have a bottle that you are going to love.
Now sit back, relax, and enjoy a delicious bourbon cocktail right in the comfort of your own living room. It’s really as simple as that.
Cocktail Science: 8 Tips and Tricks For Getting the Most Out of Citrus | The Spruce Eats
Essential Liquors and Mixers to Stock in Your Home Bar | The Spruce Eats