Last Updated on November 21, 2023 by David Michael
Home Bar Essentials: Setting Up A Home Bar
Entertaining One or More
A home bar is not just a place to store and serve drinks; it can also serve as a stylish focal point for entertaining guests. With the right setup, a home bar can transform an ordinary living space into a sophisticated lounge where you can unwind after a long day or impress your friends and family with your mixology skills.
One of the great things about a home bar is that it can be tailored to fit any space, no matter how small. Whether you opt for a stand-alone bar cabinet or a more portable bar cart, or even set up a bar on a sideboard or cabinet, there are countless ways to create a functional and stylish home bar.
One simple way to define your bar space is by using a tray. By placing your spirits and glassware on a tray, you can create a designated area for your home bar without taking up too much space. This also allows you to easily move your bar to different areas of your home, depending on your needs.
When it comes to stocking your home bar, it’s best to start small and gradually build up your collection of essentials over time. With just a few key items, such as a shaker, jigger, strainer, and a few basic spirits and mixers, you can make a surprising variety of classic cocktails. As you become more comfortable with mixing drinks, you can expand your collection of glassware, tools, and ingredients to create more complex and unique cocktails.
Having a home bar can also save you money in the long run, as you can avoid pricey bar tabs and enjoy your favorite drinks from the comfort of your own home. Plus, it’s a great way to entertain guests and impress them with your hospitality skills.
Setting up a home bar is a great way to add sophistication and style to your living space, while also providing a fun and convenient way to entertain guests and unwind after a long day. So why not start small and begin building your own home bar today?
Essential Equipment and Tools
Glassware for your Home Bar
You can serve nearly any drink with just 3 types of glassware. An old fashioned for short drinks served on the rocks, neat etc. Tall Collins glasses for long drinks and those made with sparkling mixers. And all purpose stemmed glass for wines and mixed drinks. You can expand your collection to include martini cocktail glasses and champagne flutes as needed. For our stemware recommendations, see our post Cocktail Glasses – Stemware for the Bar.
All Purpose Stem
Alcohol: Stocking your Home Bar
The base of nearly any drink is made of just 7 liquors. Again, start small and slowly build your collection. Start with what you like to drink and add to your bar to build up to the 6 basics:
Vodka – the true neutral spirit adding no additional flavors. Used in the Vodka Cranberry aka Cape Cod, Bloody Mary, White Russian
Gin – for the classic Gin and Tonic, French 75 and Martini
Whiskey or Bourbon – to make an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Whiskey Sour
Brandy – gives us the Sidecar, Brandy Alexander, and served neat
Rum – for the classic Rum and Coke, Daiquiri, and Pina Colada
Tequila – makes the Margarita, Tequila Sunrise, and Paloma
Once you have the basics, feel free to add some interesting liquors to your selection.
Home Bar Tools
It only takes a few simple implements to outfit your bar.
A stirring glass with a bar spoon for drinks that are mostly spirits, like a martini. A shaker for drinks that have heavier ingredients such as dairy, egg whites, some fruit juices. A strainer to be used with both the shaker and stirrer. A jigger measure is especially useful when trying new cocktails so you end up with the proper result. An ice bucket is perfect for when you’re entertaining and don’t want to keep running to the kitchen for ice. Lastly, a small cutting board and knife for slicing fruit garnishes and twists. To recap, start with the basics:
Stirrer and Bar Spoon
Small Cutting Board and Knife
Other tools such as muddlers, zesters, juicers can be added as the need arises. Specialty ice molds that make large size cubes and spheres are a nice touch.
Check out our post on Cocktail Shakers for our picks.
For more complete sets, see our post on Best Bar Sets for your Home.
A selection of mixers allows an impromptu cocktail to be made on the fly. Small individual serving size glass bottles are best. They hold carbonation better, and there’s less waste if the entire bottle isn’t used. Start your bar off with just a few essentials such as:
The vermouths are fortified wines, and should be stored in a refrigerator to preserve their flavors. Fresh juices and simple syrups can be added to your selection when planning a gathering, and should also be kept chilled. Other mixers can be added as needed.
Finishing Touches for your Home Bar
These are the things that give your home bar that little bit of finishing polish. Small touches like these can turn an ordinary drink into an extraordinary cocktail.
Linen Cocktail Napkins
Glass Swizzle Sticks
Metal Cocktail Picks
Glass or Metal Straws
Setting up your home bar is really easy. Just follow our guide and start with just a few things. Build up your collection of spirits and glassware and equipment at your own pace. Only add things as you need them and you will end up with a bar that functions for you. You’ll be entertaining in style in no time at all.
How much space do I need to set up a home bar?
The space required for a home bar can vary depending on your needs and available area. A spare room, a basement, or a dedicated corner in your living room can all work well. Measure the space to ensure you have enough room for the bar counter, storage, and seating if desired.
What equipment do I need for a home bar?
Essential equipment includes glassware, barware (cocktail shaker, jigger, strainer, etc.), mixology tools (citrus juicer, zester, etc.), refrigeration and storage options, and optional accessories like a bottle opener or a bar cart.
How do I stock my home bar with spirits and mixers?
Start with essential spirits like vodka, gin, rum, tequila, whiskey, and bourbon. Expand your collection based on your preferences and the cocktails you want to make. Stock up on mixers like tonic water, soda water, cola, and various fruit juices. Don’t forget to include specialty liqueurs and bitters for added variety.
How can I create a drink menu for my home bar?
Create a well-rounded drink menu by incorporating signature cocktails, popular classics, and options that cater to your guests’ preferences. Experiment with different flavor combinations and presentation styles to make your drinks stand out.
How can I enhance the atmosphere in my home bar?
Choose appropriate lighting and decor to set the desired mood. Consider installing dimmable lights or warm-toned bulbs for a cozy ambiance. Play music that complements the atmosphere, and consider adding personal touches like artwork or mementos to make the space unique.