Creating with Purpose
The home bar I'm referring to here is not the physical place where you store your alcohol. That can be a cabinet or pantry, on a cart, or displayed on shelves - that's up to you.
The bigger question is - does the liquor and mixers you have on hand set you up for cocktail success? Or is it more of a random mix that has you constantly wondering "where did this come from?" or "what do I do with this?"
The liquors and tools listed here are designed to help you build a home bar with purpose and intent. Something that makes you think "I can do this" when you look at your selection.
What should be in my home bar?
Below are the spirits and mixers I recommend having on hand. With these in your home bar, you can make a lot of the recipes on this site as well as many other classic cocktails.
- Vodka (plain)
- Vodka (your favorite flavor)
- White rum
- Dark rum
- Silver tequila
- Triple Sec
- Coffee liqueur
- Creme de cocoa
- Creme de strawberry
- White chocolate liqueur
- Club soda
- Tonic water
- Cranberry juice
- Pineapple juice
- Lemon lime soda
- Ginger beer
I'm purposefully not naming brands, so pick your favorite. Don't have one? Know this - you do NOT have to buy the most expensive liquors. You can make delicious cocktails with a mid-priced spirit, I promise.
Notice I said mid-priced, which is often not the cheapest. You can buy some spirits, like vodka, at all kinds of price points. For vodka, the bottles in the $15-$20 range will work great.
Yes, there is definitely a taste difference between the $7 bottle of triple sec and the $30 bottle of orange liqueur. However, you're likely not drinking it straight. You're mixing it with juice and other liquor and in the end what you really need is that sweet, orange flavor, which can be obtained from the less expensive bottle just fine.
If you're just starting out on the home bar journey, the price of some spirits can be surprising. Buy small bottles and build your bar as you go. You'll figure out your favorites quickly - and it might surprise you which spirits and cordials you go through.
Other items to have on hand
- Simple syrup - Don't buy this at the store. Make your own syrups at home using your microwave.
- Bitters - Aromatic bitters is the bar staple. Scrappy's Bitters has sets that are affordable and give you a variety of small bottles so you can find out what bitters you do/don't like without investing in large bottles. (Try their "Classic" bitters set.)
- Fresh citrus fruits - Lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits
- Lots and lots of ice
- Cocktail shaker (Go for a metal shaker with the strainer built in to it. Stay away from plastic shakers.)
- Double jigger - Look for one with 1oz on one side and 2oz on the other. (This OXO one is awesome and inexpensive.)
- Long handled bar spoon (This set works great and includes both bar spoon and muddler.)