While a few bottles of your favorite spirit might suffice for pouring yourself a drink after work, the modern professional should eventually develop a reasonably sized bar at home for hosting guests, dates, or buddies who visit. But, building a sophisticated, kickass home bar, doesn’t have to cost thousands or even hundreds of dollars if you shop smart and know how to assemble a proper team (of drinks.)
Behold, a few tips on how to create the perfect bar at home:
Begin with four basic spirits: whiskey, vodka, gin, and brandy. While it’s tempting to load up on a dozen inexpensive bottles of each, save yourself the space and the money and go for a slightly more expensive quality brand of each. A top shelf, craft, or rare brand of alcohol, will prevent you from guzzling them haphazardly. Plus, when you actually enjoy the good stuff, it’ll taste a hell of a lot better than the cheap stuff.
Begin to shape the rest of your bar based on the cocktails you like to drink. Old Fashioned? Dirty Martini? Bloody Mary? Gather the ingredients you need for those. Some spirits to consider to round out the collection: rum, tequila, scotch, bourbon, cognac, triple sec, red and white vermouth, red wine, white wine, and beer.
Mixers and garnishes: Don’t forget the club soda, tonic, ginger ale, cranberry, tomato, orange, and pineapple juices, olives, cocktail onions, horseradish, bitters, hot sauce, lemons, limes, and orange slices.
Build a staple of glassware, barware, mixers, and more. Some of these items can be purchased on the cheap from restaurant supply stores or at higher end shops depending on your budget and desired elegance. For glassware, keep stocked a mix of wine glasses, highball glass, pint and rocks glasses, and martini glasses. Secure a reliable ice bucket, bar spoon, wooden muddler, jigger, strainer, shaker, toothpicks, and cocktail napkins.
Invest in a decent bar cart instead of an awkward liquor cabinet, which can neatly hold all your booze plus bar tools and crystal glassware. Or, if the budget is really tight, build a simple shelf or cart yourself with some wooden pallets or recycled materials.
Bone up on your literature too, with cocktail or mixology books as primers on how to make classic craft cocktails. Actual books are more appropriate than phones here, fellas: nothing ruins an Old Fashioned like accidentally dropping your Android or iPhone into the whiskey. Not to mention the phone…
Plus, solid cocktail guides will offer additional advice. Pearls of wisdom to remember, like how a good bourbon is just as tasty (and much less pricey) than a bottle of Scotch. Or, that Armagnac is usually less expensive than Cognac but equally formidable. Or, the benefits of scoring unique or exotic brandies or bottles as something to talk about; if you’re able to have a conversation about a particular type of spirit you’ve got stocked, you’re getting value out of the bar.
Keep searching for new bottles to add to your bar, make sure you’re not drinking it all faster than you’re compiling it, and take your time. Soon you’ll have a home bar that’ll rival the craft bars in no time.