8 Essentials for Perfecting the At-Home Bar
The mark of a good host is a well-stocked home — someone who's always at the ready for that pop-in friend or those unexpected moments of celebration. And the cornerstone of that? Your at-home bar. Want to join this crew of well-prepared host extraordinaire but not sure where to start? Here's our quick and easy guide for stocking your at-home bar.
1. Invest in quality glassware.
A staple piece of your bar that will always make an impression is your glassware. A well-made, weighted glass is a substantial part of the experience. No matter whether the drink you're serving is top shelf or cheap-as-they-come-by, serving it in a quality glass will immediately elevate the moment. Plus: invest in it once, enjoy it for a lifetime.
Just getting started? Here are a list of the essential glasses to get you going:
- Red Wine Glass
- White Wine Glass
- Beer Glass (if you want to get granular, an assortment of these players is ideal: pint glass, the Belgian tulip glass, the snifter, the pilsner glass)
- Old Fashioned Glass
- Cocktail Glass
2. Never Buy Bottom Shelf.
The second foundational element of your bar is your core liquor — the perfect varieties for sipping and mixing. You don't need to worry about getting multiple options of each kind — just hone in on the category and choose a solid representative to take its place on your shelf. Also, to note: when you're starting your bar you might be tempted to grab the lowest and cheapest, but pull yourself up a rung and never buy bottom shelf. Liquors tend to last, so these won't be a frequent expense and your guests will always appreciate something that feels just a tad nicer than the neighborhood pub.
The essential crew:
- Tequila (1800)
- Gin (Farmers Gin)
- Vodka (Titos)
- Rum (Sailor Jerrys)
- Whiskeys (more on this below)
3. Keep Your Tools Simple.
There are so many tools and gimmicks these days for stocking your bar that you can quickly be convinced that an ice cube mold in a giant globe shape is a necessity. But don't get too caught up in the fanfare. For a real connoisseur, the essentials are all that you need:
- Cutting board
- Bar mat
- Bottle opener
- Stir stick
4. House a Selection of Basic Mixers.
Part of being a good host is about anticipating what your guests love and being prepared to delight them. So as an accompaniment to your staple liquors, keeping some basic mixers that can craft the standard cocktails is both considerate and simple.
A good starting selection:
- Club Soda
- Tonic Water
- Ginger Beer
- Cranberry Juice
- Lime Juice
5. Choose Your Whiskeys Wisely.
Now, back to that whiskey. Not all whiskeys are created equal. For this beloved liquor, it's smart to house a "sipping whiskey" and a "mixing whiskey." Sipping whiskey is a much higher quality, more expensive drink — you can open these up with very few drops of water, but steer clear of mixing it or adding ice so you can enjoy the full flavor. Mixing whiskey, on the other hand, is ideal for cocktails and should never be top shelf. Cardinal rule is not to cut the good stuff.
Is whiskey new territory? Here are a few easy highly rated recs to get you started:
- Macallan 15 (Scotch)
- Hibiki (Japanese Whiskey)
- Blantons (Bourbon)
- Crown Royal Rye (Whiskey)
- Buffalo Trace (Bourbon)
6. Go Fresh.
One of the simplest and cheapest ways to elevate a cocktail is by integrating fresh ingredients. While it's not practical to keep these on hand all the time, there are a handful of quick buys you can grab if you know you have guests coming over and you want to up the ante.
- Kosher Salt
7. Be a Specialist.
Welcoming people into your home is special and personal. So while offering the standard assortment is par for the course, it's also fun to specialize. Have a house drink you love and always offer that guests can associate with you. French 75. Bloody Mary. Gin Fizz. You do you.
8. Know Your Virgins.
Last but not least, stocking a a great bar is about serving all of your guests. Not everyone needs or wants to drink, so get ahead of the game by perfecting a handful of virgin cocktails that are fresh, delicious, and alcohol free.