Cocktail Recipes > Bartenders Guide > The Essentials of a Home Bar

The Essentials of a Home Bar

By Teresa Opdycke

Before the holiday party season begins set up the essentials for a home bar. Many of the items you need may all ready be in your kitchen. Take a quick inventory and create a list using the following suggestions for the basic necessities to whip up some of your favorite cocktails.

Start with the basic liquors used in the majority of drinks by purchasing the spirits in 750 ml bottles. Rum, vodka, tequila, Canadian whiskey, and a coffee liqueur or Irish cream will stock your bar with the bare minimums for conjuring up popular cocktails.

Mixers add flavors and pizzazz to drinks. Purchasing all the mixers at once may be too pricey, so start off with the ones you use most often. The basic mixers are: cola (diet and regular), ginger ale, lemon-lime soda, club soda, tonic water, orange, lime, lemon, pineapple, cranberry, grapefruit and tomato juices, also Mott's Clamato juice.

Add a garnish for great presentation. A few basic garnishes follow: sugar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, maraschino cherries, olives, cocktail onions, celery stalks, orange, lemon, and lime slices or wedges; Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, Angostura bitters, and Cassis. It's not necessary to have all these garnishes on hand all the time. Many you'll find in your kitchen all ready; purchase the rest as the need arises.

You're going to need the tools of the cocktail mixing trade. Again, there's no need to purchase every tool in the mixologist's repertoire, but a few basics make life easier for the home bartender. The mixing tools to get you started are:
Barspoon: The barspoon is used for stirring and measuring ingredients so it's very important to have on hand. It can also be used to crush ingredients before adding them. Made of stainless steel, the barspoon is usually about ten inches long and holds 1/6 ounce of liquid or one teaspoon.

A can/bottle opener is a must. Also a must for a home bar is a good paring knife and cutting board to slice fruit and cut up ingredients. A corkscrew is a must have tool to open bottles of wine. Finding the perfect corkscrew for you means searching the wide array of prices and styles.

A bar isn't complete without a bar measure or jigger. Just pouring in the amount of liquor that you think looks good will not make a delicious drink. It's important to have a stainless steel jigger which is 1 ½ oz or 50 ml on one end with the other end, called a “pony,” holding ¾ oz or 25 ml. A glass jigger generally holds 1 oz or 2 tablespoons.

Don't forget the all important shaker to mix cocktails. There are two styles, the Boston shaker and the Cobbler shaker. The Boston shaker consists of two parts, a glass that holds about 500 ml and a metal container that holds around 900 ml. The two fit snuggly together creating a seal for shaking the ingredients. The Cobbler shaker is actually three pieces: a steel tumbler, a lid, and a small cap that fits over the lid with a built-in strainer. You'll find this shaker at most kitchen shops.

If you decide to go with the Boston shaker you'll need a bar strainer. There are two kinds of strainers, the Julep strainer fits over the glass end of the shaker and the Hawthorne strainer fits over the metal end. Using either of these strainers takes some practice.

You may want to include stir sticks, cocktail napkins, and a large pitcher as part of your bar paraphernalia. Three types of glasses such as the highball glass, the old-fashioned glass, and stemmed cocktail glasses, all basics, are a good start to a collection of glassware.

Setting up a home bar can be simple or as extravagant as you wish. Starting with the bare essentials will help you on your way to being a fun holiday host or hostess. Cheers!