One of the most common questions I get is, “What do I need in my home bar?” I’ve been getting a lot more of these questions lately since I started hosting my nightly virtual happy hour on Instagram. In the interest of taking some of the guesswork out of the art of building a well-curated home bar, I offer you this comprehensive post outlining everything you need.
There are two key components to building your own alcoholic Shangri-La: the rights tools and the right ingredients. Both are essential in consistently delivering well-crafted cocktails.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something through some of the links in this post, you won’t pay a penny more, but we’ll get a small commission, which helps keep the bar stocked.
With a good kit, you can ensure precision in your measurements (no more eyeballing it), manage dilution, achieve silky or frothy textures, get the right ice for each drink, and present your finished creation in gallery-worthy glassware.
Here are the elements I consider essential in a well-equipped home bar, in order of importance:
Different cocktails call for different glassware. In the same way that glassware is specifically designed for different types of wine and beer, cocktail glasses are designed around the consideration of whether or not your drink involves ice, if it’s a short drink or a long drink, and if it involves sparkling wine or not.
Here are the essentials:
We live in a time that celebrates crystal clear ice cubes and the showmanship of watching bartenders carve huge blocks of ice into diamonds or other fantastic shapes. These sorts of things can be hard to achieve at home, but not impossible.
If you want to achieve that enviable clear ice, often served at most cocktail bars, boil the water first to release any dissolved gases in your tap water and place the boiled water into ice molds inside the freezer while still hot.
Over time, your ice will absorb the flavours from any other food in your freezer so consider wrapping your ice trays in plastic wrap if you don’t burn through ice as quickly as I do. Aside from looking good, clear ice is denser and more structurally sound than cloudy ice, and it will break apart less quickly when shaken.
Here are some recommended ice trays for all your cocktail needs:
People often ask me, “What bottles should I have in my home bar?” The answer to that question will vary from person to person. Part of it depends on what you like to drink and what you like to serve. If you want to be prepared to serve most of the classics, on demand, I consider there to be 10 or 11 essential bottles.
Looking to beef up on your cocktail knowledge further? Here are some of my favourite resources for beefing up my booze know-how and discovering new recipes I want to try: