Creating your own bar at home can be an exciting experience, especially if you love cocktails and like having friends and family over all the time. With the holidays just around the corner, we want to make sure you have all the information you need to build and stock your home bar with the best spirits, mixers, bitters, syrups, and garnishes.
We have gathered the best advice from expert mixologists, spirit distillers, professional bartenders, and cocktail makers, to bring you the ultimate advice for you to build a well-stocked bar and be a success, not only in the upcoming holiday season but in all your future gatherings at home.
So, what are the basic liquor bottles you want to stock your home bar?
Stocking a home bar is a good way to ensure you always have a few quality bottles ready to go when you want a drink or when guests arrive. It’s helpful to start with staple base spirits and then build out from there, adding cocktail modifiers or liqueurs that increase your drink-making repertoire.
The basic spirit styles include whiskey, brandy, gin, vodka, rum, and tequila, but within those categories are multiple subcategories, and the possibilities are endless. So, when in doubt, start with bottles you already enjoy drinking.
Stocking a couple of different whiskeys is always a good bet. For example, a bottle of bourbon and a bottle of scotch. Next, add a bottle of dry gin and vodka, which are popular calls in cocktails. Blanco tequila is great for Margaritas, while reposado and anejo tequilas are better for sipping. Think about how you’ll use the tequila and make your decision from there. Rum works well in cocktails, but aged rums are also good for sipping, and a high-quality cognac or other brandy makes for classy nightcaps.
After your base spirits are stocked, consider adding vermouth to your home bar. Dry vermouth is necessary for Martinis, while sweet vermouth is a vital component of Manhattans. Certain liqueurs like Campari and Aperol increase your cocktail-making options to include classics like the Negroni gin, sweet vermouth, Campari and the Aperol Spritz Aperol, sparkling wine, club soda. Digestifs like Fernet-Branca and Amaro Montenegro are fun after-dinner drinks, though their bitter profiles may turn off some drinkers unused to strong, herbal flavors. Anything in the latter categories is more nice-to-have than mandatory, but if you enjoy drinking a wide variety of spirits and liqueurs, or if you entertain often, it can’t hurt to keep a few interesting bottles on hand. Lastly, supplement your bar with tonic, club soda, and ginger beer.
These simple mixers make easy highballs, like a Vodka Soda or Gin Tonic, and can also be offered to anyone who’s abstaining from alcohol. When you’re just starting out on the home bar journey, start by buying what YOU like. Your home bar should be a direct reflection of you and your tastes, not what you think you should buy.
Once you have your favorites in stock, you can move on to the cocktails you’ve always wanted to make at home. For liquors you’re unfamiliar with, buy small bottles and build as you go. Don’t overlook the small 2 oz. bottles in your local liquor store. These are an excellent and affordable way to try something new or pick up a flavored spirit to use in a new cocktail recipe.
Round out your home bar collection with a combination of orange liqueurs, aromatic bitters. Add to that a selection of mixers like club soda, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, ginger beer and top it off with fresh citrus including lemons, limes and grapefruit.
Finally, be sure to have lots of ice on hand when making drinks. Use plenty of ice when shaking or stirring a cocktail, and if a recipe calls for the drink to be served over ice, fill your glass with ice before pouring in the drink. But, if you’re using Siligrams personalized ice cube trays to make your ice, pour your drink first and then place your ice cube in the glass.