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How to Stock Your Home Bar

Updated on December 31, 2012

Small Home Bars Are A Great Feature Of Any Man Cave

It is easy to set up a small home bar if you know what you need.
It is easy to set up a small home bar if you know what you need. | Source

How To Stock Your Home Bar

Well, isn't that an easy answer? I would think you would say "any way I want too...". I think most of us would agree on that but what does it really mean? What are the things you need to have in your home bar in order to make some great drinks? The answers to those and other questions you may be asking yourself can be a little more complicated. Rest assured that I am here to help solve this problem.

I have worked for may years as a cook, waiter, bar tender, chef and dining room manager. In my years of service I have learned what it takes to operate a successful bar, one that is functional as well as fashionable. It is easy to recreate this atmosphere at home and do it in a way that is not cheesy or overblown. A fancy ice bucket and a pair of glasses does not make a home bar. You can produce a skillful and artful drink presentation without gimmicky items with only a few tools, a couple of garnishes and properly stocked assortment of spirits.

The Home Bartender: Garnishes

  • Cherries - Maraschino Cherries have been a staple of classic cocktails for decades. They add a colorful twist to any drink and are an ingredient of drinks like the Old Fashioned.
  • Limes - Limes, lime juice and lime twists can be found in drinks ranging from the Mai Tai to a Hendricks Martini. Choose plump, firm, bright green limes for juice, wedges and twists.
  • Lemons - Lemons are as prevalent in cocktail making as limes. Twists are great additions to vodka and gin martinis while the juice is found in margarita's, Tom Collins and Lemon Drops. You will need juice, wedges and twists.
  • Oranges - The juice of oranges is a primary ingredient in Screwdrivers and margaritas. Wedges are good with fruity cocktails, yeasty beers and sometimes whiskey.
  • Twists - These are corkscrew shaped garnishes made from the peels of lemons, limes and oranges. Make them with the channel knife mentioned under the tools.
  • Olives, stuffed olives- This is the classic garnish for martinis. The standard is for green olives stuffed with pimientos but there are many kinds of stuffed olives that make good garnishes. Look for blue cheese and jalapeno olives as well as the standard.
  • Spices, cloves, cinamon, allspice - Spices are good for making hot drinks like toddies and cider with rum. They also make good garnishes on the top of drinks, especially desert drinks topped with whipped cream.
  • Chocolate, syrup, shavings - Use these for making chocolate martinis and other dessert creations as well as coffee drinks.
  • Whipped Cream - This is a great addition to dessert and coffee drinks and can turn a cocktail into liquid dessert.

Tools For The Well Stocked Home Bartender

  • Shakers - These are the classic shiny steel containers used to mix and shake cocktails. Nothing is more iconic to stylish bartending than a good shaker.
  • Mixing Glass - This is a clear glass that is used to cover the shaker when shaking, or chilling, cocktails. It can be a pint glass or any other glass that fits into the shaker and is easily removed.
  • Strainer - This is the funky tool in everyones drawer that few know how to use. It is a flattish piece, usually aluminum, with a spring at one end, you know what I'm talking about. It's actual function is to cover the mouth of the shaker or mixing glass and strain the ice from cocktails that are served "up".
  • Stirring Spoon - This is a long handled metal spoon, usually with a twist in the middle. It is used for adding ingredients and stirring cocktails to chill them. Remember the classic line "shaken, not stirred"?
  • Beverage Napkins - A must have for serious home bartenders. This adds a classy touch and prevents wet rings on bar and table tops as wells as on your guests. White is standard but black is classic too. You can even use different colors to match the occasion.
  • Channel Knife - This is a tool from the kitchen but my preferred way to make twists of lemon or lime rinds. It comes in different models but all work effectively to cut beautiful twists from any citrus and a lot of other fruits as well.
  • Toothpicks, Picks, Frills - These are used to hold garnishes like olives, cherries or jalapeno slices. They can be as simple as toothpicks or as fancy as organic bamboo knots with pick ends.
  • Paring knife - This is good for cutting lemon and lime garnishes and many other small tasks around the home bar.
  • Small Cutting Board - A small cutting board is easier to move around than a big one and all you need for cutting and preparing cocktail garnishes.
  • Serving Glasses - You will need a variety of serving glasses. The basics would be pint glasses, collins glasses, wine glasses, highball glasses and shot glasses.
  • Tray and Garnish Tray - A couple of trays will be useful. First you will need a small condiment tray to hold your garnishes like olives, lemons and limes. Second a serving tray is handy for serving and preparing drinks at home, especially is you don't have a bar.

How To Make A Perfect Cosmopolitan

Basic Liqueurs For The Home Bartender

  • Triple Sec - This is lime flavored liqueur and is good in margaritas, cosmopolitans and sours.
  • Creme De Cacao - There are different kinds of this, clear, white and dark but all bring a delicious chocolate flavor to drinks.
  • Vermouth - This is actually a wine and can be found wherever you buy wine. It is used in martinis, Manhattans and some other classic cocktails. It comes in two varieties, sweet and dry.

Standard Mixes For The Home Bartender

  • Orange Juice
  • Cranberry Juice
  • Sour Mix
  • Pineapple Juice
  • Tonic Water
  • Soda Water
  • Cola, and Diet Cola
  • Sprite, Lemon Lime or Citrus
  • Ginger Ale, Ginger Beer
  • Grenadine Or Pomegranate Syrup
  • Coco Lopez Or Other Sweet Coconut Cream/Milk

Basic Spirits For The Home Bar

  • Whiskey- This is a brown liquor, usually made from wheat, barley, rye, corn or a blend of grains. There are a wide variety of whiskey's, all with their own unique characteristics. These include Irish Whiskey, Scotch Whiskey, Bourbon, Canadian Whiskey and things like single barrel and blended whiskey. The smoothest and easiest to drink is Irish Whiskey. Bourbon has been aged in charred oak barrels and contains a certain percentage of corn. Scotch is made with grains smoked with peat moss which gives it a sharp bite and lingering flavor.
  • Rum- Is a liquor which may be brown or clear and may come aged or not. Rum is made from mollases and cane sugar and has a sweet flavor that blends well with cocktails. Some dark varieties like Myers include an addition of molasses after distilling to enhance the flavor and color. Aged rums can be very smooth and are often sipped, served over ice with a slice of lime. My favorite rum drink is the Dark And Stormy, dark rum with sharp ginger beer and lime juice. It'll Cure Wot Ailes Ye!
  • Vodka- This is a neutral distilled spirit that can be made from grain or potatoes. It is especially popular in eastern Europe where many great varieties originate. Vodka is also popular in other parts of the world and great varieties are made in Poland, England, Holland, France and the US. Vodka is the base liquor for a wide variety of drinks and the one you will most likely go through the quickest in your home bar (not counting whatever it is you prefer to drink, of course).
  • Tequila- This spirit from south of the border is the root of many a drunken adventure. Made from the root of the agave plant it can come in aged, rested or fresher varieties and also can be clear or dark. The best and smoothest tequila's will come as Reposado, Anejo or Extra Anejo, meaning rested for at least two months, rested for more than 2 months but less than 2 years or longer than 2 years. Tequila is usually served as a shot, chilled or not, or in margaritas. My favorite tequila shot is called a Chupacabra, this is a shot of delicious chilled tequila with a dash of hot sauce instead of salt.
  • Gin - Gin is a aromatic liquor made by infusing a neutral spirit with botanical extracts. A primary flavor of gin is juniper which gives it its characteristic flavor. Some popular gin brands include Tanqueray, Gordons and Hendricks. Gin is good in martinis and cocktails like the St. Charles.

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