Being a mom doesn’t mean you need to stop having a great time. Once in a while, you also need to loosen up and have fun with your friends just like you did when you were a bachelorette. And it’s easy to do if you have your own home bar. With a home bar, you can easily be a host for a get-together for your friends and family.
If you love entertaining, a properly stocked home bar is a must. Starting it can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to. Here are some tips and some home bar essentials to familiarize yourself with:
1. Start small
Chances are you are not an expert in mixing drinks – you might just love drinking. You don’t have to go out and buy all kinds of liquor and mixers. You might end up having trouble with making the drinks your guests are requesting. If you’re just starting out a home bar, start small, with a few cocktails you’re familiar with, and grow gradually from there. Your guests (your friends or family) will surely have no problem with it; they would even be happy that there’s a new private “bar” they can hang out on! As you get more comfortable mixing drinks, you can expand your menu to include more cocktails. Or before a party, you can ask your invited people about their favorite cocktails, then get the needed ingredients and practice on it. The important thing is to start first with the drinks with sure drinkers.
2. Pick alcohol you enjoy drinking
Don’t be tempted to pick only the spirits that would impress your guests. When you start a home bar, don’t forget that its main customer is you (and your spouse or partner, and your kids if they’re already of legal age). Customize your bar to what you actually drink and mix. It’s the smartest and the best way to stock your bar. Make your bar fit your individual (or family’s) taste and budget. Plan your first cocktail shopping the way you plan your meal shopping. On the long run, you can always discover new recipes and find new distilled spirits to like, plus the types of alcohol your frequent guests like.
3. Get some bar tools
A well-stocked home bar has some useful tools. Plus, you’d look really cool and posh in your own home. Here’s what you need:
- Glassware – The first thing you need to have stock of are some glassware. Get some stem glasses, martini glasses, rocks glasses, highball glasses, beer mugs and perhaps some shot glasses. That’s pretty much all you need.
- Shaker – A classic Boston shaker is enough for your home bar. A good shake will help you mix cocktails better than simply stirring. Plus, when there’s ice on the shaker, the drinks cool quickly.
- Measuring tools – Jiggers are used for measuring ratios of liquids like alcohol, juices, and syrups, but for home bars, an angled measuring cup is enough.
- Corkscrew – Open your bottles of wine and beer with a trusty corkscrew. This one’s a no-brainer.
- Squeezer – You can use any citrus squeezer for your home bar, but a citrus press would be the most helpful, though not necessary.
- Knives – Start with a paring knife for cutting lemons and limes. With it, you can cut the citrus for juicing, pare of bits of their peel for twists and cut wheels and wedges for garnishing. But if you need a larger knife, any chef’s knives you use in the kitchen will do. It can be used for slicing up larger citrus fruits or bigger fruits like pineapples.
- Garnish peeler – If you’re having problems cutting out citrus peel for garnishing, use a garnish peeler.
- Pourer spouts – Avoid splashing whiskey all over your bar countertop by using pourer spouts. This can restrict your every pour and help you control your measurements when mixing up cocktails.
- Strainer – Start by using a Hawthorne strainer for straining your shaken drinks and pouring it into the glasses.
- Ice maker – The ice trays on your freezer can be enough, but sometimes you would need something fancier than cubes for your cocktail drinks. This one’s really up to you.
- Cocktail muddler and mixing spoon – A cocktail muddler gently releases the oils or juices from ingredients. And a cocktail mixing spoon, you know, stirs the drinks.
- Toothpicks and napkins – You probably have these in your kitchen, but stock some for your home bar too. You will need toothpicks for garnishes like olives and onions.
- Cocktail recipe books – Yes, you need cocktail recipe books for your new home bar. Online recipe sites where you can search by name and ingredient are also quite handy.
4. Stock up some essential liquors
At least one bottle of each of the base liquors makes a well-stocked bar. The alcohols will be the foundation of most of your cocktail drinks, so you can be ready to mix up almost any cocktail at a whim. Here are some of the essential liquors you should have:
- Vodka – Vodka is an excellent liquor that doesn’t have a strong color, taste or aroma on its own, making it a very versatile base liquor for more cocktails compared with any other distilled spirit. It can make a lot of drinks from a vodka martini to Bloody Marys and Cosmopolitans. There are also different-flavored and infused vodkas in the market, so stock according to your preferences. Citrus and vanilla vodkas are great as a base, but it’s best to stay away from other flavored vodkas if you like more naturally-infused and mixed cocktails.
- Gin – Gin is a primer spirit for a lot of popular cocktails. For starters, it’s best to start off with a London Dry gin and work from there. This can make everything from a gin and tonic to a dry martini.
- Tequila – Perhaps you already know that margaritas are made of tequilas. If you enjoy margaritas, stock up different kinds of tequilas. But if you plan to stock one tequila only, it’s recommended that you start with silver tequila – it’s the most versatile tequila out there.
- Rum – This tasty liquor is from the Caribbean makes some of the most fun and flavorsome drinks. It’s best to stock up with at least two bottles of rum: one light rum for mixing cocktails like mojitos and daiquiri; and one dark or spiced rum for making punches and tropical or tiki cocktails.
- Whiskey – Some consider whiskey as a gentleman’s drink, but if you enjoy it, then go stock up some of your favorites. Whiskey comes in many different styles, so stocking on whiskey should depend on your personal tastes. There are bourbon, rye Scotch, Canadian, Irish and a lot of different whiskeys out there. If you’re looking for the most versatile and mixable types, go for bourbon and Canadian whiskey.
- Brandy – Brandy is a classic liquor, which is not necessarily essential since a lot of people will not drink or mix it. But if you or anyone you know happen to like brandy and classic cocktails, you will find it very useful.
- Wine and beer – Stock up these staples, in case you have guests who aren’t in the mood to try something fancy and would simply like to drink wine or beer.
5. Stock up some liqueurs
Liqueurs are often used to add to the base spirits as additional flavoring to define a cocktail. These are sweetened spirits with different oils and extracts and flavors, which can range from orange to coffee. They can be found in different creative cocktails, and they make the drink extra special. Start with the basics – liqueurs can last for quite a long time – and gradually add to your collection as you see which can be useful.
Common (and delicious) liqueurs that can be surely useful for your home bar include Amaretto, Coffee Liqueur, Irish Cream, Orange Liqueur, Chambord, Cointreau, crème de Cassis, crème de menthe, Kahlua and Schnapps.
6. Stock up essential non-alcoholic mixers
The non-alcoholic liquids you add to your liquor add flavor and volume to your cocktail drinks. A lot of them can be easily found in your kitchen or the store near you. Here’s what you can use as mixers for your cocktail drinks:
- Ice – Ice will be used in most of your drinks, either while mixing or being in the glass itself.
- Juices – These are easy to buy as you can find them easily on your trips to the supermarket. It is recommended to use fresh juices, but for everyday drinking, you can use ready-to-drink juices for convenience. Popular juices added up to cocktails include lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, pineapple, cranberry, and tomato.
- Soda – Besides juice, sodas are basic mixers to any cocktail drinks. Typical sodas mixed with drinks are cola, diet cola, club soda, tonic water, Sprite or 7-Up, lemon or lime soda, and ginger ale. You can also find craft sodas to upgrade your drinks.
- Bitters – Bitters are like cooking spices for your cocktail drinks. They are extracts that enhance the flavor or bring aroma to your drinks. A bottle of each bitter can last for years.
- Simple syrup – The best way to sweeten up cocktails is using simple syrup. It’s very easy to make – just mix sugar and hot water and there you have it.
- Grenadine – Grenadine is the red syrup that is used for a lot of great drinks. You can buy it or make it yourself.
- Coffee – If you have a coffee maker that creates rich and strong brewed coffee, you will have no problem making coffee cocktails.
- Tea – There are a lot of great hot and cold tea cocktails you can make. Stock up some black tea as they tend to mix best.
- Milk, half and half or cream – Just buy these ones as needed (a plus for you if you’re already using these for your everyday shenanigans) as these have limited shelf life. These are useful for comforting cocktail drinks.
7. Stock up some garnishes
You don’t need to add a garnish for every drink you’re going to make, but they do make it more special. They add a bit of decorative flair to the drinks and gives you something to chew and nibble on as you sip your drink. So if you’re having a party or if you simply want to impress your guests, stock up some garnishing ingredients in your fridge. Here are some of the most common garnishes for cocktails, which most can be easily found in your kitchen or your supermarket shopping list.
- Cocktail onions
- Mint leaves
- Celery or pickles
- Tabasco sauce
- Grated nutmeg
- Whipped cream
8. Make sure you have storage
As you went on through this list, you have probably wondered, “Where am I going to keep all these?” Remember our first tip, which is to start small. If you’re living in a condo or a small apartment, keep a small cabinet as a bar and keep your garnishes and mixers in your fridge. And you don’t have to always keep it stocked – there’s no need to have gallons of lime juice and dozens of lemons on hand if you’re not expecting a party.
A kitchen island can easily serve as your home bar, where you can store your liquor, serve and prepare your drinks. It also comes with bar stools automatically. But if you want something more distinguishable (given that you have the space for it), you can invest in a mini bar or a cocktail cabinet. These are nice pieces of furniture that can easily become a gathering point in your home. These can also store your alcohol, your glassware, and tools. If you’re feeling fancier, you can have a display shelf for your liquor to show off your collection.