If you love hosting friends at your home, a well stocked home bar is a must-have. Being able to mix a drink for friends or a date is sure to impress. Set up a bar with some chic barware and a good liquor cabinet and you’ll be impressing your buddies in no time.
The first thing you need is somewhere to set up the bar. You could invest in a bar cabinet or a bar cart. Bar carts are very popular, and have the advantage of being mobile, so you can move the bar around easily during parties. If you’re on a tighter budget, or don’t have the room for a new piece of furniture, you can improvise with other furniture. A console table, dresser or low bookcase can all work just as well. If you’re tight on space, find somewhere to put a smart tray on top of a table and stock that as your bar.
If you’re going to be mixing drinks, you’re going to need the right tools. Start with the essentials first and work up to more advanced cocktails. At a minimum, you’ll need a bottle opener, a corkscrew and a spirit measure. For cocktails, you’ll need a cocktail shaker, a strainer, a muddler and a bar spoon.
You’re going to need glasses to serve your drinks in. A range of glasses is good, as different drinks work best in different kinds of glassware. Start with tumblers, a couple of different shapes of cocktail glass, flutes, highballs and wine glasses. If you drink gin, a set of large gin goblets can also double up as a glass for red wine. If you’re a beer drinker, you’ll want pint glasses. For parties, you could add a pitcher and shot glasses too.
Think about the sort of drinks you enjoy most, and what spirits are most often used as a base for cocktails. Keep stock of foundation spirits that will help you create a range of drinks. Don’t try and fill the bat at once. Pick up good quality spirits as you see them and fill the bar gradually to spread the cost. A good range to have is gin, whisky, white and dark rum and vodka. Tequila is a good option too for cocktail making. You can add more unusual spirits later; keep an eye out for spirits that look interesting. Some liqueurs or flavoured gins and vodkas are a fun addition for more unusual serves. For cocktails, pick up some bitters as well. Bitters feature in a lot of cocktails and you’ll use them more than you think.
What good is a bar without anything to mix your drinks with? Get a range of mixers for regular drink serves, and for cocktails. Have on hand a range of fruit juices (orange and grapefruit are common in cocktails), tonic and soda waters, and then add things like ginger beer, cola, lemonade or ginger ale. You could also keep tomato juice if you enjoy a Bloody Mary. Try and buy mixers you’d be drinking anyway, to avoid waste.
If you’re new to cocktail making, a few go-to recipes is a great idea. Learn a few basics to start you off, and you can learn more recipes along the way. You could start with learning to make your own favourite cocktails, and then add some of your friends’ favourites to your repertoire. If you’re not sure where to start, a site like The Drink Mixer Club is a great place to begin. You can search the ingredients you have in and see what recipes you can make. You can also search by cocktail if you know you love a drink and don’t know what goes into it.
Give your cocktails a finishing flair with some simple garnishes. Keep lemons and limes in the fridge for cutting wedges for drinks. Sugar can be used in a lot of cocktails. Mint, peppercorns, berries and olives can also go into many drinks as a garnish. If you’re concerned about not using fresh ingredients fast enough, buy in a small amount and freeze garnishes like herbs and fruits in a little water in an ice cube tray. You can add flavour with the ice you’d be using anyway and not worry about wasting fresh ingredients.