Some feel daunted by the idea of setting up a home bar. Nevertheless it need not be stressful, it just takes a little effort and planning. If you feel your inner child is Tom Cruise in Cocktail (without the scientology) let your inner mixologist out and let your friends enjoy the benefits! By having a plan and slowly adding new elements to your bar, you can expect hours of entertaining fun in the near future.
If you like to entertain, a well-stocked bar is essential. Though going to your neighborhood martini bar or pub can be loads of fun, I’m guessing the most memorable social events you have attended have been at your house or someone’s else’s and the bar played an important role. A well-stocked bar sets the tone for many social events and will add sophistication to your next party or gathering. If you are planning on inviting that special someone over for a night cap, consider that just like cooking a good home cooked meal, serving a well-made elaborate beverage will impress. The art of mixology is alive and well and with your new well stocked bar you will become the social hub for your friends and family.
Where to start:
Decide on what you will be drinking most frequently.
This is going to be your bar so you should enjoy it. You know what you enjoy and also what you will likely be making for your guests. Often people stock a bar for the guests they plan to host. Though a nice thought, you may end up buying supplies you will not use very often. Expensive liquor purchased at the beginning of a new bar for an elaborate cocktail may get used once or twice and then sit unused. You’ll be using the bar most so make sure you have it stocked with things you like to drink.
Start building your bar slowly
Often people try to stock a bar in one trip to the liquor and grocery stores. A party is scheduled and panic sets in, “What about the bar?…” cut to you in the line up wondering if you are spending the month’s grocery budget as the supplies are being run through the register. Your new bar will be a reflection of you so make sure you have what you need. Nothing impresses more than a delicious drink made with confidence. So keep it simple at the beginning since you will likely be making most of the drinks in your new bar. Get the staples first, then you can get more exotic over time.
Quality over quantity
When setting up a new bar it can be tempting to scrimp by purchasing cheaper options of name brand liquors. You wouldn’t be the first person to buy cheap liquor. But don’t do it! The point is to enjoy your new bar. Major brands are the industry leaders for a reason. Budget liquor will make a budget tasting drink, which will fail to impress. By stocking your bar with well-known brands you can replicate or exceed the beverage experience you have drinking at your local bar or favorite restaurant. It may be more expensive to buy name brand liquor for your home bar but it is much cheaper than what you have likely spent at the bar.
Build your bar by throwing a party
A great way to have a memorable night is to have a themed beverage party. This allows you to be prepared and not break the bank too by limiting the ingredients you will need. Nothing is more memorable than sending invites to a martini party or a night of “insert your favorite cocktail here”. Having a themed night also allows you to expand your bar by adding a drink to your repertoire after each gathering.
Alcohol you will need to start:
It’s one of many base spirits for several well-known beverages, having a bottle is a necessity. Gin will come in a number of versions but start with a dry gin. You can added variations later.
Rum is a versatile liquor which is the basis of many cocktails from the exotic to the more mundane. A must-have if you plan on making the ubiquitous rum and coke, to tropical themed drinks. Originating from the Caribbean, molasses is the sugar used to distil this liquor giving it a distinctive flavor. Each region of the Caribbean has its own variation with its own distinctive flavor. Darker rums are stronger and more flavorful. Mild rums are a good choice for cocktail mixing. You can start with one name brand light and dark variety and expand from there. Don’t forget to ask a friend who is travelling if they can bring you back a bottle of locally produced rum. It will likely taste much better than commercially produced domestic varieties and will give you a story to tell at your next party.
Vodka will likely be the most used component of your bar so make sure you are well stocked. Vodka doesn’t have a strong flavor of its own but rather complements the other ingredients in a drink so it is a popular choice for mixed drinks. Colorless without a strong aroma, it is an excellent liquor for mixing. There are many types to choose from the basic to the exotically infused versions. Again, start simple with a well-known brand to ensure you can create a taste version of your favorite drink.
Whiskeys come in many varieties and permutations depending on geographic region. The grain used to distil the liquor is the differentiating factor and will affect the taste of different whiskeys greatly. Whiskey options include Scotch, Bourbon, Canadian whiskey or rye and Irish whiskey to name a few. Having a good bourbon and scotch is a must for your guests who like a stronger tasting drink. A good well aged sipping whiskey served on its own or over ice is an acquired taste but worth considering if you enjoy a nuanced drink.
If your tastes lean towards the tropical, tequila is a must have for your bar. This agave-based drink is the foundation of many drinks. Many varieties are available, but stick to a name brand. They are higher quality and the hangover will not be quite so bad if you accidentally have one to many.
Have a bottle of decent dry red wine and a bottle of white on hand at all times. You can always grab it as a gift if going to someone’s house or can easily whip up a batch of sangria on a hot day if entertaining.
Unless you plan on drink shots all night, you are going to need something to mix your drinks with. The staples include:
Cola of choice
Lemon Lime Soda
Herbs, spices and other things you will need:
flavored salts for the rims of cocktails
Nothing takes a drink to the next level like a fresh, good quality garnish. From the simple addition of a fresh lemon or lime wedge to inclusion of fresh herbs, a good quality garnish will make all the difference to your creation. Things to always have on hand in your bar:
Small pickled onions
Presentation matters. Don’t forget the glassware.
You have spent a lot of effort making a wonderful cocktail, don’t wreck the experience for you guest by serving it in coffee mug. Your glassware is like the frame on a piece of art, make sure it complements the drink you have just created. Stocking your bar with a few staple glasses will make you look like a professional without breaking the bank. Finding affordable glassware online is easy and every glass variety you can imagine is available. Glasses to have on hand to start:
basic wine glasses
martini glasses. *If you serve martinis these are a must. they can also double as serving dishes for deserts for dramatic presentation.
high ball glasses
pint glasses for beer
Tools and equipment:
A few essential tools will be needed immediately for your bar to function properly. Most are already likely in your kitchen drawer but if not they can be easily purchased at minimal cost. Again like glassware, the internet is a great resource. Comparison shopping online can save you tons of money and expand you options for equipment. Tools you will need to start:
Martini shaker and also strainer
Shot glasses for measuring
Mortar and pestle
And finally don’t forget the ice!
Make sure you have plenty of ice before the start of your next social event. Nothing is worse than having to leave your own party to run to the store to buy more ice. make some in your freezer a couple of days in advance so you know it is fresh. You wouldn`t make you morning coffee with water from last year would you!
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