If stocking a bar feels expensive and intimidating, fear not. With a few common liquors, mixers and tools, you can make a grander variety of drinks than will likely ever be required of you. Whether you're hosting the whole family for the holidays, friends for an intimate dinner party, or simply imbibing to relax on a weeknight, a well-stocked bar will ensure you're ready for wherever the evening takes you.
LIQUOR + WINE
Start with the basics (below) and add others as your preferences (or guests) dictate. There are many brands and price points of each to choose from, which is why it's hard to get a consensus on what's "best," so do a little taste testing and drink what you like.
Vodka / Vodka does much of a bar's heavy lifting. It's a key component to many favorites, including Martinis, Moscow Mules, Gimlets, Screwdrivers and fruit-based punches.
Whiskey / Great on the rocks. Also essential for Manhattans, Whiskey Sours, Old Fashioneds, Hot Toddies, and Mint Juleps. If you get confused like we do, remember: Scotch is (malted barley) Whiskey from Scotland, Bourbon is (corn) Whiskey from Kentucky.
Gin / Resist your temptation to leave it off your list - Gin is the bar's unsung hero. Many amazing drinks make gin the star, including French 75s, Gin and Tonics, Martinis, Negronis, South Sides, fizzes and spritzers.
Rum / No beach chair setup is complete without a Rum drink! Which is why it's great that there are so many options... would you like a Pina Colada, Rum Punch, Mojito, Daiquiri, Hurricane, Dark and Stormy, or Mai Tai to go with your paradise dream?
Tequila / There are so many ways to mix a Margarita, why bother with any other tequila-based cocktail? One word: Paloma. Trust us.
Wine / It's a great idea to have both red and white on-hand as guests may prefer one over the other. The most popular whites include Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay; for reds try a Pinot Noir, Malbec, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.
These little dandies - alcoholic or not - will turn the liquors above into a proper mixed drink. Time to say goodbye to flavored sodas. Elevate your game and treat yo self.
Fruit & Herbs / Recipes call for all sorts of garnishes and mix-ins; these are some common ones that are easy to keep on-hand. Orange, lime and lemon will put the finishing touch on everything from beers to spritzers. Cherries top off Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and Whiskey Sours. And mint is essential for a good mojito.
Seltzer & Tonic Water / Add fizz without sugar. Seltzer Water (often used interchangeably with Club Soda and Mineral Water) is virtually flavorless, while Tonic Water has a bitter taste and is well-suited for Gin.
Cointreau / Notice we did not say "orange flavored liquor." This is one occasion where it's worth ponying up a little extra dough for the good stuff. It's worth it. Essential for the Sidecar and a delicious addition to Margaritas, Sangria and even Martinis.
Sweet & Dry Vermouth / Vermouth is central to many classic cocktails. Martinis call for Dry Vermouth, while Manhattans and Negronis both use sweet.
Bitters / A "botanically-infused alcoholic mixture" (source) used in Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and Brandy Sours.
Fruit Juice / Orange and cranberry juice are most common, but peach, pear and pineapple are useful for specialty mimosas and fruity concoctions, as well. Opt for fresh, no-sugar-added juice when available.
Ginger Beer / It's surrounded by misconceptions, so let's set the record straight: Ginger Beer is a non-alcoholic carbonated beverage "produced by the natural fermentation of prepared ginger spice, yeast and sugar." (Source.) Essential for both the Dark and Stormy and Moscow Mule.
Start with highballs, double old fashioneds and one type of wine glass. Round out your cabinet with red wine, martini and champagne glasses as your budget allows. The glasses below are our favorites for style and size, but we'll admit: they're not the cheapest. If you're on a budget or simply don't want to fret over broken glasses, head to IKEA. They have wonderful options at gang-busters prices.
We're absolutely obsessed with shape of this flute. From brunch-time mimosas to bubbly with birthday cake, these will fit the bill. Cel-e-brate good times, come on!
Schott Zwiesel Pure Champagne Flutes, Williams Sonoma, Set of Six, $84
Let's be clear: you can absolutely jerry rig your way to a great cocktail without the help of any of these gadgets and accessories. But as is the case with much in life, making drinks is easier when you have the right tools. These are the best.
Function, meet form. Rabbit Corkscrews have a great rep for a reason - they work and last. Worth a little extra. Plus, this one's easy on the eyes.
Knock it all out at once... stir spoon, strainer, ice tongs, bottle opener, and jigger are all (perhaps more than) you need to whip up a drink. Strainers help keep organic matter (mint leaves, for example) out of the final product. And using a jigger to measure is a great idea... especially after you've had one too many.
If you've ever made a margarita from scratch, you know that pressing limes takes foreeeevvveeer. Get that drink to your lips faster with a little help from this workhorse.
If you don't have an ice bucket, a bowl or other vessel will certainly do. But if your budget allows, take the plunge. Ice buckets keep ice on hand while mixing drinks and wine chilled when it's table-side.
Have an idea to share with us about this topic? We'd love to hear from you. Contact us.