Here’s Everything You Need to Build Your First Home Bar

home bar essentials

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There has never been a better time to drink at home. Because at this time, home is one of scant locations where you actually can drink. That being the case, there has never been a better time to build a home bar rig for yourself that passes muster. No straining martinis through a pasta colander. No sipping margaritas from Red Sox memorabilia cups hearkening back to the 2004 World Series. It is finally time to learn the difference between a coupe and a Collins. It is time to invest in good ice, because ice is a vital cocktail ingredient in itself. It is time to purchase the tools that’ll teach you the skills that’ll last you a lifetime of home-stirred Negronis.

Below you’ll find the tools, glassware, and mixers you’ll need to put together a decent setup, along with pointers on how to use them all. If you want to get into smoke cloches and Moscow Mule mugs, do it after. For now, stick to the home bar basics (and consider memorizing a classic cocktail recipe or two). Your next drink is very close at hand.

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Rocks Glasses

Paris on the Rocks 9.5 oz Glasses (Set of 6)

Schott Zwiesel surlatable.com

$48.00

Use rocks glasses when you want to muddle ingredients in the serving glass, and as a general rule for drinks served over ice balls or cubes. Aim for 6 to 10 ounces. If you think you need a double, it means you’re drinking two cocktails at a time. Ice melts too quickly for that and dilutes the drink beyond what recipes intend, so buy a single and make the second drink when number one is gone. Cocktails are meant to be enjoyed quickly, after all. 

Example drinks: Old-Fashioned, Negroni, Margarita

Collins Glasses

Buswell 12 oz Collins Glasses (Set of 6)

Cocktail Kingdom amazon.com

$24.99

The Collins glass is so closely related to the Highball glass, which is slightly wider and squatter, that you only need one or the other. To have both is decidedly expert-level. Because drinks fit for a Collins or Highball glass are served with lots of ice, these should hold 10 to 12 ounces. 

Example drinks: Gin & Tonic, Tom Collins (get it?), Mai Tai

Coupe Glasses

Leopold 6 oz Coupe Glasses (Set of 6)

Cocktail Kingdom amazon.com

$39.99

Coupes are historically 6 to 8 ounces, and are used for drinks served without ice. After straining the cocktail into the glass, the liquid should settle just below the rim. These can replace martini glasses, which spill far easily to be worth buying for your home bar.

Example drinks: Daiquiri, Sidecar, Manhattan

A Mixing Glass

Japanese-Style 750 ml Mixing Glass

Kotai amazon.com

$49.50

$35.00 (29% off)

At least a half-liter mixing glass is suitable. A decent glass will be thick enough that a metal bar spoon banging around inside won’t shatter it. Just make sure it has a pour spout so that when you serve the drink, you empty it all into a glass and not onto the rug.

A Bar Spoon

Charles Joly 12.5-inch Bar Spoon

Crafthouse by Fortessa amazon.com

$14.95

Sometimes used as a measurement for syrupy ingredients—e.g. “one bar spoon of pomegranate syrup”—its main purpose is to stir drinks; around 12.5 inches is the standard length for your standard-sized mixing glass. Too short and your sleeve cuffs will be taking alcohol baths. Too long and you’ll look like Pee-wee Herman mixing a drink.

A Shaker

Two-Piece Boston Shaker Set

A Bar Above amazon.com

$26.95

Buy the Boston type, in which you hold together two parts that look like metal pint glasses. You can make all shaken drinks in these. Skip the cobbler-type with the built-in strainer and cap. It can’t do anything better than the Boston shaker, except look a little cooler.

A Strainer

Hawthorne Cocktail Strainer

A Bar Above amazon.com

$19.99

$16.99 (15% off)

The Hawthorne is your go-to tool for separating cocktails from extraneous ice and ingredient remnants as you pour from a mixing glass or shaker. It fits against the rim of the mixing glass like a lid.

Jiggers

Japanese-Style Jigger (1 x 2 oz)

Barfly amazon.com

$9.00

Japanese jiggers weren’t originally Japanese, but when Western bartenders rediscovered their Japanese counterparts using them in the 2000s, they fell back in love with the two-sided measuring tools. They have different capacities on each end, so you can buy half as many as you’d otherwise need. First get a 1-ounce x 2-ounce jigger.

Japanese-Style Jigger (1/2 x 3/4 oz)

Barfly amazon.com

$8.00

And buy a 1/2-ounce x 3/4-ounce jigger while you’re at it.

Ice Trays

1.25-inch Ice Mold Freezer Trays

Tovolo amazon.com

$17.99

Unless you’re using a mallet and ice pick to chip your own cubes, spring for the ice trays. The 1.25-inch option is standard for ice used in mixing a cocktail.

Spherical Ice Molds

Peak 2-inch Sphere Ice Mold

W&P amazon.com

$17.00

For serving a cocktail or straight spirit over ice, buy the 2-inch ice ball mold; spheres melt slower than 2-inch cubes, and take longer to dilute your drink. Get two trays, because unless you’re Canadian, you can never have too much ice. (Someday, you might even buy a Wintersmiths Phantom ice maker, the Bugatti of ice makers.)

A Juicer

2-in-1 Citrus Juicer

OXO bedbathandbeyond.com

$14.99

Get a juicer for fresh lime and lemon juice, which go into many cocktail recipes. Fresh is key; bottled lime and lemon juice does not taste as good. Get a two-part setup that can handle oranges, too. The more crush, the better.

A Mesh Strainer

Conical Mesh Strainer

RSVP International amazon.com

$9.45

Occasionally you need to filter out certain ingredient debris that slips past an ordinary strainer, like fruit shards and egg. The fine mesh strainer is held over the serving glass, and the ingredients are poured through. You won’t use it often, but when you need to, it’ll be the only thing that works.

A Muddler

8-inch Unvarnished Wooden Muddler

Cocktailor amazon.com

$5.99

$3.99 (33% off)

A muddler crushes tasty things to unlock their goodness, like mint leaves or sugar cubes. Avoid anything varnished or otherwise coated. It’ll come off in your drinks, and poisoning people has been frowned upon in the cocktail world since at least the 1930s.

Staple Spirits

ReserveBar Spirits

reservebar.com

The world’s best bars don’t use ultra-expensive base spirits. They use Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Famous Grouse Blended Scotch, Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey, Plymouth Gin, Bacardi 8 Rum, Rittenhouse Bonded Rye, and Belvedere Vodka—the good stuff. (Spare everyone the histrionics over vodka being an inferior replacement for gin. Whether you drink it or not, you will definitely serve people who prefer vodka, so stock it.) 

If these bottles don’t suit, we’ve got reliable brand guides for the best bottles of bourbon, Irish whiskey, tequila, rum, gin, and rye. Give ’em a look. 

Staple Mixers: Tonic

Q Mixers Tonic Water (24 Bottles)

amazon.com

$35.67

Now we get into mixers, the ingredients that turn mere liquor into great cocktails. First, tonic. Shop Q Mixers or Fever-Tree for tonic; good tonic water is crucial.

Staple Mixers: Club Soda

Fever-Tree Club Soda (24 Cans)

amazon.com

$24.99

Soda water is one area you can be not-picky; Fever-Tree, Q Mixers, Perrier, Topo Chico, Whole Foods 365, whatever gets the job done. 

Staple Mixers: Bitters

Angostura Aromatic Bitters

amazon.com

$10.99

From tonic and soda, branch out into bitters, simple syrup, and so on, based on the drinks you want to make. Angostura is the most-used bitters in classic cocktails (including the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned), though craft bitters companies are producing all kinds of interesting herbal concoctions to dash into a drink. Simple syrup, a 50-50 mixture of reduced cane sugar and water, is another base ingredient. Don’t buy it, make it. We just gave you the recipe.

The next step would be to get both a dry and sweet vermouth, an Italian aperitif (like Campari), some interesting liqueurs (Cointreau and Marashino, for example)… here, the ingredient permutations are unending. But stocking these categories goes above and beyond the call of duty for a beginner’s home bar. 

Cocktail Books

‘Cocktail Codex’

By Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, and David Kaplan amazon.com

$40.00

$26.85 (33% off)

It never hurts to consult the experts. And these guys, the team behind the famed bar Death & Co., are definitely experts. Cocktail Codex gives you a solid introduction on how to mix drinks, then teaches you how to branch out from the basics. Other books to check out include The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan (a modern classic); The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock (a true classic), Tiki by Shannon Mustipher (a tiki bible), and The Craft Cocktail Party by Julie Reiner (for hosting).

MasterClass Mixology Online Course

Lynnette Marrero & Ryan Chetiyawardana masterclass.com

$180.00

Speaking of experts. If you’re game to buy a year-long MasterClass subscription (MasterClass taps celebrity-experts to teach online courses on the topics that made them famous), then you’ll get access to this very thorough, 17-class course on mixing cocktails at home. Seeing it on a screen is believing.

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Source : Esquire