Stock the home bar of your dreams with the right alcohol and tools
Want to create the ultimate home bar but not sure where to start? Let LOCAL Life junior graphic designer, Maddie Batey, a former bartender and owner of many fancy cocktail books, be your spirit guide on this deep dive into the wonderful world of home mixology. By learning a few techniques and surrounding yourself with the proper tools and alcohol, you can create the perfect space to entertain guests and practice your mixology skills.
Glasses: The Sweet 16
Using the correct type of glass for your crafted cocktail isn’t just for presentation. Each type of cocktail glass was designed to enhance the drinking experience. You do not need to own everything listed below. For your home bar, think about the cocktails you most enjoy making, and stock up on frequently used items. Here are 16 types of popular cocktail glasses, along with the cocktails they are perfect for.
Essential tools: Best barware
Having the right tools will set your home bar up for success. While it is tempting to purchase an all-inclusive bar-tool set, those are often cheaply made for looks, not functionality. Get more bang for your buck by purchasing quality items individually, based on your taste and skill level.
Ice Ice Baby: The best cubes for cocktails
There is more than one way to cut an ice cube. The main styles of ice used are block ice, crushed ice and punch ice. If you feel extra adventurous, dry ice can be used for jaw-dropping illusion cocktails.
To be cloudy or not to be cloudy? That is the question.
Your ice at home in the freezer is surrounded by frigid air. This causes the ice cubes to freeze from the outside in, which forces air bubbles and possible impurities into the middle of the cube and freezing last. This results in a clouding of the ice cube. This can also lead to the ice tasting off if food particles get trapped inside. The easiest way to reduce cloudiness in your ice at home is by boiling a pot of water and placing it in ice cube trays. Boiling water can help reduce the amount of oxygen that could get trapped in the ice cube. Bring filtered water to a boil, and let it cool. This might need to be done multiple times to achieve more transparent ice. Then put it in ice cube trays in your freezer. This method won’t yield perfect results, but it may improve the appearance and taste of your ice cubes. For perfection, you would need to invest in a straightforward ice maker, which is unnecessary for starting a home bar.
This type of ice consists of large, two-inch ice cubes typically made with a mold placed in the freezer to avoid any weird flavors slipping into the ice. You can use plastic wrap over an ice mold for extra protection against particles. Use this style of ice for drinks served “up,” such as martinis, daiquiris or cosmopolitans. The shaker needs maybe two or three ice cubes. This style of ice can be made at home with ice molds found in specialty stores or online.
Crushed or Pellet Ice
This style of ice is best for whipping ingredients that will be in juleps or tiki-style drinks. If you do not have access to a crushed ice machine, you can make crushed ice by placing ice cubes in a clean towel and striking it with a saucepan or a mallet. Parker’s sells bags of chewy ice cubes.
Large Cube Ice or Ball Ice
There also are the drinks served over one large cube of block ice like a Manhattan, Negroni or old fashioned. One large cube melts slowly and allows you to enjoy the taste of a spirit before it gets watered down. This style of ice can be made at home with ice molds found in specialty stores or online.
This ice is excellent for creating the illusion of fog for your fall cocktails. It should be stored in a well-insulated container outside like a cooler with the lid only slightly closed. Go for thicker insulation to slow down the evaporation of the ice. Never store it in a sealed container, as the CO2 gas will build up inside. If airtight, the container can explode. Your freezer is too warm, and the low dry ice temperature could cause your fridge to turn off. A 5-pound block of dry ice will evaporate in 24 hours. This type of ice can be found at local stores. Call ahead to make sure your local store has it in stock.
Punch Bowl Ice
For large parties, punches are more manageable for serving your house guests. To keep the bowl cool, you place one large puck of ice. This type of ice can be found at stores, but call ahead to make sure your local store has it in stock.
Essential spirits: The refresh
Now that you understand the tools and techniques, we can discuss some necessities to start your at-home bar. As we said in the beginning, you can gradually add more of these items to your bar, but keep in mind the drinks you will frequently make when choosing your home bar ingredients.
Juices that you might need for some of your staple beverages are lemon, lime, grapefruit, cranberry, orange, tomato and pineapple. All of these can be found at your grocery store. Get the small bottles unless you are entertaining many guests; juice spoils fast once opened.
Bitters are like spices for food but for cocktails. They help keep your drink from falling flat and bring out some of the beverage’s buried flavors. Highly rated ones include:
• Peychaud’s Aromatic bitters
• Angostura orange bitters
• Angostura Aromatic bitters
The central mixers you will want to stock are sour mix, Bloody Mary mix, grenadine, simple syrup, milk, half and half, cream, coffee, tea, club soda, ginger ale, cola, lemon/lime soda, tonic water, ginger beer, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and horseradish. All can be found at the grocery store. Some pre-made mixers also can be found at most liquor stores.
Best base spirits
For the boozy body of the beverages, you will need to run to your local liquor store or favorite distillery to grab a few base spirits. To create an impressive collection, we recommend these highly rated liquors and liqueurs.
Flavorful cordials & liqueurs
Liqueurs are liquors that have been flavored and sweetened. The term is interchangeable with “cordial” except in the U.K., where cordial also can just refer to a sweet, non-alcoholic liquid. Here are a few suggestions for your home bar.