Your Guide to Creating a Home Bar Operation

Building Your Bar 

 

Party purveyors and epic entertainers unite! Hosting a top-notch gathering – no matter how big or small – can take a lot of time, money, and effort. Being able to anticipate your guests’ needs and wants doesn’t come easily, but you can make sure you’re able to serve up visitors’ preferred cocktails by having a well-stocked spirit station. Read on to learn how to gradually create a home bar operation and begin your journey as a budding bartender. 

 

By Christian Davenport

Setup

 

The first thing you’ll want to think about when establishing your home bar is its location. While a built-in wet bar is great, if you don’t have one in your home, there are plenty of other options. Furniture such as sideboards, buffets, and armoires can be easily converted into a one-of-a-kind serving station, and the possibilities to match it to your personal style are endless. If you’re looking to make the most of your space, a bar cart can accommodate the necessities in a fraction of the room. Regardless of what you choose for home base, having your bar in or near where you entertain is a must. Also, work to make sure your spirits are not getting direct sunlight in order to preserve flavor and taste.  

 

stacked glassware for building an at home bar

 

Glassware

 

 

Before you’re able to perfect the dirty martini or a French take on the sidecar, you’ll have to have a glass to serve it up in. Like with everything else in building out a bar, having a full suite of glassware will take time and money. Wine glasses are some of the most versatile vessels, so a decent set of these should take top priority. After that, establishing a collection of highball or Collins, rocks, martini or coupe, and pint glasses will ensure most of your bases are covered. For the majority of entertainers, six to eight glasses of each type will be sufficient. After you’ve built out the first stage of glassware, you can focus on other popular options such as flutes, mule mugs, and poco grande glasses.

 

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Barware

 

Like with glassware, having just a few staples can go a long way when it comes to barware. Regardless of the types of drinks that rule your repertoire, every home bartender will make good use of a mixing glass, shaker, strainer, jigger, bar spoon, and hand juicer. For botanical and fruit lovers, a muddler will come in handy, and wine connoisseurs wouldn’t dare be caught without a high-quality corkscrew. Other items that you may want to stock up on include an ice bucket, ice bag and mallet, picks, a peeler, silicone ice trays, and an aerator or decanter. When purchasing these items, you’ll want to make sure you try to balance quality with pieces that are easy on the eyes. Start by looking at restaurant or bar supply stores because if products are good enough for commercial use, they’ll be good enough for your home bar!

 

Spirits

 

There are countless types of alcohol out there, and new variations emerge each day. So which spirits do you focus on as a home bartender? The answer is all of them! While your home bar setup needs to reflect your personal taste and preferences, it is also about entertaining others, so you’ll need to be equipped to deliver on a variety of penchants. To start, about half a dozen spirits and a few trusted mixers will suffice. Build a good foundation by acquiring a high-quality gin, vodka, bourbon, tequila, and white rum. Once that has been established, up the ante by adding spirits such as rye whiskey or scotch. Most experts suggest buying the best you can afford when it comes to base spirits, and many home bartenders find success in homing in on one drink per month. After purchasing all of the spirits and modifiers for a dozen drinks over the course of a year, you’ll have an impressive liquor lineup before you know it.

 

Mixers & Liqueurs

 

In order to make a stunning cocktail creation – or any cocktail for that matter – you’ll also need to invest in mixers and liqueurs. A well-balanced drink will combine the right forms of spirits, sugar, water, and bitters, but finding where to start can be daunting. For bitters, opt for the basic aromatic and orange varieties, and get more nuanced as your cocktail game evolves. Carbonated beverages such as cola, ginger beer, and tonic water are great to have on hand, and professionals will often tout glass over plastic or cans for its ability to better preserve bubbles. Other essential modifiers include vermouth, amaro, and orange liqueur. Once you add these three bottles to a foundation of base spirits, you’ll be able to create dozens of classics including the martini, old fashioned, negroni, Manhattan, boulevardier, and margarita.

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Shelby Whalen from Athens Distributing

 

From the Expert 

We asked Shelby Whalen, on-premise sales representative with Athens Distributing, what she would personally stock if she were first starting to build her home bar. Here’s what she had to say. 

 

 
Gin

 

Gray Whale Gin

 

Gray Whale Gin

“This gin has unique botanicals – almonds, lime, sea kelp, and mint, just to name a few. If you do not enjoy the ‘Christmas’ juniper aspect of gin, this is a great way to start your adventure with this spirit.”

 

Vodka

 

Old Dominick Vodka

 

Old Dominick

 

“Started in our state’s very own Memphis, Tennessee, Old Dominick has so much history behind its name. Not only is it affordable, but it is extremely versatile in any cocktail.”

 

Bourbon

 

Jack Daniels Bourbon

 

Jack Daniels Bonded

 

“Recently released and named Whisky Advocate’s 2022 Whiskey of the Year, there is not much more to say. Enjoy this bourbon neat or on the rocks with friends, and it will win the table as well.”

 

Tequila

 

DeLeon Tequila

 

DeLeón

 

“Personally, tequila is my
favorite spirit, and this one stays on my shelf. It is lime and agave forward, allowing less additives for any cocktail and a low-calorie drink.”

 

White Rum

 

Blue Chair Bay

 

Blue Chair Bay

 

“This selection is a classic light Caribbean rum with hints of golden sugar, tropical and dried fruits, mild spice, gentle vanilla, and bread pudding. It’s bold Caribbean flavors are perfect for all tiki drinks.”

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