The essentials every home bar should have to make cocktails like a professional
In these wired times, many have rediscovered cooking, baking (hallo banana bread) and becoming their own bartenders, crafting lots of fancy cocktails at home.
Mixing a great cocktail at home is actually easier than you might think. There are many cocktail recipes that only require few ingredients and are put together in just minutes.
In fact, you do not need to be an expert and you do not need many fancy tools or a large number of different spirits, liquors and other ingredients to craft a fantastic cocktail.
Read on to learn how you can easily create your own killer home bar from scratch with only a few tools and be ready to entertain guests or make a cocktail for yourself like a professional.
Below I am listing the key essentials you should have at hand making your own cocktails.
Essential tools you need for your home bar
I bet you already have a lot of tools at home that will serve you well making cocktails. In fact, you do not need a large range of fancy cocktail gadgets to make a very professional drink.
However, there are a few tools you should consider a must-have as they are quite essential when it comes to making cocktails.
One of the few tools you need to have is a cocktail shaker. It is absolutely essential to properly dilute and aerate a drink as well as chilling it.
Cocktail shakers come in many variations. Some already have a build-in strainers, and some come with the potential to fit a citrus squeezer on top. Having these gadgets fitting your shaker is great, but personally I would recommend having a shaker kit that is composed by individual pieces as this way they are easier to clean.
Even if you own a shaker with a build-in strainer, an all-purpose single cocktail strainer still is an essential tool to have.
In addition, you should also have a jigger that will allow you to easily measure the liquids. Try to find one that has various measuring scales (like millilitres and ounces). That way, you do not have to constantly convert from one scale to another.
I would be surprised if you did not have already a juicer at home. In the unlikely event you don’t, having one to make a cocktail is absolutely essential. Though you can buy any juice ready to use, always consider using freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice. It makes such a difference to your cocktail.
Another tool that is essential for any home bar is an ice tray, or possibly a couple of them to make sure you have plenty of ice supply at hand.
As some recipes will require you do muddle fruits or herbs, a muddler is something you should add to your home bar as well. Off course, you could also use the back of a spoon or a fork (for fruits) but using a muddler is much easier and it will allow you to better extract oils and flavour from herbs.
When you are required to stir your cocktail, a bar spoon might come in handy although you can do very well without. I often simply use a long ice cream spoon or a long wood stick.
I have found you do not necessarily need a mixing glass to make a cocktail. Any long drink glass will do as well. But off course, if you want a complete set of cocktail tools, then you should add a mixing glass.
Finally, do not forget about the garnishing gadgets. Sure, you always can put a lemon wheel or some fresh berries into your glass. However, the look of your finished cocktail also adds to the pleasure; and some cocktails even ask for a garnishing finish. After all, you will not want to serve a martini without the famous olive, will you?
Therefore, consider having a couple of pickers, straws (reusable, possibly glass straws) at hand to garnish your drink.
In addition, some cocktails call for mince or basil leaves, thyme, and other herbs, either to muddle them and/or for garnishing. To have those at hand, you might consider growing some of those at home. Simply put them into a plant pot that you can put on your windowsill.
The best glassware for your home bar
Contrary to what you might sometimes be told, you only need few different glasses to serve a wide range of drinks. In fact, you can go a long way with wine glasses, champagne flutes and a couple of simple long drink glasses.
However, as you are becoming more versatile and your range of homemade cocktails starts increasing, you might want to add a bid of matching glassware.
Think highball glasses for a gin and tonic, martini or coupe glasses to serve Martinis or a Manhattan, rock glasses (sometimes also referred to as lowball glasses) to serve drinks like a Negroni.
Which spirits and mixers should you stock at your home bar?
Having discussed cocktail tools and special glassware, let’s move on to the most interesting part. Your home bar will off course need to be stocked with the right base spirits, liquors, and mixers.
Which spirits, liquors and mixers should be part of any good home bar?
Well, let me tell you, this depends very much on your own taste. Certainly, you will have your favourite cocktails that you would like to mix at home. Then on the other hand, there will be those cocktails and spirits you might not like so much.
Therefore, when starting out with your own home bar, start with buying those spirits you like most and that will allow you to use them in a large range of different cocktails.
For example, if your favourite sprit is say gin or whisky, then that’s where you should start.
Another important aspect is the quality of the spirits you buy. As a rule of thumb, go for good quality base spirits to make sure not to compromise the taste of your drink; but since you are going to mix with other ingredients you will not need to buy the most expensive out there.
Below I am listing different spirits, liquors and mixers I would recommend adding to your home bar if you want to be able to make a wide variety of cocktails on the whim.
Your home bar should likely hold a good quality whiskey, gin, vodka, and tequila. Then you might consider adding a rum or brandy.
Possibly, you should also consider having some non-alcoholic spirits at hand as there might be occasion you want to reduce the level of alcohol or even want to go without. Luckily, these days there are several good quality products out there that you can use like any spirit to mix up a fantastic cocktail with zero alcohol.
If you want to learn more about mixing with non-alcohol spirits, check my post Seedlip non-alcoholic spirits: Mixing enjoyable cocktails without the booze.
In addition to the base spirits, make sure you will always have a couple of different liquors at hand as they are great to enhance the taste of your cocktail.
The most essential liquors used in a wide range of cocktails include Amaretto (almond-flavoured liqueur), orange liquor (like Grand Marnier) and possibly a coffee liquor.
Off course, this is just a small start on liquors and only includes those the most widely used for cocktails. In fact, there is almost an endless array of different flavours out there. It is down to your own preference which ones you like most mixing with. Personally, I love to mix with elderflower liquor, as well as limoncello, the famous Italian liquor made from lemons harvested on the Amalfi Coast.
Next on, your home bar will not be complete without having a range of juices at hand.
Once you start mixing your own cocktails at home, you will quickly notice, you will not get far without lemon and lime juice. You can buy them ready to be used, off course, but I definitely recommend always having a couple of lemons and limes at hand to make freshly squeezed juice.
In addition, many cocktails will ask for orange juice, red grapefruit juice, and cranberry juice.
Bitters are another essential to have at hand. It is quite amazing how a dash of bitters can enhance the flavour of your cocktail. Go for orange and aromatic bitters as they will work with most cocktails.
Finally, you will also need to stock up on a couple of good quality tonic waters and club sodas to top up many of your cocktails.
And needless to say, sometimes what you will want to have at hand to top up your drink is a nice champagne or alternatively a good quality prosecco or sparkling wine.
Do you love mixing your own cocktails at home? Which ones are your favourites?