Home Bar Basics: A beginner’s guide to the ultimate bar
Mixing drinks has become an art form.
Take a look at any bar-related Instagram profile and you’ll see hundreds of colorful drinks filled with fruit and decorative garnishes. Especially when you start to step into the dessert-drink category, drinks start to become beautiful works of art.
Setting up your own home bar is a trend that is only getting more popular. Everyone, from people barely passed the drinking age to adults stepping into retirement, wants to setup their very own home bar.
At first, it can be a little daunting.
If you spend some time looking at fancy drink recipes, you’ll notice that each one calls for a variety of ingredients and different types of booze.
This overwhelms a lot of beginners and makes them think that they’ll be spending more money on stocking their bar than they would buying it!
In this article I will try my best to vanquish any possible hesitations you might have when diving into the wild world of mixing drinks.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to drop a comment down below!
What you’ll need:
An Acceptable Amount of alcohol:
The first, and most important thing you’ll need is booze. Which bottles you choose is completely dependent on your taste and budget.
I always recommend collecting a list of 10 drinks you are interested in mixing and then buying the bottles you’ll need to mix those 10 drinks. Try not to go too crazy with your choices of drinks when you first begin.
To point you in the right direction, I have written an article talking all about stocking a home bar.
I’m sure you already have plenty of glasses, but are they specialized glasses designed for cocktails?
While what glass you use isn’t going to make or break or drink, a glass is a part of the art you make. It will put your drink on display in a very elegant way.
I’d recommend buying an assortment of different glasses if you can. The main types I would look for are cocktail, old-fashioned, and highball glasses. Perhaps you might even want to buy a few shot glasses.
The point of a jigger is to help professional bartender make precise measurements very fast.
You can get a traditional jigger if you like, but a lot of home bar owners are going for more simple options such as the OXO Steel Angled Measuring Jigger. If you’re serving drinks for yourself, or a few friends, speed most likely won’t be a huge issue.
Even if you have never mixed a drink in your life, there’s a chance that you have heard of shakers before.
Shakers are essential if you want to make cocktails. It’s a great tool to have in your bar.
The most important knife you could have is a paring knife. There are a few other knives that would come in handy when cutting larger fruit, but in most cases, a paring knife is a bartenders best friend.
Paring knives come in handy especially for chopping up berries. Most summertime cocktails involve cutting up fruit, so a paring knife is a must.
Bar spoons are just normal spoons with an extra-large handle. They are very helpful when stirring large glasses.
A strainer is another cheap, yet helpful, tool.
It will help you quickly and easily remove ice when pouring your finished product into a glass. It might seem like something you could live without, but believe me, its a handy tool to have.
What’s better than mixing fresh fruit into your drinks on a hot summer’s day?
A juice squeezer will make your life much easier when dealing with squeezing fruits. You won’t have to ever deal with seeds in your drinks ever again! Plus you’ll get more bang for your buck and will be able to squeeze all of the juice out of a fruit.
Basic drink-mixing skills:
Don’t know how to mix any drinks? No worries! You can checkout my article on how to mix drinks. It’ll teach you the very basics.
Choosing a home bar:
Now that we got all of the necessary equipment out of the way, its time to pick out a home bar.
First of all, should you even buy a bar?
A lot of newbies start out by mixing drinks on their countertops because its convenient, free, and tends to have a sink nearby.
While its ok to do this when you first start off, you may be better off buying your own bar. A home bar separates your drink-mixing life from your food-preparation life. It keeps your kitchen clutter-free and gives you a nice place to store your booze.
So should you buy a bar? Its completely up to you.
It can be a great way to keep yourself organized so you won’t have to spend time searching for barware that you stored away in some cabinet alongside all of your other kitchen utensils.
How to pick the PERFECT home bar:
Luckily for you, I wrote a guide on purchasing a home bar. It is completely free and you can get it here.
In my opinion, its always best to buy a bar online. Unless you are buying a super expensive all-wood bar that you know for a fact will last for years, buying online is the best option.
Why is this you may ask? The answer is REVIEWS. You’ll be able to read detailed reviews from people who have owned the bar for months, or even years.
Especially when you’re dealing with bars made of composite wood (like Ikea furniture), it is impossible to determine how long the bar will last in-store.
That is why I would advise buying a bar online.
Composite wood vs real wood:
Another issue you might face is the argument of composite wood vs real wood.
Its hard to pick a winner. In an ideal world, you would always pick real wood.
Composite wood can, although, be a smart option if you are on a budget. You’ll find that bars made of this material are very cheap and can even have decent quality.
Home Bar Tips:
In this section, I would like to supply you with a few quick-tips that could help you along your home bar journey.
Tip #1 – Keep your booze at a room temperature
Try to put your bar in a location that doesn’t get too hot. Ice will cool down your drink a lot faster when your spirits aren’t hot.
Tip #2 – Improvise with what you have
If you are just getting started, it can be easy to want to buy more bottles for every recipe you try.
Instead, try experimenting with what you have. This will give you a much better sense of what ingredients work with what kind of alcohol. Who knows? You might come up with some very tasty drink recipes along the way!
Tip #3 – Before spending extra money setting up a wet bar,decide if its necessary
A lot of people buy a wet bar and never use the sink feature. A lot of people buy a dry bar and have to later upgrade to a wet bar.
Take time to decide if a sink is necessary for you. Many people are able to get by without having a sink on their bar.
Tip #4 – Don’t buy huge liters of soda!
Unless you are going to be mixing drinks for large parties on the regular, you shouldn’t buy big liters of soda.
Why is this? If you don’t use up the liter fast enough, the soda will go flat and your drinks will suck.
Instead, buy small bottles of soda and buy more as you use them.
Tip #4 – Learn the classics
Its always good to have some fundamental knowledge down when you are mixing drinks.
Learn the basics and practice with some classic cocktail recipes. A lot of modern drinks are based on the classics.
Tip #5 – Have a few cocktail books at the ready
Of course you can just google recipes online. You can even print them out to get a physical copy if you want to.
I still recommend having a few physical drink recipe books at the ready. A good book to get started is ‘The Ultimate Bar Book’.
I hope I have been helpful to you and answered a lot of the questions you wanted to know!
If you haven’t already, I recommend signing up to my email list down below. You’ll receive both a copy of the Home Bar Buyer’s Guide AND our Home Bar Mixology book for free!