My husband and I recently moved into a new house, primarily selected because of the amazing bar in the mancave. Life goals, right? We plan to entertain a lot so I really wanted to have a bar setup that looked more Hollywood than fraternity house. So I Googled, and pinned, and vision boarded, and envied all kinds of stories on how to set up a home bar. For me it’s as much about decorating as it is imbibing. This photo is my amazing friend interior decorator friend, Decorator Girl.
So there are really four different aspects to consider when you set up a home bar: spirits, glasses, mixers, and ice.
Spirits for your home bar
There are some pretty basic spirits you’ll want to include – vodka, rum (light and dark), gin, tequila, and whiskey (rye and/or bourbon). I tend to buy top shelf brands – not necessarily the most expensive but I go for the shelves that are eye level. It seems like there are so many flavored spirits these days but IMHO, they’re gimmicky. And way too sweet. If I want a citrus vodka, I make my own by adding citrus peels to vodka and letting it set for a couple of hours. Caveat: the only one I’ve not been able to replicate is coconut rum (one of my favorites for Malibu bay breezes). If your budget and space allows, you can branch out from this a bit and include other spirits like Scotch and mezcal (the hubby’s favorite and I do love the smokiness in a spicy margarita).
Mixers to set up a home bar
Next, you’ll need some mixers. We generally have club soda, tonic water, soda, juices (like cranberry for cosmos or bay breezes) and ginger beer on hand. I recommend buying the small individual bottles rather than large ones. If you just add a splash of mixers here and there, they’ll go flat before you can use up the bottle.
I’ll call these “enhancers” but they’re really part of the mixer family. We keep several flavored bitters, simple syrup (or you can make it yourself), liqueurs like Triple sec or Grand Marnier to float on your margarita, and you’ll definitely need some fresh lemons and limes. Of course, in my home we’re Old Fashioned drinkers so we keep oranges too.
Glasses for your home bar
I’ve got to admit, we have more bar glasses than any respectable home should have. But we’ve accumulated them over the years – we still have bar glasses we got for our wedding 30 years ago! So if you want to start with just the basics, I would suggest:
– wine glasses – red wine glasses and white wine glasses. If you want to impress, opt for Prosecco and Pinot glasses too.
– cocktail glasses – Basically there are highball and lowball glasses. For the sake of the dishwasher, these are my go to glasses. But you have to throw in a couple of martini glasses too. Of course, you can add mule mugs, margarita glasses, and other specialty beverageware.
Ice for your home bar
I’m a bit of an ice snob. I don’t like typical ice cubes that water down my drink. My husband and I had a professional ice machine in our last home, you know the kind like hotels that have holes in the center. Now, you can find some of the silicon ice trays in various shapes and sizes at Target. If you really want to get fancy, you can add flavors (any fruit or herb) to your ice cubes that slowly melt into your cocktail. I ordered these Corkcicle® whiskey wedges for my Old Fashioned habit.
Other bar accessories to impress
You’ll want to have some garnishes on hand like lemon and lime wedges, cherries (splurge on the Luxardo), and olives to top off your cocktails. I also like to have few different fun napkin designs to fit my mood or my guests, and you can really dress up your bar with some colorful straws and swizzle sticks. And finally, I always recommend a hip little cocktail book to keep on your bar for those indecisive guests or those “whatever” evenings.