Home Bar Supplies and Cheap Spirits You Need in Your Life
When you first start drinking, your home bar supplies usually consist of one bottle of liquor that won't last the week, kitschy shot glasses sourced from far-flung vacation spots, and beer-logo pint glasses that were likely "borrowed" from local bars. Then you eventually slow down and start building up a collection of alcohol and swapping your old glassware for appropriately "adult" replacements. Yet even if your drinking days are well behind you, you still may not have everything you need for a well-equipped home bar. Don't worry. We're here to help you get sorted once and for all.
1. Bar Cart
Before you go any further, it's important to have a place that corrals your bar supplies. A stylish bar cart holds your best liquor bottles while doubling as room decor, especially when enhanced with fresh flowers and small metallic accents, such as a set of copper mugs. If you want even more of a statement piece, pour your liquor into chic decorative crystal decanters and display them on the cart.
Whether you want to mix dirty martinis after a long day at work or margaritas for a group of friends, it's key to have a cocktail shaker in your home bar. A sleek stainless-steel shaker keeps your drink cold and looks aesthetically pleasing. Opt for one with a built-in strainer top so you can easily pour out the drink without pouring out the ice.
Yes, you could get away with just eyeballing your pour, but for consistently tasty drinks, a jigger is key. After all, too much or too little of something can really throw off a drink's flavor.
4. Ice Bucket
This piece isn't something you'll use every day; however, it's absolutely necessary when you have a party and don't want your guests to have to rummage through the freezer to find ice for their drinks. An attractive ice bucket can also double as a champagne bucket or flower vase.
5. Fancy Ice
Giant squares. Perfectly round spheres. Darth Vader heads. These big, fancy ice pieces all look cool. But more importantly, because they have a larger surface area that melts more slowly than traditional ice cubes, they keep drinks cold without diluting them too much.
Sure, you could always spear your cocktail onions, blue-cheese-stuffed olives, and fancy cherries with toothpicks, but metal cocktail picks add a bit of luxury to your cocktails. Plus, they don't leave behind a faint woody taste.
A basic twist corkscrew isn't the most challenging thing to operate. Nonetheless, opting for an electric wine bottle opener or even a winged corkscrew is necessary if you plan on opening a lot of bottles of vino. Both types are much easier on wrists, too, making them ideal for those with delicate wrists.
So many drinks rely on citrus to amp up the flavor—mojitos, gimlets, whiskey sours, classic daiquiris, to name a few—that it's imperative to have a citrus juicer in your home bar setup. Yes, you could just buy bottles of citrus juice, but there's nothing quite like a freshly squeezed lime or lemon.
A muddler may not seem like a necessary bar tool, and it's not if you don't ever add fresh fruit or herbs to your drinks. However, if you want to release an herb's flavors or a berry's juices, a muddler is key. Just remember: don't smash the ingredients until they're unrecognizable; rather, gently press and turn to coax out their flavors.
Some people will tell you that you should only stock your bar with alcohol that you enjoy. And that's good advice, to an extent. But if you like to entertain, having all the basic liquors on hand will go a long way in making your guests happy. Here's what to grab when you need to stock up and don't want to spend a fortune:
1. Vodka: This clear liquor doesn't have a strong flavor, making it great for mixing. Try gold-medal-winning Wódka Vodka from Poland (average cost: $9 for 750 mL).
2. Gin: Gin is key for making many classic cocktails, including G&Ts and martinis. Opt for Beefeater, which is a bit mellower than juniper-heavy Tanqueray—and cheaper (average cost: $19 for 750mL).
3. Bourbon: The classic brown American liquor is ideal for sipping and for bourbon cocktails such as old fashioneds. Select Benchmark No. 8 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which may be cheap, but has won multiple gold medals in blind tastings (average cost: $12 for 750mL).
4. Rye Whiskey: Rye is necessary for a variety of cocktails, including classic Manhattans. Old Overholt isn't fancy, but it's well-regarded and inexpensive (average cost: $15 for 750mL).
5. Tequila: Whether you're making margaritas or doing shots, you need a bottle of tequila on hand. El Jimador blanco, reportedly the top-selling brand in Mexico, is smooth and tastes of agave (average cost: $18 for 750mL).
6. Rum: You should probably pick up both a light and a dark one, but if you just want to start with one, go for a light rum to make mojitos and daiquiris. Flor de Caña White is a popular Nicaraguan white rum that has been around since the late 1800s (average cost: $14 for 750mL).
7. Vermouth: The fortified wine infused with herbs and botanicals is used in everything from martinis (dry) to Manhattans (sweet). Pick up one sweet and one dry bottle, such as Noilly Prat extra dry (average cost: $10 for 750mL) and Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth (average cost: $6 for 750mL).