How to Stock a Home Bar: Liquors & Tools September 30 2011

If there is one thing that every guy needs, it’s a bar in his living room (or game room, or basement, or garage). This is almost as essential as the flat screen, surround sound, and other equipment that cost more than your firstborn child will.

Women tend to navigate towards the bar a lot more often than the gaming system, too.

Best thing about a home bar, though, is that there are no rules. It’s about your style & your personality.

You could give your mother’s old china cabinet a facelift and add a coat of dark wood stain, some liquor, and instantly look like you blew a huge hunk of paycheck on a “real” home bar; you could stick an armoire your sister used to use for clothes into a corner and create your own Narnia. Even a TV table with two little doors and one shelf underneath has possibilities.

It doesn’t matter what it looks like…the magic of a home bar is what’s hiding inside (or strung out behind glass for all to see). Those magic must-haves are the liquors, the mixers, and the tools.

The Liquors.

Two things are vital when picking the alcohol for your bar.

1.       Remember, it’s in your house…more than likely, whatever you buy you are going to have to drink it at some point. You need to figure out what goes into your favorite drinks, and get that stuff. Then worry about the rest.

2.       Give people a few things to choose from. You may be a straight-up Scotch man, but what happens if you stock up on nothing else and get a margarita girl back to your place after a date? At least have on hand the things to make the basics.

Since you shouldn’t need instructions on how to stock what you like (or the ingredients for what you like), you just need a list of liquors that would fall into the category of “basics.” If some other stuff moves you, by all means add to the list…but these are non-negotiable.

·         Vodka- It’s not a bar if there is no vodka. It’s just not. You can’t make a Screwdriver without it. Besides, it’s clear and almost tasteless (and odorless), so it mixes well with almost anything.

 Need to know how to make a screwdriver? Add orange juice to the vodka. Drink it.

Or shake a shot of it with a little lemon juice and serve it in a shot glass dipped (rimmed) in sugar and garnished with a lemon wedge. It’s called a Lemon Drop, and women go crazy for them.

·         Rum- Mostly this one is for the ladies (“I’ll have a rum and Diet Coke with a twist...*giggle*.”), but there are a few gentlemen’s drinks that call for it. A Cuba Libre is a classic. It is a rum and Coke with lime…but sounds a lot classier the other way.

·         Tequila- This one is the ultimate shooter and requires nothing unless you prefer the training wheels. Training wheels for a tequila shot means you need to add some salt and a lime wedge to avoid a picture-perfect shot-face (that you WILL find on Facebook the next morning).

Other ways to use tequila include just about any kind of Margarita out there, and the good old-fashioned Tequila Sunrise. For this, pour a little maraschino cherry juice into a small glass, add tequila, and top it off with a few ounces of orange juice. Don’t stir it to serve it…this one looks cooler with the red stuff creeping up off the bottom.

·         Gin- This one is a must-have if you want a martini, and who doesn’t have a boss that would be impressed with a guy that could serve up a perfect martini? All you need to add to a martini is some vermouth and an olive. There is also the classic Gin and Tonic…need a recipe? How about Gin and Juice?

·         Bourbon- Whether you drink it straight, on the rocks, or mixed with Coke, bourbon is the ultimate whiskey. No bar is complete without the ultimate whiskey. There are even songs about it. Two of the ultimate gentlemen’s drinks can be made with bourbon, the Old-Fashioned and the Manhattan.

Besides, if you bring home a girl that can shoot straight whiskey with you, keep her.

The Mixers and the Garnishes.

You can spend a fortune on alcohol, but face it…some of them just have to be mixed with other stuff. Fortunately, the expensive part is done. These are just the extras that make a bar…well, a bar.

·         Juice- At the very least, store up some orange and cranberry juice. If you’re feeling adventurous, add some pineapple and tomato. Can’t make a Bloody Mary without tomato juice.

By the way, a good Bloody Mary requires vodka, tomato juice, a dash of salt and pepper, and a dash of Worcestershire.  Stick a celery stalk in it.

·         Sodas- If you don’t have the set-up for fountain drinks, stock up on bottles of Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite at least.

·         Dry Vermouth- A martini must.

·         Club Soda and Tonic Water- These are essential for many classics.

·         Milk or Half and Half- Mudslides, Colorado Bulldogs, and lots of other coffee-like drinks require white stuff.

·         Cheater Mixers- There is no shame in bottles of Margarita Mix or Clamato (Bloody Mary Mix)…it saves time and keeps you from looking like an amateur if you haven’t nailed the recipe yet.

·         Lemons and limes- Lots of good drinks should be served with a twist, or with a wedge of one of these on the rim of the glass.

·         Cherries- If you can get your hands on some real maraschino cherries, great. If not, the bright red ones from the grocery store will do.

          Olives- This one is a gotta-have for a good martini.

·         Kosher salt- This is the coarse-grained salt that you dip the rim of a glass in.

·         Sugar- some drinks, even manly ones, need a little sugar.

·         Salt, pepper, and celery salt (if you don’t have real celery for the Bloody’s).

The Tools.

This is the part where you get to gather the gadgets. A lot of these can be hung on pegs or hooks, making a cool bar-themed wall-hanging without having to…decorate.  Keeps women from trying to fill the blank wall or bar-back space with something “pretty,” too,

·         Shakers- the best ones are metal, with a strainer and cap on top. If you don’t want anything that fancy, a plain one with a well-matched pint glass works as well.

·         Jigger- Until you’re practiced enough to “eyeball” a shot into a drink without choking some unsuspecting lightweight, you need this little gizmo to measure your liquor.

·         Strainer- These look cool, and are useful…but not extremely important. Practice “breaking” the seal on your shaker/glass combo by tapping gently on the side of the bar. Slide the glass out to just the edge of the shaker, exposing a sliver of space for the liquid to drain through and leaving the ice trapped. There, you look like you really do know what you’re doing.

·         Bar spoon- No, it’s not just another long teaspoon. Really.

·         The Book- No bar, even a professional one with cover charges and bouncers, is complete without a bartender guide hidden somewhere behind the bar. This means if your date suddenly just has to have a Hurricane, you don’t have to panic.

·         Knives and a cutting board- Remember the lemons and limes?

·         A Muddler- This looks like a little wooden club, and you use it to mash things in the bottom of a glass before adding alcohol. Like what? For an Old-Fashioned, you muddle the sugar and bitters in the glass, then add your liquor.

·         Ice bucket- A cooler, an insulated bucket, a big bowl…doesn’t really matter what, but you’re going to want ice handy. A scoop is also a must.

Keep a pen and something to write on near the bar. If someone orders something you just can’t make, jot it down for the next bash. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but with the things listed, you should have an excellent variety.  Live and Learn, Young Bartender.