70 Home Bar Must Haves for 2023
When you hear "home bar," your first thought might be, "isn't that a "man cave?" It could be, but a home bar can be anything. Whether you've got a simple bar cart at home or a dedicated space full of mixers, bar tools, glasses - you name it, well, then you have a home bar.
Keeping your bar stocked with the right tools and ingredients could make or break any gathering when you have a few guests over for drinks. Even if you don't have your drinking supplies in your own space, it's still a good idea to know what kind of home bar essentials you should keep in the house for such occasions.
Here are some essential items that will give you a basic bar. First, we will talk about liquor, ingredients, bar tools, and glassware. These are home bar must-haves that will help you serve those customary drinks and trendy cocktails your friends love, in addition to wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages, of course.
Start your home bar with a variety of essential spirits. Don't go overboard and buy a large amount of liquor, or you will find yourself stuck with a lot of bottles collecting dust in the back of your liquor cabinet. We like to start with some basic spirits used to make popular cocktails and drinks. The brands will depend upon your tastes and those of your guests.
Vodka is used in many different cocktails and mixed drinks, so it should be the first bottle on your liquor list. There are a lot of flavored vodkas on the market, but if you have a group of vodka-loving friends, be sure to stock up on the original. Invest in a top-shelf brand for cocktails and a cheaper brand for mixed drinks.
Martinis and gin & tonics are so popular that it's essential to have a classic London dry gin behind your bar. Gin lovers will much appreciate a top-shelf gin. If you have gin connoisseurs on your guest list, you may want to try a more eclectic gin, like those with a subtle botanical taste.
Canadian or bourbon whiskey? Or a Scotch whiskey? The correct answer is both. Cocktail drinkers will prefer a Canadian or bourbon whisky, but for those who want to sip their drink by the fire, well, those folks will have a Scotch whisky in mind. Chances are you will have friends who like to consume their brown liquor and other friends who want to mix it in their cocktails. Having both types is essential for any home bar.
Related Reading: Our Favorite 15 Whiskey Cocktails
Yes, just like whisky, there are two types of rum. And each type is equally important to have on your liquor list. The first type is white rum. This is the type of rum you will want to use in mojitos, daiquiris, and perhaps the most famous rum drink of them all – Rum & Coke. You'll want to own a dark rum, too, if you intend on making tropical or tiki drinks. A decent amount of dark rum will have your friends doing the limbo before you know it.
And what would a home bar be without Tequila? Margaritas are a staple on any drink menu, so you'll want some Tequila behind your bar. And don't limit yourself to margaritas. Instead, learn about other increasingly popular tequila drinks such as the Paloma and Tequila Sunrise. And don't forget the limes and salt because if any Jimmy Buffet songs are playing, Tequila shots aren't far behind.
As for other beverages you should have on hand, it's always a good idea to have red and white wine.
It's always a good idea to have a bottle of champagne on hand to celebrate special occasions or top off your Sunday brunch with Mimosas.
Having a variety of beer is a given these days, with all the different craft brews on the market. But don't forget the popular American light lagers for those guests who don't prefer a dark or hoppy beer.
Cocktail Liqueurs, Aperitifs, and Fortified Wines
There are many great liqueurs that would make a great addition to your home bar. Stocking them all is difficult, so we suggest you select those liqueurs that are components of your favorite cocktails. The list below contains popular choices featured in classic cocktails.
9) Sweet Vermouth
Vermouth is a fortified wine that is used in many classic cocktails, including the Manhattan, Negroni, Americano, Martinez, Boulevardier, Vieux Carre, Blood & Sand
10) Dry Vermouth
Featured in Martinis, Dry Vermouth contains less sugar than its sweeter sibling.
11) Orange Liqueur
An essential ingredient of Margaritas and Cosmopolitans, orange liqueurs such as Triple Sec, Grand Marnier, and Cointreau are a home bar must-have.
Campari is a bitter Italian aperitif, a crucial ingredient in popular cocktails such as the Negroni and Boulevardier.
The sweeter cousin of Campari, Aperol has a distinct orange hue and is used in many cocktails, such as an Aperol Spritz.
This popular, almond-flavored liqueur gives the Amaretto Sour and the Godfather their unique flavor.
15) Coffee Liqueur
The Mudslide, White Russian, and Espresso Martinis get their distinct coffee flavors from coffee liqueurs, such as Kahlua.
16) Irish Cream Liqueur
You can drink it on the rocks, mix it with coffee, make variations of a Mud Slide or White Russian, or pour up a round of Irish Car Bombs. Baileys is the quintessential Irish Cream Liqueur and is as versatile as delicious.
Bénédictine is a complex herb liqueur with a sweet, honey taste, pair with Brandy for a B&B, or use it in the Vieux Carre or Milke & Honey cocktails.
18) Crème de Cacao
This chocolate liqueur boasts a medium level of sweetness and is excellent for many chocolate-based versions of classic cocktails, such as a Chocolate Martinis.
19) Crème de Menthe
Most people think of the Grasshopper cocktail when thinking of this mint-flavored liqueur, but it is also used in a Peppermint Paddy cocktail. Peppermint Schnapps is s suitable replacement.
Honorable Mentions: Drambuie, Frangelico, Rumchata, Maraschino Liqueur, Melon Liqueur, Chambord, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Blue Curaçao
A broad selection of mixers and garnishes is a much-needed supporting cast for anyone's home bar. A good cocktail cannot stand on its alcohol-based ingredient alone. Below is a list of cocktail mixers and ingredients you should add to your liquor list.
Sodas & Tonic Water
You cannot go without tonic and soda. These mixers are used in a substantial number of popular cocktails, as well as your basic mixed drinks. For example, you may have plastic bottles for your guests to choose from, but why not class it up a bit and pick some premium tonics and sodas, so your guests know you care about providing them with quality drinks.
Soda and tonic water essentials:
20) Coca-Cola (or Pepsi)
21) Club Soda
22) Ginger Ale
23) Ginger Beer
24) Tonic Water
25) Lemon-Lime Soda (Sprite or 7-Up)
Juices are a close second to soda and tonic water as they too are a necessity for a large variety of your favorite drinks and cocktails. Some people prefer freshly squeezed juice, but prepackaged juices are fine too.
Fruit Juice must-haves:
26) Orange Juice
27) Lemon Juice
28) Lime Juice
29) Cranberry Juice
30) Pineapple Juice
31) Tomato Juice
To save yourself some time, there are some pre-made cocktail mixers you can buy. They also add a bit of confidence to your mixology skills. Just add the mix to the proper spirit, and, voila, you have one tasty drink.
32) Sweet-and-Sour Mix
33) Margarita Mix
34) Bloody Mary Mix
In addition to these staple cocktail mixers, there are many great small-batch cocktail mixers on the market. These include Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Michelada, Moscow Mule, and other great cocktail mixers.
Pro-Tip: Cocktail Mixers are great for making batches of cocktails for parties or other events.
Like spices in cooking, cocktail bitters elevate any cocktail and bring bold, new heights of unique flavor to your drinks. Simply adding bitter ingredients to your liquor collection will not only give your drinks a depth flavor, but they will also have your friends dropping by for some "sophisticated" drinks. Although there are many flavors of bitters, we recommend that you keep these two on hand.
35) Aromatic Bitters
36) Orange Bitters
Related Reading: Cocktail Bitters 101
If you're looking to make imaginative cocktails are even fun soft drinks, then cocktail syrups are what you need. Cocktail syrups can be used in various drinks, and some are even necessary ingredients, such as simple syrup and grenadine. You can feature assorted flavors for unique occasions and even mix them in coffee, which may please your non-alcoholic drinkers.
37) Simple Syrup
39) Cherry Syrup
In addition to these classics, there are floral cocktail syrups and flavor-infused simple syrups that will add complexity (in a good way!) to your favorite cocktails.
Whether you're adding the finishing touch to a cocktail or squeezing a bit more flavor into a mixed drink, wedges or slices of citrus fruits are crucial to have behind your bar. When crafting cocktails, dehydrated pieces of citrus fruit can be used, but your guests will appreciate fresh fruit sliced yourself.
What is a martini without an olive? OK, not every martini calls for olives, but they are great for enhancing any gin-based mixed drink and a few vodka ones. If you want to walk on the fancy side, get olives full of cheese, pickles, or peppers for even more flavor.
43) Pitted Olives
44) Pimento Olives
45) Blue Cheese Olives
Cocktail cherries come in many varieties. There’s the classic maraschino cherry with their trademark bright, red color, and also Bordeaux Cherries, Bourbon Cherries, Rum Cherries, and Armarena Cherries.
46) Maraschino Cherries
47) Bourbon Cherries
The cocktail vegetable is an overlooked garnish that will set you apart from most home bars. After all, what's a Bloody Mary without a stalk of celery? Cocktail vegetables such as carrots and cucumbers are used in a growing number of drinks. And you can count them toward your daily servings of vegetables - we won't tell.
48) Cocktail vegetables
From crushed ice to large whiskey spheres, cocktail ice comes in all shapes and sizes. Standard kitchen ice cubes will work in a pinch, but we recommend a crystal-clear ice system. Traditional ice cubes are cloudy and cracked. Clear ice systems utilize directional freezing to create ice shapes as clear as glass. They're available in various shapes and sizes, but a large 2.25" clear ice sphere is a must-have for whiskey drinkers.
49) Crystal-Clear Ice System
Related Reading I: The Perfect Whiskey Ice Cubes are Round
Related Reading II: How to Make Clear Ice
Related Reading III: Does Boiled Water Produce Clear Ice?
Essential Bar Tools
Now that we've covered what makes up a good cocktail, you are going to need the right bar tools to bring it all together. So here's a variety of bar tools that should be behind every home bar, along with some essential bartending tips.
50) Cocktail Shaker
A classic Cobbler Shaker or 3-piece cocktail shaker is the right option if you're starting with making cocktails. It consists of a shaker tin, a lid with a built-in strainer, and a cap to hold the strainer when shaking. The cap can even double as a jigger for pouring shots. Cobbler Shakers are traditionally small and ideal for preparing single drinks.
51) Boston Shaker
Professional mixologists prefer a Boston Shaker with a bigger tin than the Cobbler Shaker and a pint glass that matches the tin. You'll be able to assemble your own by acquiring a shaker tin and pint glass separately. You will need a strainer to put over your tin when pouring cocktails to prevent unwanted ice or other ingredients from sneaking it. In addition, some bartenders can "crack" a shaker just enough to pour out the cocktail without a strainer.
52) Mixing Glasses
Professional mixing glasses have straight sides, a significant base, and a spout for pouring. Mixing glasses are available in various designs. Whatever glass you use, make sure it's large enough to hold the amount of spirits you want, along with any ingredients, and don't forget to leave room for ice.
53) Bar Spoon
Bar spoons are unique spoons for creating and stirring cocktails and mixed drinks. They are usually long-handled, measure roughly one teaspoon, and made of stainless steel to protect flavor. But how do you know when to stir a drink and when to shake a drink? For example, if a cocktail is created entirely of spirits, like a martini, stir it with ice to retain the drink's clarity and silky texture. Cocktails made with carbonated ingredients, like a Mojito, might also be lightly stirred once or twice.
54) Hawthorne Strainer
The Hawthorne strainer is the most common and recognizable strainer with a handle, making it easier to hold, along with a strainer spring and 2-4 prongs.
55) Julep Strainer
Named after the famous cocktail, Julep strainers were initially designed to keep ice from falling into the facial hair of those gentlemen enjoying the cocktail. The design allows them to fit easily inside cocktail mixing glasses or pint glasses when using a Boston Shaker.
56) Fine Mesh Strainer
You will often find paired with a Hawthorne or Julep strainer known as a fine strainer. It also keeps out unwanted ingredients from your cocktails by filtering the finer particles that may be left behind.
Crafting cocktail recipes in a way that balances delicate flavors requires accurate measures. To put it simply, precision is critical. The hourglass shape of the jigger is a form of measurement used by bartenders. Basic models are inexpensive and may usually be bought for a few dollars. Higher-end jiggers are heavier and available in decorative finishes. Standard jiggers come in ½, ¾, 1, 1 ½ ounce sizes. When measuring with a jigger, ensure you know what size you are using and always fill it to ensure you're giving your drink maximum flavor.
You can find muddlers made of wood, plastic, or steel. Muddlers with a rubber head and teeth are perfect for crushing ice and extracting juice from the fruit. Wooden muddlers will have a rounded or flat head and are ideal for drawing out the oils and aromas in herbs. Be sure to invest in muddlers long enough for tall glasses too.
59) Citrus Juicer
Citrus is an essential ingredient when making all sorts of cocktails and, therefore, is ideal for squeezing fresh juice from lemons, lemons, oranges, and grapefruit. The enameled hand citrus squeezer is a popular type and relatively inexpensive. It will extract much more juice from one piece of fruit than bare hands alone. A professional, lever-style juicer is a wise investment if you frequently make margaritas pitchers. You may even want to consider a countertop model, so your hands have less stress.
Bar Service Supplies
While not pre-requisites for crafting cocktails, certain bar service supplies will go a long way in helping you keep your bar organized, clean, as well as provide your guests with an enjoyable atmosphere.
Other bar tools and accessories:
60) Bottle openers
There’s nothing worse than getting all set for a glass of wine or a beer but not having a bottle opener. Sure, there are tricks to opening bottles in a pinch, but keep one on hand and save yourself the trouble.
61) Bar caddy
You’ve likely seen these at your neighborhood watering hole. They’re the storage and serving station that holds lemon, lime, and other cocktail garnish.
62) Ice bucket
An ice bucket comes in handy for parties when the cocktails are flowing
63) Bar mats
Yeah, a bar mat in your home sounds like overkill, but you’ll thank us after mixing a couple of cocktails.
64) Cutting board and bar knife
A good quality cutting board and knife are vital for preparing cocktail garnish.
You don't have to stock up on every type of glassware for the many specialty cocktails available today, but you'll want to give you some thought to what styles of cocktails and mixed drinks you will be serving. Of course, you can always look at Dramson's full selection of glassware for any needed inspiration.
65) Coupe Glasses
Rather than buying separate glasses for martinis, margaritas, and champagne, one piece of glassware will cover all three. The handy glass we're talking about is called the Coupe. Not only does it have a classy look, but it also has a stable base that will prevent spills and a solid stem to help keep drinks chilled.
66) Rocks Glasses
If you're hosting a quaint get-together, or your guests simply want to sip their favorite spirits, you should always have rock glasses readily available. Your guests can sip their favorite whisky paired with sophisticated ice.
67) Highball Glasses
If you're looking for a tall, slender glass that will allow you to make those drinks featuring more non-alcoholic mixers than spirits, the Highball or Collins are the way to go. These glasses are specifically designed for tall mixed drinks, including those drinks they're named after.
68) Shot Glasses
Always be prepared for that time-honored tradition of "shots!" You are bound to hear this battle cry at some point, so always be ready by keeping shot glasses on hand. And if your jiggers aren't readily available, shot glasses work well for bomb drinks and measuring other liquors too.
69) Pint Glasses
Pint glasses are a given just for their versatility alone. You'll use them with your Boston Shaker to muddle ingredients, crush ice, and serve beer. And let's not forget our non-alcoholic drinking guests either. With pint glasses around, you have all your bases covered.
70) Wine Glasses & Champagne Flutes
Depending on your taste in wine, you can get by with medium-sized stemmed wine glasses and champagne flutes.
Putting it all together
A solid home bar foundation will get you to a good start for entertaining family and friends. After a few get-togethers, you'll be able to customize more based on your guests' needs. Customizing your bar to meet the tastes and desires of your guests will make your home bar the hottest spot in town. And don't forget to have a drink yourself. You deserve it.