A Man's Guide to Stocking a Cocktail Bar

Start your at-home bar with the basics, and build from there. Assess your bar supplies each season and before you have guests.
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Martini

Photo by: Lisa Wilder

Lisa Wilder

Martini

Liquors: Pick your favorite to start, and then add others over time.

  • Gin
  • Rum
  • Tequila (white, gold, aged, extra-aged or ultra-aged)
  • Whiskey, bourbon, rye
  • Vodka

 

Liqueurs: These add a secondary layer of flavor in many cocktails.

  • Herb-based spirits, such as Campari or Chartreuse
  • Orange-based liqueur, such as Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • Sweet liqueurs, such as creme de cacao of Kahlua
  • Vermouth (dry and sweet)

 

Bitters: A dash of bitters accents and adds depth to a cocktail.

  • Aromatic bitters, such as classic Angostura or sweet, spicy Artisan bitters, innovative flavors abound
  • Orange bitters
  • Peychaud's

 

Spicy & Savory Flavors: Easy to have on hand and most keep for a long time.

  • Horseradish
  • Hot sauces, such as Tabasco, green pepper sauce, Sriracha or other Asian chili sauces
  • Olive brine, pickle juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Worcestershire sauce

 

Sweet & Sour Flavors: Personalize your cocktails with infused simple syrups, or make your own sour mix.

  • Grenadine
  • Simple syrup (plain or infused with herbs, spices or fruit)
  • Sour mix
  • Sugar (granulated, brown, cane)

 

Fruit Juices: Freshly squeeze your citrus fruits for maximum flavor.

  • Cranberry juice cocktail
  • Lemon juice
  • Lime juice
  • Orange juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Pomegranate juice
  • Strong iced teas or tisanes

 

Carbonation: Buy sodas packaged in small bottles; a 2-liter bottle of soda may go flat between parties.

  • Seltzer
  • Club soda
  • Tonic
  • Cola
  • Lemon-lime
  • Ginger ale
  • Ginger beer

 

Garnishes: Precut slices or wedges of lemons and limes before the party, and have fun with inventive garnishes.

  • Celery
  • Citrus twists
  • Coarse salt
  • Cocktail onions, for Gibsons
  • Cucumber
  • Fresh berries or currants
  • Fresh herbs, such as mint or basil
  • Fun swizzle sticks, cocktail straws, spears for fruit garnishes
  • Jalapeno
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Nutmeg, for grating on brandy Alexanders or eggnog
  • Olives, try different varieties or stuffed olives
  • Oranges
  • Starfruit, pineapple, apple
  • Sugar cubes, for Manhattans

 

Tools of the Trade: These tools are essential to any well-stocked bar.

  • Blender
  • Bottle opener
  • Cocktail shaker
  • Cocktail stirrer
  • Cocktail strainer
  • Hand-held fruit juicer
  • Jigger measure
  • Knife
  • Muddler
  • Small cutting board

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How to Stock a Cocktail Bar

Stocking a bar doesn't have to break the bank. Start with the basics, and build from there. Assess your bar supplies each season and before each planned party. In the warmer months, think beer, white wine and light spirits.
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