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.

Cocktail Bar


wine bar table

Photo by: Jelena Jojic

Jelena Jojic

wine bar table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Lemon juice
  • Lime juice
  • Orange juice
  • Cranberry juice cocktail
  • 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.

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

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

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

Make these fun cocktail recipes with your well-stocked bar:

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