Everything You Need for Your Home Cocktail Bar

Essentials to stock your home bar and make drinks like a pro.

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Photo by: Photograph by Philip Friedman

Photograph by Philip Friedman

Mixing the perfect cocktail is truly a science. Sure, making your drink pretty enough to get you a ton of likes on Instagram and TikTok is a fun part of it, but knowing the right ratio of liquors, liqueurs (yes, there's a difference!) ice, bitters and other extras is extremely important too. So is the glassware you serve your drink in and the tools you use to make it. If you're looking to be better versed on everything cocktail-related, check out this expert-approved cheat sheet. It’s loaded up with absolutely everything you need to make your next negroni, margarita or martin the most impressive one yet. Sip, sip hooray!

Glassware

You can serve cocktails in any kind of glass, but these five are go-tos for bartenders. To chill your glass, fill it with ice while you make your drink, then empty out the glass.

Coupe

This glass shape is better for cocktails than champagne — the wide shape can make bubbly lose its fizz.

Martini

A long stem is ideal for cocktails served without ice. You don’t want your hands to warm the drink.

Nick and Nora

This cross between a coupe and a wine glass is fairly small. It holds a 3- to 4-ounce drink.

Highball

Use this for cocktails with lots of ice — the kind you’d drink with a straw. A collins glass is similar but a little taller.

Rocks

As the name suggests, this glass is for drinks served on ice. It’s also called an old-fashioned glass.

Tools

These simple (and inexpensive!) tools will help you mix up anything.

Cocktail Shaker

For ice-cold drinks, you need a sturdy shaker—and some arm muscle. Shake vigorously for at least 15 seconds.

Hawthorne Strainer

Your shaker may come with a built-in strainer, but it’s also worth having a fine strainer like this. Use it for drinks with fruit pulp or muddled herbs.

Muddler

This tool can help extract flavor from herbs, spices and fruit. Just press down on the ingredient and twist.

Jigger

The large cup is typically 1 1/2 ounces, or one jigger; the smaller cup is 3/4 ounce.

Bar Spoon

Stir a drink with ice instead of shaking it if you don’t want to aerate or dilute it. You can also use a bar spoon for measuring — it’s one teaspoon.

The Bottles

The list of liquors and liqueurs never ends, but these are our top picks for a starter bar.

Liquors

Vodka

It’s colorless and mostly flavorless — and the base for many classic drinks.

Tequila

Blanco is not aged, reposado is slightly aged, añejo is aged.

Gin

This staple liquor is distilled with juniper berries, and the flavor really comes through.

Whiskey

This category includes bourbon (sweetish), Scotch (smoky) and rye (peppery).

Brandy

Brandy is distilled wine or other fruit juice; cognac is a version made in France.

Rum

The more golden the color, the stronger the flavor. Rum gets darker as it ages.

Liquers

Coffee Liquer

This thick spirit is sweet and slightly caffeinated.

Amaretto

You’ll taste distinct almond flavors in this liqueur.

Amaro

These bitter Italian liqueurs are great after-dinner drinks

Cherry Liquer

The dark red syrupy version is sweeter than the clear variety.

Elderflower Liquer

It’s super aromatic, with a floral, pear-like flavor.

Campari

It’s loved for its bitter taste and bright red color.

Orange Liquer

It adds sweet citrusy flavor to many drinks, like margaritas.

Vermouth

Dry vermouth is for martinis; sweet for Negronis and Manhattans.

Extras

Gernadine

This bright red syrup gives a Shirley Temple its pretty color.

Zero-Proof Liquor

Seedlip brand sells great nonalcoholic spirits.

Simple Syrup

It’s the go-to neutral sweetener; maple syrup is a good alternative.

Bitters

These spirits can be infused with herbs, roots, spices and more.

Time for a Drink!

Go with a classic cocktail — or try a new twist.

Negronis

Classic Negroni

Stir 1 ounce each Campari, sweet vermouth and gin in a shaker with ice. Strain into an ice- filled glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

Blood Orange-Rosé Negroni

Stir 1 1/2 ounces each Campari and sweet vermouth and 1 ounce blood orange juice in a shaker with ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass; top with sparkling rosé. Garnish with a blood orange slice.

Mezcal-Cynar Negroni

Stir 1 1/2 ounces mezcal, 1 ounce Cynar and 1/2 ounce each sweet and dry vermouth in a shaker with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Margaritas

Classic Margarita

Shake 3 ounces blanco tequila, 2 ounces Cointreau and 1 ounce lime juice in a shaker with ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass (rim with salt, if desired). Garnish with a lime wheel.

Frozen Strawberry Margaritas

Blend 2 cups frozen strawberries, 4 ounces blanco tequila, 1 1/2 ounces agave, 1 ounce lime juice and some ice in a blender. Pour into 2 glasses; top each with 1/2 ounce mezcal. Garnish with a strawberry.

Orange-Lime Margarita

Shake 3 ounces reposado tequila, 1 ounce each lime juice and orange juice and 1/4 ounce each Cointreau and agave in a shaker with ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass. Garnish with an orange peel and lime slice.

Martinis

Classic Martini

Shake 2 1/2 ounces gin and 1/2 ounce dry vermouth in a shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with olives.

Pomegranate-Sake Martini

Shake 2 ounces sake, 1 ounce vodka, 3/4 ounce pomegranate juice and 1/4 ounce lime juice in a shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a basil sprig.

Cucumber-Lemon Martini

Shake 2 1/2 ounces gin, 1 ounce pureed cucumber and 1/4 ounce each dry vermouth and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a lemon peel and cucumber slice.

Sours

Classic Whiskey Sour

Shake 2 ounces whiskey, 1 ounce lemon juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup and 1/4 ounce pasteurized egg white in a shaker, then add ice and shake again. Strain into an ice-filled glass. Add a lemon peel and cherry.

Gin-Grapefruit Sour

Stir 1 1/2 ounces gin, 3/4 ounce grapefruit juice, 1/2 ounce lemon juice and 1/4 ounce simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass; top with grapefruit seltzer. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

Cherry-Bourbon Sour

Shake 1 1/2 ounces bourbon, 1 ounce tart cherry juice, 3/4 ounce amaretto liqueur, 1/2 ounce lemon juice and 1/4 ounce simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass.

Mojitos

Classic Mojito

Muddle 6 to 8 mint leaves, 2 lime wedges and 1 tablespoon superfine sugar in a glass. Fill with ice and 2 ounces white rum; top with seltzer. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Pineapple-Ginger Mojito

Muddle 8 mint leaves, 2 pineapple cubes and 2 teaspoons superfine sugar in a glass. Fill with ice and 2 ounces spiced dark rum; top with ginger beer. Garnish with a pineapple slice.

Zero-Proof Blackberry Mojito

Muddle 5 blackberries, 1 to 2 thyme sprigs and 2 teaspoons superfine sugar in a glass. Fill with ice and 1 ounce lemon juice; top with sparkling cider. Garnish with a lemon wheel and thyme sprig.

Photograph Credits:

Cocktails and Tools: Philip Friedman.

Captain Morgan, Gran Torino, Tanqueray, Disaronno, Cointreau and Grenadine: Getty Images.

Simple Syrup: Levi Brown.

Hine: Ben Goldstein.

Kahlua: Alamy.

St-Germain and Campari: Marko Metzinger.

Smirnoff: Susan Pittard.

Story Credits:

Introduction paragraph written by Michelle Baricevic for FoodNetwork.com.

Cocktail recipes by Jessica D’ambrosio, Melissa Gaman, Khalil Hymore and Steve Jackson.

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