At-Home Bar Essentials
Start with at-home bar basics like tools, standard liquors, garnishes and cocktail mixers then build from there.
Tools of the Trade
These tools are essential to any well-stocked bar: cocktail strainer, cocktail shaker, jigger measure, bottle opener, blender, cocktail stirrer, knife, small cutting board, hand-held fruit juicer and a muddler.
Sweet and Sour
Personalize your cocktails with infused simple syrups, or make your own sour mix. Get sweet or sour flavors from sugar (granulated, brown or cane), grenadine, sour mix or simple syrup (plain or infused with herbs, spices or fruit).
Make It Carbonated
Buy sodas packaged in small bottles; a 2-liter bottle of soda may go flat between parties. You'll want to stock up on seltzer, ginger ale, ginger beer, cola, club, soda, tonic and lemon-lime soda.
A Dash of Bitters
Bitters accent and add depth to a cocktail. Try aromatic bitters, such as classic Angostura, or sweet, spicy Peychaud's, orange bitters or artisan bitters in innovative flavors.
These liqueurs add a secondary layer of flavor in many cocktails: herb-based spirits such as Campari or Chartreuse; sweet liqueurs such as creme de cacao or Kahlua; vermouth (dry and sweet); and orange-based liqueur such as Cointreau or triple sec.
Pick your favorite to start then add others over time. Standards include rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey, gin and bourbon.
Spicy & Savory Flavors
These flavors are easy to have on hand and most keep for a long time: tomato juice, olive brine and pickle juice as well as hot sauces such as Tabasco, Worcestershire, horseradish and Sriracha or other Asian chili sauces.
Cut up slices or wedges of lemons and limes before the party, and have fun with inventive garnishes: celery, pickles, lemon slices, lime slices, apple slices or cocktail onions for a Gibson; maraschino cherries, olives, coarse salt and nutmeg for grating on a Brandy Alexander or eggnog; and star fruit, pineapple or sugar cubes for a Manhattan. And for other garnishes, consider fresh berries or currants; fresh herbs such as mint or basil; and fun swizzle sticks, cocktail straws or spears.
For maximum flavor, freshly squeeze these citrus fruits for juices: orange, pomegranate, cranberry, pineapple, lemon and lime and also brew and use strong iced teas.