home bar photo by keyan still

How to build a home bar

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Creating the bar of your dreams may seem like a tediously expensive task, especially if you’re not sure how to most efficiently spend your money. With an oversaturation of options, both booze- and tool-wise, you could easily spend some big bucks, but blowing your budget isn’t necessary. By picking up a few key products, you’ll have a ballin’ bar to start (for under $250) and can slowly add other items as your budget allows.

Stocking the best base spirits is of paramount priority. Begin with a few whiskey options. Let’s start in the USA: Fistful of Bourbon ($20) is made by blending five distinct styles of straight bourbon and increases depth and versatility in cocktails. You’ll also want a blended malt scotch whiskey like Monkey Shoulder ($30), which is great for mixing drinks or as a nice dram to sip on alone. Don’t miss out on the ever-increasing popularity of Irish whiskey. We recommend Tullamore DEW ($22) with a full structure from its triple-grain recipe that’s perfect in an Irish coffee or paired as a shot with your favorite pint of beer.

photo by keyan still

Next up, you’ll need gin. Hendrick’s ($30), for example, is meticulously crafted to be balanced and approachable while offering aspects of floral, citrus and earth. We then head south to the land of tequila. Milagro Silver ($28) is twice distilled using column and pot stills and utilizes fully matured agave to preserve every bit of flavor. Finally, round out the base spirits with rum and vodka. Flor De Cana Rum ($17) is a rich-bodied tipple made at the base of a volcano, while Reyka Vodka ($18) hails from the island of Iceland and is filtered through lava rock.

Once your base spirits are covered, make sure your ice game is on point. The Frost Silicone Round Ice Cube Tray with a 2½-inch mold ($11) is excellent to keep your drinks cold without excessive dilution. Keeping your ice sealed with an Oxo Silicone Covered Ice Tray ($13) will ensure that pesky freezer odors don’t translate into unintentional flavors in your drink.

photo by keyan still

No home bar is complete without a few basic mixers. We suggest Q Ginger Ale ($5), Fentiman’s Tonic ($7), Schweppes Club Soda ($3) and fresh citrus ($10). To impart sweetness, make your own simple syrup by mixing equal parts sugar and hot water. Other sweeteners include honey ($3) or dark agave nectar ($6).
If you’ve stocked your bar with all of the above and still have cash to spare, the following additions can add depth to your cocktails. Modifiers like Cointreau orange liqueur ($20), sweet or dry vermouth ($12 each) and Campari bitter Italian liqueur ($28) add variance to your cocktails while broadening the variety of classic cocktails you can make. For spice, you will want some bitters, and three reign supreme in the world of classic drinks: Angostura ($7) for an earthy, round flavour, Peychaud’s ($6) for an herbal touch, and Regan’s ($6) for a hint of orange.

Finally, don’t forget the groovy glassware. Great deals on vintage punchbowls, coupes, rocks and Collins glasses can be found at thrift stores and flea markets (prices range from $10 to $100 for a full set). Finally, round out that growing home bar with a few key tools (most under $20): a paring knife, a muddler with a smooth bottom (toothed muddlers will shred your herbs and fruit, releasing too much bitterness), stirring spoons and glasses, a tin shaker and, last but not least, a strainer. Cheers!