What to Have in a Home Bar (The Ultimate Essentials Checklist)

For the modern man or woman who enjoys entertaining, having a home bar that’s properly stocked is essential.

Sometimes all it takes is that well-mixed drink to romance a date, schmooze a co-worker or boss, or just plain impress your friends.

However, starting your own home bar may seem like a confusing task if you don’t have any bartender friends to ask for advice.

So, what to have in a home bar to make it worthwhile and useful? As your trusty companion, I’m going to answer that exact question in this post. Becoming a home mixologist is not as hard as it may seem, especially if you have all of the right liquor and accessories.

What Do You Need for a Home Bar?

First Things First

Before we get into the ultimate home bar essentials checklist, there’s a small detail that many people fail to include in their home bar setups that can easily be remedied.

The fact is that not everyone who comes over to your house likes strong or mixed drinks. Some people much rather prefer beer or wine. So, if you’re serious about entertaining your guests and building a home bar that becomes a talking centerpiece, you’ll want to have a good selection of beer on hand as well.

To really make your home bar stand out and be ready to meet your guests’ every needs, it pays to invest in a cheap beverage cooler (also known as a mini beer fridge).

To see what’s available, take a look at my review of the five best rated beverage coolers. There are options that hold as little as 60 cans of beer all the way up to 150 cans. They all look very stylish with see-through doors and adjustable racks for storing all can sizes.

Ultimate Home Bar Essentials Checklist

Liquor

A nine-bottle liquor bar is really all you need to make hundreds of different drinks. Obviously, the liquors you choose depend on your taste, but it’s a good idea to have a little bit of everything so you can properly entertain your guests.

  • Bourbon – Whether you choose Wild Turkey or Jim Beam, bourbon whiskey is affordable. It has a smooth taste that you can sip straight or blend into a cocktail like the Old Fashioned flawlessly.

  • Vodka – When it comes to mixing liquors, it’s hard to beat Vodka’s lighter smell and taste. Grey Goose is excellent for drinking it straight, or you can blend in into a Bloody Mary.
  • Gin – You can buy London Dry, Generver, Old Tom, and Plymouth varieties. As this is one of the base liquors for dozens of cocktails, make sure to have a lot on hand. 
  • Rum – Rum comes from distilling molasses from the Caribbean. You can get both dark and light rum varieties. Use light rum for mixing cocktails and dark rum for punches.
  • Scotch – A single malt scotch is perfect for sipping on the rocks or neat. You can also use it to make the Rob Roy cocktail.
  • Tequila – For margaritas or strong shots, tequila is essential. Gold tequila works best for cocktails because it’s cheaper. For drinking it straight, try silver tequila like Patron.
  • Triple Sec – Triple sec is a sweet, orange-flavored liqueur. Popular for use in cocktails, you can add it to Kamikazes, Long Island Iced Teas, Cosmopolitans, and more.
  • Vermouth (dry) – A popular base liquor, Vermouth is a common starter for Martinis because it enhances the taste of the other ingredients.
  • Vermouth (sweet) – Sweet Vermouth adds a light, sweet, floral flavor to several cocktails like the classic Manhattan.

Mixers

It’s almost impossible to guess what people will want for their mixed drinks. This is why it’s important to have certain types of mixers on hand and ready to go. Stock up on these and keep them always cold on hand in your new beverage refrigerator.

  • Angostura Bitters
  • Club Soda
  • Cola
  • Cranberry Juice
  • Ginger Ale
  • Orange Juice
  • Pineapple Juice
  • Sparking Water or Tonic Water
  • Sprite or 7-Up
  • Tomato Juice

Accessories

You don’t have to have every single item on this list when you’re just starting out, but over time try to collect these accessories to round out your home bar.

  • Bartender’s Handbook (Ultimate Bartender’s Guide by Ray Foley is an excellent choice)
  • Jigger – This essential for measuring liquor shots. Pick one with one-ounce measurements on one side and one and a half ounces on the other side.
  • Standard Shaker – This is essential for making most mixed drinks and to chill them quickly with ice. Choose one with a metal bottom, metal lid, and a metal strainer
  • Bottle Opener
  • Cocktail Napkins
  • Cocktail Toothpicks
  • Corkscrew
  • Cutting Board
  • Juice Squeezer
  • Long Cocktail Spoon
  • Pairing Knife
  • Peeler
  • Swizzle Sticks 

Garnishes

Not only do garnishes add layers of flavor to your drink, but they also give you something to nibble on while you sipping a cocktail. Citrus garnishes go well with tequila-based drinks and light beer. Olives and onions add a slightly sour and spicy hint to gin-based drinks. Store these items in your beverage cooler when you’re not actively entertaining guests.

  • Horseradish
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Maraschino Cherries
  • Olives
  • Onions
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Tabasco 

Glassware

Having an assortment of glassware on hand is key to giving your guests an authentic look and feel. The following three glass styles ensure that your drink of choices matches the glass. 

  • Highball Glasses
  • Martini Glasses
  • Wine Glasses

Wine

For people who have a more sophisticated taste, it’s a good idea to stock at least two bottles of wine. They don’t have to be super expensive to be good, and they’re a pleasant addition for any home bar.

  • Red – Red wine comes from black grapes. They have rich, soft, and velvety flavors with a slightly nutty aftertaste.
  • White – White wine comes from white grapes. This wine has floral notes combined with a slightly acidic bite and citrus notes.

I hope you enjoyed this list on how to stock a home bar. While it’s good to have everything on this list, remember that you can start slowly and gather each item over time. You don’t have to fully stock your bar overnight. And, over time you’ll get a better feel for what things are or are not using on a regular basis, so stocking up will be much easier.

Trusty Joe Logo
Your pal,
Trusty Joe