Home Bar Basics 101

We got a lot of response to this post, asking for more specifics on what tools and spirits we recommend to stock a new home bar, so here goes…

What do you need for a home bar? Notice I used the word need here – there is a lot of stuff you might want, but fortunately, there are only a few things you really need in a home bar. With a few basic barware supplies, some liquor, mixers, and flavorings even the most budget-conscious imbiber can have an efficient and functional home bar. The basics:


Cocktail Shaker

There are basically two types – a cobbler style (with the strainer built in) or the Boston shaker style which consists of a mixing glass and metal tin. For straining, you can use either a julep or hawthorn strainer. Personally, I recommend a Boston shaker – they take a bit of practice, but once you figure them out, they work much better than a cobbler shaker.


These come in a variety of sizes from 1/2 oz. up to 2 oz. No need to read measurements on a measuring cup, just fill and pour. You can also use a small measuring glass (Oxo makes a nice one).

Bar Spoon

Primarily used for mixing drinks, some spoons come with a muddler, fork or ice cracker at the end.

Mixing Glass

If you choose a Boston shaker, you can use the mixing glass for stirring cocktails or you can buy mixing glasses – anything from a Pyrex beaker to a Japanese yarai glass which is quite popular.

Fine Mesh Strainer

Really useful for double straining a shaken cocktail to remove ice shards, citrus pulp or anything else that mars the smoothness of a shaken cocktail.

Citrus Juicer or Reamer

Indispensable for making fresh juice for cocktails.


Useful for releasing the essential oils of herbs and citrus in a cocktail.

Cocktail picks

Essential for holding things like cherries, pickled onions, and olives as well as more creative drink garnishes.

Vegetable Peeler

For creating citrus garnishes. Y peelers seem to work the best for these.


What you need really depends upon what you like. Start with liquors that you like whether it’s gin, bourbon, rum, vodka or tequila. Instead of ordering your standard favorites when you go out, try ordering cocktails with different base liquors. That way you can try different liquors without investing in a whole bottle!

Mixers: There are some basic “mixers” that are used with virtually all liquors. Again, start with the ones you like – if you love Manhattans, then a good bottle of Italian style vermouth would definitely be part of your basic bar.

Suggested Basic Mixers

  • Italian Vermouth
  • French Vermouth
  • Cointreau
  • St. Germaine
  • Sparkling Mineral water
  • Tonic
  • Ginger beer, cola
  • citrus juice – freshly squeezed
  • Peychaud’s bitters
  • Angostura bitters
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