First steps in starting your home bar

First steps in starting your home bar

If you are reading this, you are a drinker and looking to see how to set up a bar at home to regularly make drinks. You probably already have some basic knowledge (or even more) about cocktails and spirits.

We love to play around with recipes. The more we drink, the merrier we become, the more we think we can run a bar! There is no harm is being a little melodramatic, pull off some flare in your pj’s on a Saturday night. Mix a drink to binge on an exciting tv series, have a romantic meal or read a good book.

Here are a few things to get for a start:


1. Jigger: anything to measure the liquid
Jiggers alternatives
Measuring spoons, shot glasses (usually 30ml), bottle caps... Recipes can usually be divided into parts. Say for a Negroni, the ingredients are 1:1:1 of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari so it doesn’t matter how many ml or oz each pour is long as their ratio is correct, you’ll get a balance Negroni.

2. Shaker: anything that doesn’t leak when you shake

Basic shakers for home bar

Put together two glasses, use a jar with screw lid, coffee cup, or buy a proper one online.

3. Strainers

Basic strainers for home bar

Most shakers come with a strainer, that usually suffices. To fine strain fruit pulp, ice bits and smaller particles, get a fine strainer and double strain. That should make your drink clean of unwanted bits.

4. Bar spoon: anything that can stir, a spoon or even a chopstick works

5. Small knife and peeler: anything that can cut fruits and peel skin off a citrus

6. Optional
- Muddler
- Citrus juicer
- Strainer to remove any excess pulp fresh juices but no harm having some pulps, right?

For a basic spirit shelf, stock your favourite spirits first so to not end up having them collecting dust. This bar is for you so make sure you have what you personally enjoy.

1. Dark/Aged spirits

Basic dark Spirits for home bar
Dark spirits are aged alcohol which imparts its taste and colour from wood the spirit is aged in. Although you can drink most of these spirits neat or on the rocks, they are staples to many classic but simple cocktails.

Some essentials in your collection:

Cognac/brandy: Hennessy V.S.O.P, Martell V.S.
Whisky: Johnnie Walker Black Label, Monkey Shoulder
Dark rum: Angostura 5YO, Plantation Original Dark
Bourbon: Wild Turkey 101, Maker’s Mark

2. Clear spirits

Basic clear spirits for home bar
Clear spirits are usually unaged and therefore taste closer to the base ingredients used to make them. Vodka tastes the purest and can be added to make some
simple yet delicious cocktails. Gin, rum and tequila on the other hand contain more flavours that can influence the taste of the drinks depending on the mixer they are combined with. There are some classics to play around with to get an idea. (Scroll to the bottom for recipes)

Here are some most basic brands to start with:

Vodka: Stolichnaya
Gin: Beefeater
Rum: Bacardi Carta Blanca
Tequila: Jose Cuervo Especial Gold

3. Liqueurs

Basic liqueurs for home bar
Buy liqueurs like vermouth, bitters and triple sec which are important elements in many cocktails, you will find them especially useful in tweaking the taste in your drinks.

Vermouth: Lillet dry vermouth, Dolin sweet vermouth
Bitters: Campari, Angostura aromatic bitters or orange bitters
Triple sec: Cointreau, Bols

For the drink

1. Glassware

Basic glassware for home bar


- Highball glasses for long drinks
- Rock glass for short drinks
- 300ml/10oz martini/coupe glasses

2. Ice

Ice moulds for home bar
Buy different shape ice moulds from Daiso, Muji or Ikea to get your desired ice shapes for long drinks.
Ice ball moulds are widely available online. Ice balls look great for short drinks and they take longer to melt away.

3. Mixers
Keep the mixers simple as most of them are versatile enough to be used in different cocktails. Your mainstays should include:

- Lemon juice
- Lime juice
- Simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water)
- Tonic water
- Soda water

4. Garnish
The best garnishes to use are zest from the citrus which will enhance the aromas of your cocktail, such as lemons, lime and oranges. Find something that connects to the drink. Hint: Olives for a Dirty Martini.


Try these for dark spirits:

Old Fashioned
45ml dark spirit, 1 cube/teaspoon sugar, 2 dashes of bitters
Muddle sugar with a dash of bitters in a rock glass until dissolved, add ice and whisky. Garnish with an orange peel.

1:1 to 1:3 ratio of dark spirit soda/ginger ale
Fill a highball glass with ice, pour dark spirit and topped with soda, add fresh fruits (optional).

50ml dark spirit, 20ml triple sec, 20ml lemon juice
Shake all ingredients with ice the pour into a coupe. Rim the glass with sugar (optional).

Try these for clear spirits:

Cuba Libre
50ml rum, 120ml cola and a squeeze of a lime wedge.
Fill a highball glass with ice and build all ingredients in the glass.

45ml rum, 15ml sugar syrup and 130ml lime juice
Shake all ingredients with ice and pour into a coupe.

Gin and tonic
1:1 to 1:3 ratio of gin and tonic.
Fill glass with ice, add gin and topped with tonic. Garnish with a lemon slice for a London Dry or any ingredients used in the gin, e.g. juniper berry. Serve in a highball or wine glass.

60ml tequila, 15ml triple sec, 45ml lime juice.
Shake with ice and served in a coupe. Rim glass with salt and garnish with a lime wedge

Long Island Iced Tea
15ml rum, 15ml gin, 15ml vodka, 15ml tequila, 15ml simple syrup, 15ml lemon juice, 60ml cola.
Stir all spirits in ice and top with cola, served in highball.

Start with these basics and work your way to adjusting the recipes to your personal liking. The trick is to try mix and match and drink more to train your palate memory. It’s your bar, you make the call.

Have fun and enjoy!

- T -


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