With most watering holes still temporarily shutdown and people enjoying more spirits at home, it might be time to upgrade or start your own home bar. Here are the essentials you’ll need to make just about any cocktail to tempt your tastebuds.
The one tool that every home bar needs is a good cocktail shaker with a strainer. A jigger is a great addition for accurate measuring and a bottle opener and corkscrew are essentials for beers and wines. Other specialty tools that can help but are not strictly necessary are a muddler, a zester, and a salt/sugar rimmer.
Gin has a crispness and a floral aroma that works well as the base of many cocktails.
Bourbon for those cocktails that need a robust and full-bodied flavor
Whiskey, the type of which can depend on your own preferences. Rye whiskey has a spice taste, Scotch whisky is more smoky and Irish whiskey is known for its smoothness.
Tequila for margaritas, shots and so many other cocktails. If you’re going to primarily use it for cocktails then silver is the best option.
Vodka, with its clean flavor is the workhorse of most cocktails and an essential for the home bar.
Rum, both light and dark. Light rum is the foundation of many drinks, while dark rum has a smoky-sweet or sometimes spice flavor that adds an extra element to cocktails, especially tropical blends.
Brandy is often a key ingredient in many classic cocktails and can also be sipped on its own.
Liqueurs and cordials
This category is more a matter of preference. For example, if you like martinis, then a bottle of dry vermouth is essential for your home bar. A few options that have some versatility when it comes to mixing cocktails are:
Kahlua or another coffee liqueur; Amaretto for sweeter cocktails or an after-dinner drink; and Irish cream liqueurs like Bailey's or RumChata. Some options to add a fruity taste to a cocktail are: Midori for melon; Chambord for raspberry; and an orange liqueur like Cointreau, Grand Mariner or Blue Curacao.
Last, but not least, are the mixers that add flavor and volume to a cocktail. Again, cocktail preference will be the key determination on what mixers to add to your home bar, but a few that will come up often in dink recipes are: Club soda, lime and lemon juice, fruit juices, simple syrup, grenadine, cream and bitters.