A home bar that isn’t stocked won’t be very popular.
If you want your friends to enjoy coming to your bar then you need to be ready.
Here’s a quick summary of what you need. More detail below.
- Alcohol – Vodka, Gin, Whiskey, Rum, Tequila, Beer, Wine
- Liqueurs – Vermouth, Cointreau, Disaronno, Campari
- Mixers – Club soda, Tonic water, Cola, Sprite or 7-up, Ginger Ale, Orange Juice, Cranberry juice. Tomato juice, Pineapple juice, Simple Syrup, Angostura Bitters
- Garnishes – Cocktail olives, Cocktail onions, Horseradish, Limes, Lemons, Tabasco sauce, Salt, Pepper, Sugar
This fully stocked bar checklist will prepare you for your next party.
Some Basic Tips For Stocking Your Home Bar
Before you go out and spend hundreds of dollars (or more) at the liquor store, here are some guidelines that will save you time, money, and a little sanity when you are getting started stocking your home bar for the first time.
1. Keep It Simple To Start
You can’t be prepared to make every drink at your home bar. So don’t try to get everything on this list right from the start. I created this fully stocked bar checklist so that you can have a guide to go by as you build up your home bar.
If you try to get everything all at once, all you will accomplish is having a dusty unopened bottle as a bar decoration. Sure, it looks nice but it was a total waste of money.
Start with the basics.
Get some mid-priced bottles of the most popular and useful liquor (the ones that are used in a lot of drink recipes). If you start with some vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, and tequilla (and a few mixers), then you can make hundreds of different drinks.
2. Get Stuff You And Your Friends Like
So where do you go from there?
This really should go without saying but start with the things that you need to make the drinks you and your friends like.
Unless you are having tons of huge parties, you probably have the same people coming over to have some drinks on a regular basis.
So ask them what they like!
It really is that simple. The goal of stocking your bar is to make sure you have drinks that you and your guests enjoy drinking. No one cares that you bought a $100 bottle of aged bourbon if no one likes bourbon. So save your money and focus on the things that you and your friends drink regularly.
After you get those, then you can try new things to see if they work.
3. Find A Good Cocktail Book (or App)
No one knows every drink out there.
And if this is your home bar, no one is paying you to know every drink out there.
So find a good guide to mixed drinks. I suggest an actual book rather than an app for a few reasons. First, drinks don’t really change so you don’t need something that is being updated. Second, you can leave it behind the bar and tab the drinks you make often. Third, you don’t have to worry about getting your mobile device wet or sticky!
Here is a a couple great (and inexpensive) guides with 1,000s of mixed drink recipes. They have just about everything you need to get started. Keep one behind your bar and you never have to worry.
BONUS TIP: Every time you have a party, pick one drink to feature and make a simple printed sign showing the ingredients to your guests. They’ll start to look forward to what the next “featured drink” will be at every get together or party.
Fully Stocked Bar Checklist
Enough preliminary stuff, you came here for the checklist to get your home bar party ready…so here it is.
I tried to keep it to the more well known (and easy to find brands) but if you have a personal favorite that is lesser known, leave it in the comments below so we can all try something new.
Vodka – Probably the most popular liquor to make mixed drinks. There’s the vodka tonic, vodka cranberry, vodka martini, and everyone’s favorite breakfast drink, the screwdriver. So a decent bottle of vodka is a good place to start. You don’t necessarily need top shelf but get something decent like Absolut or Grey Goose because your guests probably know these names and will recognize the cheaper brands.
Gin – You can’t go wrong with a good gin and tonic. It’s one of my personal go to favorites along with a gin martini on the rocks. Gin drinks are great to have around in the summer time as they tend to be a little lighter and more refreshing. Stick with a well known name here like Tanqueray. Although, if you are looking for something with a little more character, try a Bombay Sapphire.
Bourbon Whiskey – Everyone that likes whiskey has a favorite and rarely deviates from that one. If you aren’t a whiskey connoisseur, start with some Jim Beam or Wild Turkey and give it a try.
Scotch Whiskey – Like bourbon, scotch has very devout fans. You can’t go wrong with a bottle of Johnny Walker. Everyone knows that name so even if you don’t drink it, you’ll get a little credibility boost for having it on hand. The aged Johnny Walker get’s real expensive though.
Tequila – Tequilla has two very distinct directions. There is sipping margaritas by the pool and then there is shots with salt and a lime. If you are making mostly mixed drinks then you can go with a basic bottle like Jose Cuervo, but if shots are on the menu then up your game a little with some Patron.
Rum – There are so many options with rum, from a straight-forward Baccardi to a spiced rum like Captain Morgan to a flavored run like Malibu. You could buy 100 bottles of rum and not cover all the bases. Start with a simple clear rum and then see what kind of drinks you and your friends want to make and go from there. A lot of flavored rums come in sample packs of small bottles, so you can try that.
Beer – There are certainly too many beers to list here. One suggestion I’ll make, though, is if you are having a party and you have a lot of beer drinkers, a keg is well worth it. If you don’t have a kegerator then just get a large bucket, put the keg inside, cover it with ice, and put it behind the bar.
Wine – Like beer, there are much too many types of wine to make specific suggestions. If you are entertaining guests, just try to have some reds and some whites on hand.
Generally speaking, you don’t need these right away.
They are a nice addition to the bar once you have built up a nice stock of liquor. Most liqueurs are meant for sipping after dinner. Depending on the crowd you have, they are either completely unnecessary or a must have. You probably already know what kind of crowd you’re expecting though.
Vermouth – Vermouth is a fortified wine and it can be sweet or dry. The most common place you’ll use it is in martinis and manhattans. A “dry martini” is one that uses dry vermouth. In Spain, Italy, Portugal, and France it is sometimes sipped on its own as an Apéritif.
Triple Sec/Cointreau – Triple Sec is a strong, sweet and colorless orange-flavored liqueur. Cointreau is a common brand of Triple Sec produced in Saint-Barthélemy-d’Anjou, France. I included Cointreau with Triple Sec here as it is commonly seen in recipes by the brand name.
Disaronno – This is an almond-flavored liqueur. It is made in Italy and the company claims that the recipe has not changed since 1525. It can be drunk on its own as a cordial or mixed with soft drinks.
Campari – Campari is a bitter Italian liqueur. Some common cocktails that use Campari include the Negroni, the Garibaldi, the Americano, and the spritz. In Italy it is mixed with soda water, bottled, and sold as Campari Soda as well.
- Club soda
- Tonic water
- Sprite or 7-up
- Ginger ale
- Orange juice
- Cranberry juice
- Tomato juice
- Pineapple juice
- Simple Syrup – Make by dissolving equal parts water and sugar over heat—it keeps for several weeks in the refrigerator.
- Angostura Bitters – technically you don’t use bitters as a mixer — they’re to be used in splashes to add a bit of flavor to your drinks. But you don’t drink them alone either, so here they are on the mixers list.
- Cocktail olives
- Cocktail onions
- Tabasco sauce
- Ice – not really a garnish and it should go without saying, but here it is just so you won’t forget to have some ice!
Want to dive a little deeper into some recommended bottles, check out this video
Yes, this list seems daunting.
Just remember, your bar can (and should) be a reflection of the space you have for it.
Start with a good understanding of the amount of space you are willing to dedicate to the bar and go from there. That will dictate what size bar you buy or build and, of course, will decide how aggressively you stock the bar. This is why you start with the things you use all the time.
Don’t feel like you need to use this entire checklist. You’re not a restaurant!
Relax, start small, and enjoy some drinks with friends.