46 Home Bar Must-Haves To Upgrade Your Bar Game

Discover home bar essentials and related products you need to perfect your home bar including liquor, mixers, non-drink essentials and other tips

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If you’re ready to become an at-home mixologist, this home bar essentials buying guide will make sure you’re stocked to mix up your favorite cocktails. Once you have the basics, you set your bar up just the way you like it. For example, if you’re a fan of vodka, you can then focus on the barware and mixers that work well with this spirit.  

Whenever buying for a home bar, keep your future guests in mind. Make sure you get all the glasses, mugs, and tumblers you’ll need to entertain.

Essential Home Bar Tools

Every good mixologist has a tool kit, and most who are starting out pick up the following items to mix their favorite drinks: 

1. Shakers: Shakers come in various shapes and sizes, but they all help you shake up great drinks. Yes, you can mix up a drink in practically any glass, but many cocktail preparations require shaking to achieve a frothy texture or cool down the spirits by shaking them with ice. If you feel like purchasing a set, larger shakers allow you to make a party-sized batch that is consistent from drink to drink.


2. Muddlers: A muddler is basically a pestle, often with tiny teeth on the bottom. It’s meant to grind garnishes like mint or orange to help any herbs and fruits release their flavors into your drink.

Various cocktail muddlers
Source: The Spruce Eats

3. Bar spoons: Long bar spoons help you reach the bottom of a highball glass and thoroughly mix a cocktail. They’re also handy for making layered drinks because you can pour liquids slowly into a glass off the back of the spoon, one on top of another, to achieve separation. It’s also handy for scooping garnish out of the glass for snacking.

8 bar spoons of various designs lined up in a row
Source: The Cocktail Novice

4. Jiggers: These measuring instruments help you get the flavor and strength of your drinks right.

A set of cocktail jiggers on a cutting board
Source: Liquor.com; Cocktail Kingdom’s Leopold jigger, left, and a Japanese-style jigger. Photo credit: Tim Nusog 

5. Strainers: Use a Julep strainer (right in photo below) with a mixing glass or a Hawthorne strainer (left in photo below) with a shaking tin. You can learn how to use them here.

A stainless steel cocktail strainer set
Source: Serious Eats, Photograph credit: Michael Dietsch

6. Bottle openers and corkscrews: Because you’ll likely need to open a beer or a bottle of wine at some point, it’s good to have openers on hand. Plus, many varieties contain other bar tools— like the Swiss army knife of bartending. Here are some of the best bottle openers and corkscrews.

A wall-mounted bottle opener
Source: GearMoose
A black wine key/corkscrew
Source: The Spruce Eats

7. Bar carts and cabinets: You’re going to need a place to store all your glassware, bar tools, liquors, and wine bottles, so a bar cart is a great purchase. They make for great home decor and a very chic addition to your living area or dining room. Designating a bar cabinet in the kitchen (or a wine cabinet, if you have the storage space) is a great idea, too.

Many popular styles include glass shelves and metallic accents, wine racks, and stemware racks. Others have wooden or glass doors, keeping your liquor bottles a bit more out of sight. If you don’t have much space, you could try a mini bar. Any home bar furniture is a great addition, but your kitchen island will work just fine.

Michael – stock.adobe.com

8. Ice trays: Bartending requires lots of ice. You need ice for shaking and serving, and you can even use ice-cube trays to freeze cocktails or Jell-O shots. Experiment with trays in different shapes and sizes, and if you never remember to make ice before a party, consider investing in freezable drink rocks.

New Africa – stock.adobe.com

9. Knife and cutting board: Many cocktails require fresh fruit juice, herbs, and other elaborate garnishes. A good knife and cutting board that stays at the bar will make cutting fruit and twists from citrus peels much easier.

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS – stock.adobe.com

10. Juicer: While squeezes of lemon and lime juice are popular in cocktails, others contain large volumes of fruit or vegetable juice. Invest in a handheld or electric juicer if you want to make the freshest cocktails in town.

alexsfoto – stock.adobe.com

Drinkware

Glassware is an essential part of the art of cocktail making. They influence the way we view, sip, and experience drinks. Here are some of the basics.

11. Highball glass: These tall glasses are great for mixing simple drinks like Red Bull and vodka.

Highball glass on a grey background
Source: New York Magazine

12. Lowball glass: Also known as a rocks glass, a tumbler, or old fashioned glass, these short pieces of drinkware are perfect for strong drinks served over ice or neat. Use one for your next White Russian, whiskey, or scotch.

Lowball glass half-filled with alcohol
Source: New York Magazine

13. Wine glasses: “Wine glass” is a pretty general term, considering that there are various shapes for red, white, and sparkling wines, and those categories break down even further by variety of grape. We recommend stocking your bar with the basics: a set of glasses intended for both red and white wine and some champagne flutes.

New Africa – stock.adobe.com

14. Coupe and martini glasses: Coupe and martini glasses are shallow, stemmed pieces of drinkware perfect for ice-free cocktails. They encourage slow sipping and look as elegant as the drinks they hold. Coupe glasses also work for champagne, so they could be a great purchase if you like bubbly wines and strong cocktails.

Brent Hofacker – stock.adobe.com

It’s your house, so you make the rules. If you prefer your tequila in a plastic cup, we won’t stop you.

Some other items to have on-hand, especially if you’re hosting a gathering, include:

In addition to the right tools, every artist needs the materials with which to practice their craft. In this case, your medium is liquids: spirits, mixers, and sodas. Here are the must-have ingredients for any fully-stocked home bar. 

Essential Liquors

15. Vodka: Vodka is used in more mixed drinks than any other, from the Bloody Mary to the screwdriver. It makes sense that there are many vodkas to choose from on the market. Typically, top-shelf spirits are smoother, but buy within your price range. 

16. Gin: Any bartender worth their weight in bar salt will tell you that a real martini is made with gin, so stock up. You’ll have the base for a great gin and tonic, too, which is refreshing and easy to make. 

17. Tequila: If you’re having margaritas, you’re going to need tequila. Always buy a 100% agave variety, and invest in a tequila worth sipping so that you can enjoy it in and out of mixed drinks. Discover your favorite variety: blanco, reposado, or añejo.

18. Rum: To make a full range of rum cocktails like daiquiris, mojitos, and piña coladas, you’ll want to stock a light (white or clear) rum like Bacardi Superior as well as a dark rum (spiced rum) like Captain Morgan

19. Whiskey: Whiskey is a whole world of flavor, and there is much to discover, from Jack Daniel’s and Evan Williams to Bulleit, Crown Royal and Seagram’s 7 Crown. There are Irish whiskeys like Jameson or scotch like Oban. The list of cocktails featuring whiskey is just as diverse, from a simple Jack & Coke to a whiskey sour. Pick up a few different bottles and see what you like best.

20. Wine: If you’re a fan of summery sangría, you’ll want to stock wine on your bar. Wine is also great to have on hand. If your friends drop by on whim and you don’t have all the materials you need to make elaborate mixed drinks, you can easily pour out some glasses of wine. 

21. Beer: Beer is a delicious drink on its own, but it’s also a mixer in cocktails and hangover cures like the michelada. 

Other essential liqueurs

These liqueurs appear in many of the most popular cocktails and mixed drinks.

22. Amaretto: The ever-popular almond-flavored liqueur.

23. Coffee liqueur: Try Kahlua for a time-tested favorite. 

24. Sweet and dry vermouth: Essential for martinis, negronis, and more.

25. Irish cream liqueur: Baileys is so tasty, you can serve straight on the rocks.

26. Orange liqueur: Orange liqueur is found in a variety of cocktails from the margarita to the cosmopolitan. Stock your bar with Cointreau, Grand Marnier, and triple sec.

Nice-to-have liqueurs

27. Benedictine: Sweet honey and herb liqueur.

28. Crème de cacao: Chocolate liqueur, not overly sweet.

29. Crème de menthe or peppermint schnapps: Spicy and perfect for holiday beverages

30. Drambuie: Sweet, scotch-based liqueur.

31. Frangelico: Hazelnut liqueur in a monk-shaped bottle.

32. RumChata: Coconut rum liqueur.

Essential mixers

Mixers often make or break a drink. Mixology is all about combining complementing and contrasting flavors for exciting tastes, so stock your home bar with all of the typical mixers. 

33. Ice: Ice is used in almost every drink, whether for serving or shaking. 

34. Sodas: 

35. Juices: If you have the time and tools to make fresh-squeezed drinks, go for it. Keeping fresh fruit on hand is always a great idea. If not, have some of the following on hand. 

  • Lemon and lime juice: These ingredients are in a wide variety of cocktails. If you don’t love the taste of bottled lemon juice and lime juice, you can pick up some sweet-and-sour mix, which is a handy, citrus-flavored mixer that’s already sweetened. 
  • Orange juice: This sweet citrus beverage is the star of the tequila sunrise, screwdriver, fuzzy navel, and many other cocktails.
  • Cranberry juice: Stir up a simple cranberry and vodka or shake up a chic cosmopolitan with this tart juice
  • Pineapple juice: If you like pina coladas, you’re going to need pineapple juice on standby.
  • Tomato juice: Pop quiz: Is tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Whatever you decide, it’s a must if you’re making Bloody Marys.

36. Bitters: This tart essence is an important note in both Manhattans and old fashioneds.

37. Simple syrup: This sweetener is a 50/50 mix of sugar and water and very easy to make yourself.

38. Sweet-and-sour mix: Sweet-and-sour mix is essentially pre-sweetened lemon-lime juice, which means that when you’re faced with a recipe that contains both citrus and sugar, this mixer allows you to skip a couple of steps.

39. Grenadine: This cherry-like syrup turns drinks bright red and Shirley-Temple sweet. 

Extra mixers

  • Milk: Milk, cream, and half and half appear in drinks like the White Russian.
  • Ginger beer: Ginger beer stars in the famous Moscow Mule and the dark and stormy. 
  • Coffee: Coffee, especially good, strong coffee like espresso, can be the base for an easy, dessert-like, two-ingredient cocktail.
  • Tea: Tea goes well in several cocktails, both hot and cold—black teas being the most versatile.
  • Hot sauce: You’ll need tabasco sauce for a Bloody Mary, and Worcestershire sauce adds a savory element to many cocktails.

Essential Garnishes

40. Mint leaves

41. Maraschino cherries

42. Brandied cherries

43. Lemon

44. Lime

45. Orange

46. Green olives

Don’t forget the snacks! Whether you like to make your own appetizers or get them delivered, Gopuff has you covered on ingredients and pre-made treats.

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