How to stock the perfect home bar

Always have what you need on hand

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It never fails. Decide to throw a last-minute party and there's at least one guest who wants some new, hip drink they read about — and you don't have what you need to make it! Never again!

The key to stocking the best home bar is making sure you always have the best go-to tending gear on hand. You may not always have the latest en vogue liqueurs, but you can make sure you’ve got what you need to make almost every standard drink. Encourage your guests to bring any new favorites.

The equipment

Before we skip to the alcohol, you’ll need the right tools. Be prepared with the basic barware to make almost all standard cocktails.

Jigger — A jigger is an hourglass-shaped shot measurer that has a 3/4-ounce measure on one end and a 1-1/2-ounce measure on the other. A shot is equal to 1-1/2 ounces, though some drinks call for half a shot, thus the half-shot measure on the other end.

Cocktail shaker — A cocktail shaker is an aluminum (usually) or glass tumbler that has a fitted cap, often with a secondary cap that has holes to strain out ice (or a secondary accessory that does the same). It’s used to make shaken cocktails or you can add ice to make room-temperature ingredients cold quickly (without necessarily adding ice to the drink).

Bar pestle —A pestle, as in mortar and pestle, is the wand-like tool that allows you to crush herbs (as in mint for a mint julep) and other ingredients to release their flavors.

If you need to rim a glass, you don’t need a fancy bar rimmer to do it. Simply use your fingers dampened with water to rub the rim of the glass or use sliced citrus fruit to rub the rim. Then turn the glass upside down on a plate lined with the salt, sugar or other dried ingredient and twist until coated.

The alcohol

Now the moment you’ve been waiting for. What liquors does one need to stock the perfect home bar? You may want to have one or two of the more trendy liquors or liqueurs on hand, but there are some alcohols you need to keep in stock, so here's our list along with how much you should spend.

  • Dry red wine ($10)
  • Sweet red wine ($10)
  • Dry white wine ($10)
  • Sweet white wine ($10)
  • Tequila ($45)
  • Rum ($20-$30)
  • Vodka ($25)
  • Gin ($10)
  • Bourbon (or whiskey or scotch, but bourbon is most flexible) ($40)
  • Chocolate liqueur
  • Mint schnapps
  • Raspberry schnapps
  • Vermouth
  • Grenadine
  • Simple syrup
  • Tonic and/or soda ($2 per liter)
  • Kosher salt and sugar (for rimming)

Add-ins

Most of the add-ins are things that won’t stay good for long. Fruits and vegetables for garnish, juices, sodas and more are things you’ll likely either tend to keep on hand or need to buy just before a party.

Customizing your home bar

If you like something specific, it’s easy to keep it on hand. But just before a party, think about what your guests might like and stock up on it. You may want to have a selection of frozen mixers for piña coladas, margaritas and daiquiris. Or perhaps you’d like to buy some of that new vodka-infused whipped cream just for fun!

Cocktail recipes to try

3 Movie-themed cocktails for Oscars night
Chocolate-covered strawberry shot glasses
Top 10 SheKnows cocktails of 2012

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix the Fish. You can follow her on Twitter @HireHeather.