Thursday, March 6

MIXOLOGY: How to stock a home bar

Craft cocktail bars and the art of mixology is where its at right now. Classic cocktails have made a serious comeback over the past few years and we couldn't be more excited about the trend! We decided to jump on the wagon, so to speak, and bring you a new series based entirely around the art of making cocktails. In the Cocktail Club series, we'll be sharing drink recipes, offering advice on how to properly stock your home bar, and telling stories of our cocktail making adventures along the way. First up, Lauren shares her experiences with building a home bar.

When I was in my early twenties my idea of a "home bar" consisted of a gallon jug of Carlo Rossi and a case of PBR. My cocktail making experience was limited to mixing Captain Morgan's with Diet Dr. Pepper. Basically, real classy stuff. 

But then, as we all do, I grew up a little. I shed my state college drinking proclivities. And, as we all did, developed an obsession with Mad Men. When it came time to order a drink at a bar or a friend's party, I silently asked myself What Would Don Draper Drink? And so began my love affair with classic cocktails.

A little over a year ago I stumbled across a beautiful vintage bar cart at a second hand store and I just had to have it. I was absolutely thrilled with the prospect of carefully curating my own bar at home. I began to wander the aisles of liquor stores and speciality shops asking myself WWDDD? Along the way, I collected some really lovely bottles and learned a thing or two about what to do (and not do) when stocking a home bar.

Stock alcohol that you actually enjoy drinking. Its tempting to go out and buy a bunch of bottles of obscure or fancy (read: expensive) liquor. I'll admit that when I first started stocking my bar cart, I spent a small fortune on bottles that I thought would impress my friends and magically turn me in to a cocktail making pro. Most of those bottles are still sitting there. Untouched. Because here's the truth; sure, you'll use your bar when entertaining, but keep in mind the bar's main patron is you. So do you enjoy a classic martini? Always keep a stash of gin and vermouth on hand. More of a whiskey drinker? Spend a little extra on a nice bottle you know you'll love.  But if the thought of a scotch and soda makes you shudder, skip the single malt altogether.

Start small. Rome wasn't built in a day. The same goes for your bar. Start by investing in just five essential liquors. These will be the foundation of your home bar. Use them to make classic cocktails or tinker with them to invent a delicious drink all your own.  You can't go wrong with the basics! Over time you can add speciality liqueurs and top shelf bottles.  But there's absolutely no need to break the bank right out of the gate.

Gin: Gin is the base spirit for many classic cocktails. Its used to make martinis, gin and tonics, and (my favorite) a Tom Collins.
Vodka: Vodka is the perfect mixing liquor because it doesn't have a strong color, taste, or aroma.  Its used in basic drinks like vodka tonics, screwdrivers, and the vodka martini.
Bourbon: Typically considered a pretty "manly" drink, I love that the ladies are embracing bourbon more now. Use it to make classics like Manhattans, old fashioneds, whiskey sours or sip it straight up.
Rum: Rum comes in both light and dark colors.  Light rum is used for daiquiris and mojitos. Dark rum is typically used in punches.  I suggest keeping a bottle of light rum on hand as its more versatile.
Tequila: The best tequilas are made from 100 percent agave so make sure to check the label. Use tequila in margaritas, sunrises, and palomas.

Other beverages to have on hand (especially when entertaining):
• A bottle of white and a bottle of red wine
• A selection of Craft beer.
• A six pack of a craft soda.

Don't forget:
• Soda water
• Tonic water
• Fresh lemons and limes
• Simple Syrup (make your own: heat one part sugar with one part water until the sugar dissolves and store in an airtight bottle)
• Cola and/or ginger ale (or give ginger beer a try. It mixes great with bourbon!)
• Angostura bitters
• Dry and sweet vermouth

I'm by no means a professional and this is just an outline of a very basic but decently well stocked bar (we didn't even touch on bar tools or glassware!). I found these tips to be a really helpful when just starting out. I'd love to hear your recommendations and suggestions.  And please ask away with any questions you have. Happy sipping!



  1. This is really great for anyone. Im 61 and I never really knew what a good start was for stocking your bar. Always just bought whatever. Looking forward to future posts.

    1. So glad you found our tips helpful. Thanks for stopping by! :)

  2. I recently moved from SF to Chicago and stumbled across your blog. So many inspiring posts - I love seeing how you crafty girls are keeping busy when it's too cold to venture outdoors. Except for this week! Yay! Your bar cart is amazing, btw, what a great find! Where did you get the gin, vodka, bourbon containers and kitschy condiment swizzle sticks? I absolutely love them.

    1. Thanks Nicole. The liquor containers were Lauren's grandparents from the 70's. Aren't hand-me-downs great? Our condiment swizzle sticks are vintage as well. You can sometimes find these at vintage/thrift stores. We usually have good luck snatching them at estate sales. Hope you're loving Chicago! We promise winters here usually aren't this rough.