When building your home bar always keep in mind that it's yours, so make it to your liking! If you don't like my advice please don't take it, I just want to help you think through the very fun project of building your home bar!
A good home bar serves many purposes. It acts as a form of home decoration and a conversation starter; it allows for at-home pre-gaming before a night out on the town; and most importantly a home bar provides quick and varied drinks for impromptu guests, dinner parties, and nightcaps after those long days at work. I get a lot of questions from friends about the best way to put together a home bar on a budget, so I thought I'd share a few tips over the course of several posts, starting with this one.
The first thing to keep in mind when starting your home bar is your budget - set a budget for initial bar setup as well as a monthly budget for replenishing your favorite beverages and gradually adding new ones. If you stick to a budget you can actually save money by creating a place for you and your friends to have a few drinks for less than you'd spend going out to the local bar.
After setting a budget you've got to decide where and how you're going to display your bar. There are many options for this ranging from a simple window sill bottle lineup to re-purposing salvaged, antique furniture (my choice as you see in the photo) to building a custom bar from scratch (my neighbors did this recently with a lot of success). Be creative and find a spot in your house that will be convenient for making and serving drinks - think kitchen or dining room - and has plenty of space to display your bottles and store your bar gear such as bottle openers, glassware, etc. If you have kids you might also want to consider putting your bar somewhere that can be locked or made off-limits when you're not using it. After picking the spot for your bar spend a few minutes visualizing how you'll arrange things. This will help you get a realistic idea of your bar's capacity before heading to the liquor store to stock up - if you only have space for ten bottles maybe you shouldn't buy five different vodkas (in my opinion you should never buy five different vodkas anyway, but that's another post...).
Once you've established a budget and set up a space for your bar it's time to go shopping. I'll cover the basic booze you should pick up on your first bar-stocking trip in my next post, but don't forget these all-important, non-potable items that every bar should have:
- Glasses - you'll want an assortment of glasses including shot glasses, rocks glasses, snifters, wine glasses, and pint glasses - flea markets, thrift stores, and stores like Marshall's and TJMaxx are great places to scout for bargains on glassware.
- Shakers & strainers - it's best to have a couple so that you can make different mixed drinks without having to wash out your shaker after every one
- Corkscrew - my favorite is made by Pedrini and doubles as a bottle opener
- Bottle Opener - kill two birds with one stone by getting a combination corkscrew/bottle opener
- Jigger - this is the little measuring cup used to measure 1oz & 1/2oz amounts of booze.
- Pourers - great for parties, pourers fit into the tops of your bottles and make pouring drinks a breeze.
- Muddler - for muddled drinks like Old Fashioneds, Mint Juleps, and Mojitos - I like wooden ones
- Long-Handled Spoon - for stirring drinks
- Coasters - I like to steal these from bars to create a kitschy collection, don't tell on me!
- Drink Book - a book of drink recipes is essential for every home bar - you can't go wrong with the Mr. Boston: Official Bartender's Guide.
- BONUS - mini fridge - if you have a college dorm-style mini fridge hanging out in your basement there's no better way to put it to use than as a bar-side storage spot for beer, white wine, and chilled liquors.