Your First Home Bar: An Alcohol Primer

7 June 2016
 Categories: , Blog

When you've finally moved out of your parents' house and are living on your own for the first time, you will naturally concentrate on acquiring the basics required to set up your home, like kitchen equipment. Once you acquire the fundamentals, you begin adding the things that make a home more comfortable, livable, and aesthetically pleasing. One of these is setting up a home bar. While it can seem like an overwhelming job, here's a basic primer on what to start with.  

Choose Alcohols You Will Actually Drink

Many first-timers think they should have every liquor ever made in their home bar, and they consequently end up spending a fortune on things they may never even drink. Yes, you will occasionally have guests, and while you will want to be a gracious host, this doesn't require you to have a fully-stocked bar with everything imaginable. This is your home bar, after all, not a tavern. You are the one who you will be serving the most, enjoying an after work cocktail or drinks on the patio on a sunny weekend afternoon.


Vodka doesn't have much in the way of flavor or smell, and it is clear in color, so it is a popular base for many cocktails. A Bloody Mary, the classic Sunday brunch drink with tomato juice, seasonings, and pickled vegetable garnishes uses vodka, as does a Cosmopolitan, a cranberry juice cocktail popular with the ladies. It is also used in making a classic Martini. You can also buy many flavored vodkas, such as raspberry or birthday cake, that can be fun for creating your own signature cocktail.


Whether it is American whiskey, Canadian whiskey, or Scotch, whiskeys are extremely common in most home bars. More expensive whiskeys are typically used as "sipping" whiskeys and are drunk straight, meaning with no mixers. Less expensive ones are drunk mixed with soda, or to create an Old Fashioned cocktail. Scotch can be an acquired taste. Ask your neighborhood liquor store for a good beginner's recommendation.


Rum is available in both a light style and a dark style. They are typically used mixed with soda or juice, made into punches, or frozen drinks, like the Daiquiri. Light rum makes an excellent base for fruity cocktails. 

Additional liquors include brandy and tequila, both of which can be used for drinking shots or mixing in cocktails. Other alcoholic beverages to have on hand are beer and a basic red and white wine. Overtime, you can begin accumulating garnishes, such as pickled onions, mushrooms, and cocktail olives as well as popular cocktail ingredients like Angostura bitters and grenadine. Don't forget to grab a bartender's book from the liquor store as well so you can start exploring the different cocktail recipes.