Whether it’s a lifelong goal to have a home bar or you want to keep avoiding bars and pubs when they reopen, having your own liquor cabinet or bar at home can offer untold opportunities for cocktails, parties and practising your best bartender impressions.
But when starting out, it can be tricky to work out what you should get to stock up your cabinet or bar. If you’re considering installing a bar at home, then you’ve probably got a hefty stash of booze to start with. However, making cocktails often requires a diverse range of ingredients, so knowing which to prioritise can be tricky.
To start with, it is a good idea to get your hands on key alcohol types. These will act as the base of most of your cocktails, so having one each of these bottles will be the best starting point:
- Whisky – a Bourbon and a single malt
- White Rum
However, we know alcohol isn’t the cheapest, and to buy a bottle of each of these would be well over £100. Ultimately, if you know you don’t like gin, for example, and would never make a cocktail with it, then just don’t buy that type!
How Much to Spend?
While we’re big advocates for top-shelf products, ultimately the amount you spend on each of these is really up to you! Consider what kind of cocktails you want to make and how much the alcohol flavour will be present.
For example, if you want to mix your cocktails with cola, then you can probably get away with a cheaper bottle of vodka, as the sugariness and flavour of the mixer will help to improve the overall taste. However, if you were making a Cosmopolitan, where the vodka taste is key and is less masked by other ingredients, you’ll probably want to splash out for a smoother sip.
While it can be tempting to just buy 12 different bottles of Scotch whisky so that your home bar looks impressive, well-stocked and you can create the absolute perfectly flavour-matched beverage, the reality is that you’ll quickly become overwhelmed.
Start off small and perfect a handful of cocktail recipes. Once you’re more confident with crafting drinks, then you can slowly start to incorporate a wider range of alcohols into your collection.
Bitters and Vermouth
Many cocktails, like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, will include bitters. Having a bottle of Angostura or orange bitters to hand will be essential for many cocktail recipes. You’ll also likely want a bottle of dry vermouth as well.
If you’re after something lighter for summer, then you may also want to grab a bottle of Aperol or Campari to make spritzers.
Remember that it’s not all on the alcohol – most cocktails will need some sort of mixer too. A mixer will typically make up the bulk of your drink, so it pays to invest in quality options.
You’ll want things like soda water, cola and ginger ale to get you started.
Ice and Citrus
It’s the little details that really make a cocktail, and when it comes to ice and citrus, these details are absolutely crucial. Ice helps to keep a cocktail cool, so be sure to always have some ready and waiting in the freezer.
Likewise, many cocktails will require a twist of lemon, orange or lime – whether you use the fresh juice or a twirl of peel. Make sure to add some of these citrus fruits to your shopping list whenever you plan on making some cocktails.
Before you get started on your mixology journey, check out our top tips for making cocktails at home! You can also find some of our favourite cocktail recipes that pair wonderfully with cigars.