I just moved into my first real 'adult' apartment, and I know exactly what it's missing: a home bar. What could be more adult than inviting over a few friends and serving them handmade cocktails from my very own classy, well-stocked living room bar?
If you're wondering why you should invest in a home bar, it all comes down to one thing: $$$. I live in NYC, and man, drinking is expensive! I can't afford to pay $15 for a cocktail; no one can. I don't care who you are or how much money you have, that's just crazy! Especially when at home, for that same amount of money, you can make like 20 cocktails.
Here's everything you need to set up your own super-classy, well-outfitted home bar. Some of the items on the list aren't dirt cheap, but remember: it's an investment that will absolutely pay for itself many times over in the long run, especially if you like to entertain!
1. Pick the right location.
A small table, sideboard, buffet, shelf, or alcove should do nicely. It should be in a central location, like the living room, but off to the side, where it won't get in the way or get bumped into. We don't want anything tipping over.
2. Start small.
There's no use stocking your bar if it isn't with alcohol you enjoy drinking! Follow your personal tastes and curiosities, so that you don't ending up blowing major bucks on a bottle you never open. Begin with just one cocktail you love, learn to make it well, and then build up your repertoire one cocktail at a time.
3. Get a good shaker.
While true booze enthusiasts will probably opt for the more traditional bartending classic, the Boston shaker, I feel just fine investing in a regular, easy-to-use cocktail shaker.
Oggi Marilyn Tall and Slim Cocktail Shaker ($26.99): Classic, elegant, and very solidly reviewed on Amazon.
Mason Shaker ($29): For a more Southern vibe.
4. Get a good measuring tool.
OXO Steel Angled Measuring Jigger ($6.95): It's clearly marked with both tablespoons and ounces, making it super easy to use alongside any recipe.
5. Grab the right glassware.
If you're serious about your bar, these are the big three: stem glasses (for Martinis), rocks glasses (for Old Fashioneds), and highball glasses (for Gin and Tonics). These are the true essentials; anything else is overkill. I don't know if I'm going to invest in glasses right away; I think I'll wait until I'm more of a professional home bartender first.
6. Make sure you've got a good source of ice.
Even more important than what spirits you're using is whether or not your drinks are ice-cold! When you invite friends over for drinks, be sure to have plenty of ice on hand. To that end, consider investing in an ice bucket! My parents have one, and we break it out at every single get-together.
Stainless Steel Double Wall Ice Bucket ($19.99): Comes with tongs, and the double walled design means your ice won't melt as quickly.
7. Have staples on hand.
The two most important bar staples are bitters and simple syrup. I make my own simple syrup and keep it in a mason jar, sometimes with an added sprig of mint. It's so easy! 2 parts sugar, one part water in a saucepan; heat until sugar dissolves; let cool. Voilà! And as far as bitters goes, it seems that many people recommend:
Angostura Aromatic Cocktail Bitters ($11.75): One reviewer says you can't make a good Manhattan or Old Fashioned without them. I trust him! A little research shows that they're a cocktail classic.
Good luck setting up your very own classy home bar!