Mixology 101: Essential Spirits and Mixers For Your Home Bar — HOST (2023)

Stocking your home bar can be a daunting task when you are a beginner. For starters, a traditional full bar can be rather expensive to fill. Although it offers versatility in the cocktails department, it may not be practical if you are on a tight budget.

Therefore, you need to start thinking about customizing your home bar to suit your needs. For instance, focus more on your vodka selection if you prefer vodka over whiskey. The same applies to non-alcoholic mixers and liqueurs.

The good news is that there are a few basic staples for making classic cocktails. Contrary to what most new mixologists believe, you don't need a lot of ingredients and liquors to get started. Here are the basic requirements every at-home bartender needs to make great cocktails.

Must-Have Liquors

Understanding the six base liquors is the first step towards creating a well-rounded bar. It will be easier to mix different cocktails once you have the key spirits fully stocked. Every at-home bar needs the following liquors for cocktail making.

Start with Whiskey

Each whisky type has its unique uses and characteristics. Therefore, it would be best to explore whiskey options before moving on to the rest of the basic liquors. Ideally, your home bar should include each of the whiskey styles below:

  • Canadian and bourbon whiskey are the most versatile selections. Canadian blends tend to be extra smooth, while bourbon enhances a more robust whiskey flavor.

  • Rye whiskey is an excellent choice if you are looking for a generic option for most cocktails. However, it can be somewhat spicy for some individuals. Other individuals, on the other hand, find it to have a more authentic taste.

  • Have a decent bottle of Scotch Whisky and another of Irish whiskey to compliment your home bar. Although the two make some great cocktails, they are not as versatile as the first two options. Only stock this style once you have the first two fully stocked.

  • Check out our blog post, A Brief History of Whiskey, to equip yourself with some interesting fun facts to share with your guest while you mix up their whiskey cocktail.

Vodka is Universal

No other distilled spirit is as versatile as vodka when it comes to mixing cocktails. Several recipes list vodka as the fundamental liquor because it adds a transparent and clear flavor. However, not everyone enjoys vodka. Therefore, stock vodkas depending on your preference. Below is a standard guideline to get you started.

  • Tall drinks such as a bloody mary or screwdriver need a budget-friendly vodka bottle.

  • Have a top-shelf bottle if you love a vodka martini.

  • Include flavored vodkas if you fancy exotic cocktails. Traditional bars usually include vanilla and citrus vodkas.

Have At least One Bottle of Gin

It is best to have a bottle of gin in your home bar, even if you are not a fan of the brand. London dry gin is a versatile option that can help craft different cocktails – from gin and tonic to a dry martini. Customizing your home bar with different gin brands will give you more versatility.

Tequilas for the Margarita Lovers

You have to stock at least one tequila bottle if you are a fan of margaritas. There are also lots of other interesting cocktails that you could whip up using your tequila bottle. However, silver tequila is the most versatile brand – which makes it an excellent addition to every home bar. It will also help to consider a slightly aged reposado if you love exploring the fascinating world of tequila cocktails. Be sure to read our other blog post with mojito and margarita recipes.

Two Rums is Better than One

Your home bar needs at least two bottles of rum. Luckily, rum is an affordable liquor that won't have you breaking the bank. Most cocktails – from the mojito to the daiquiri - require light rum to give you that rich and tantalizing taste. The second bottle should, therefore, be either spiced or dark rum. The choice will come down to your preferences and the kind of cocktails you enjoy. Tropical cocktail lovers, for instance, are better off stocking dark rum before spiced rum.

Don't Forget About Brandy

You can't have a well-stocked home bar without a bottle of brandy. Although it falls under the six basic liquors, it is not an essential component. You may omit it if you do not drink brandy. However, keep in mind that it is rather useful if you enjoy classic cocktails.

Must-Have Liqueurs

Defining a cocktail comes down to using a suitable flavoring agent – liqueurs. Although they come in several flavors, a single bottle can last a while. Therefore, always start with the basics and slowly stock your home bar.

Here Go the Basic Liqueurs

While looking through cocktail recipes, you will come across some liqueur that seems to appear almost everywhere. Here are some of these commonly used liqueurs:

  • Dry and sweet vermouth for martinis.

  • Amaretto for both casual and fancy cocktails.

  • Orange liqueur for numerous cocktails, including Grand Marnier, triple sec, Curacao, and Cointreau.

  • Coffee liqueur for white Russians and several others.

  • Irish cream liqueur like Baileys for countless cocktails.

Other Liqueurs to Stock

Your favorite cocktails and drinking style will dictate whether you need secondary liqueurs in your home bar. However, a complete bar should include at least a bottle of each to help you craft almost all cocktail recipes.

  • Chambord gives you a rich black raspberry flavor.

  • Crème de Cacao for that chocolate-like flavour.

  • The melon liqueur is an excellent cherry-flavored option for your bar.

  • Drambuie compliments your whiskey stock.

  • Ginger liqueur adds a sweet spice flavor to your favorite cocktails.

Must-Have Non-Alcoholic Mixers

Adding volume and a little bit of flavor to your cocktails is made possible thanks to mixers. These are typically non-alcoholic liquids that are likely to be already in your kitchen. A majority of these mixers will last you a long time – making it essential to check for expiration dates during purchases.

Ice and Juices

Always ensure you have the most vital cocktail ingredient in your house – ice. 98% of all your cocktails need ice while mixing in the glass. It also gives you that cold, crisp taste that enhances your experience.

Next up is stocking your home bar with essential juices. Although it is better to use fresh juices, ready-to-pour juices are also an excellent alternative. Be sure to stock the following juices in your bar:

  • Orange juice

  • Grapefruit juice

  • Lemon and lime juice

  • Cranberry juice

  • Tomato juice

  • Pineapple juice

Do not forget to include tonic water, club soda, ginger ale, lemon-lime soda, and diet cola. However, only buy small bottles to avoid using flat soda in your cocktails. A two-liter bottle is only practical for party scenes.

Other Mixers

Your bar is not complete without a few other mixes. Although some of these mixers can be made at home, others are store-bought. Below is a list of these essential mixers – ranked according to the order of importance – to help you get started on the right foot.

  • Bitters – start with orange and aromatic options

  • Simple syrup - water and sugar (substitute real maple syrup in whiskey drinks for an added flavor!)

  • Sour mix – excellent for tropical cocktails

  • Grenadine – best for tequila sunrise

  • Milk and cream – great for comforting drinks such as the White Russian

  • Coffee – brew your own for a more delightful flavor

  • Tea – always go for black teas because they tend to mix well

  • Tabasco sauce – adds a savory flavor to your cocktails

Must-Have Garnishes

Although you won't need to add garnish to every cocktail drink you whip up, it's always nice having them around. They get you that splash of flavor and visual appeal you need to enhance your drink. Below are some of the essential cocktail garnishes that you need to include in your home bar:

  • Lemons

  • Maraschino cherries

  • Oranges

  • Limes

  • Olives

  • Mint

  • Whipped cream

  • Pickles

  • Cinnamon

  • Granulated sugar and coarse salt

Essential Tools for Your Home Bar

All these ingredients won’t mix themselves! There will be a variety of different tools you’ll need to mix them together into a great cocktail, so if you’re planning to build a home bar you’ll need a home bartending set of cocktail making equipment. Check out our post on essential cocktail equipment for bartending at home!

Let's Help You Host Your First Cocktail Party

It's only natural to want to throw a party after fully stocking your home bar. Start with our virtual mixology classes so you and a group of friends or coworkers can learn how to make a signature cocktail with the guidance of a master mixologist. Then when you host your next party, you’ll have the tools, ingredients, and skills to make a cocktail your guests will love. Get in touch with us at Host Events today!

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