In this third installment of the Home Bar Essentials series, I’m telling you all about the last piece of the puzzle. By now, you’ve stocked your bar thoroughly with all the alcohol you need, and you’ve made sure to have all the basic mixers and garnishes on hand. But you can’t serve impressive cocktails without a few other accessories. So get ready to fill out your home bar essentials with tools and glassware.
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To get started, there’s only a few items that you really need, I’ll break down those first, and then explain some of the fancier pieces you can add as your bar grows. First, you’ll need a great place to store everything. If you have a built-in bar area, that’s perfect. If not, you may want to invest in a bar cart or alternative. I use a console-style cabinet that I re-purposed after moving to a larger home. Here are a few ideas:
- Microwave cart or mobile island
- Small desk or dining table with a hutch
- Utility cart, painted and upgraded
- Cabinet with open shelving
On a smaller scale, you can start mixing up drinks with nothing but a cocktail shaker. I had a little fun with mine, and got this cute penguin shaker. He adds a little character to my bar! If you’re into something simpler, just a basic shaker will do, or one that comes with a few accessories. With just a shaker, you can make super tasty drinks like these sweet and spicy palomas.
Tools for Fancy Cocktails
Once you’re ready to upgrade, I suggest getting a muddler next. You can use these to make any sort of smash drink with fresh fruit, mojitos, and mint juleps (like my favorite Derby Day julep). You’ll want the set that comes with a long-handled stirring spoon as well. This is perfect for drinks that need a more delicate mix than the shaker.
To make all those fancy fruit twists and more, you’ll want a set of garnishing tools. My favorite set comes with eight pieces, including a melon baller, zester, corer, and helpful carrying case. You can also add in a jigger for measuring, a citrus juicer, and of course a blender for pina coladas!
A fun addition can be different shaped ice cube trays. I love using giant ice cubes with simple liqueurs, like a shot of bourbon cream. Silicone trays make it easy to get fun shapes like spheres as well.
If you’re looking to lower the environmental impact of your bar, reusable pieces like straws, ice cubes, coasters, and towels are a great addition.
To get started, you’ll need just a few basics. I think a set of stemless wine glasses are super versatile. They can be used for red or white wine, and are perfect for large batch party drinks like rum punches and sangrias (like this dragonfruit and raspberry rose sangria). They can also double as low ball or rocks glasses, which means you can serve whiskey, a white Russian, or an old fashioned in them as well.
Then, you will want to have some taller highball glasses on hand. These work well for drinks that are served with a mixer over ice, like vodka soda, or rum and coke. They are also perfect for mojitos or a bloody mary.
Between these two, you can make and serve almost anything. However, if you want to get fancy, or focus on the traditional way drinks are served, you’ll want to invest in upgrades.
For these, there’s no need to run out and buy sets of everything. Build your collection slowly.
Starting with stemware, you can add in red and white wine glasses, which can get specialized down to the specific varietal. Only invest here if you and your guests are serious wine drinkers. Otherwise, I like a basic set of universal wine glasses, and some simple Champagne flutes. Also, some cocktail or martini glasses can be a fancy way to serve high alcohol drinks, and margarita glasses can make your next Taco Tuesday a blast!
For stemless, a nice basic old fashioned glass is the perfect way to serve many classic cocktails. The more solid base makes muddling and mixing drinks easier in these than your stemless wine glasses. You can also expand into some more gourmet and fancy glassware. I like this six-piece set for a nice variety.
A great way to build up your beer glasses is to buy them at local breweries. In our house, we mostly have stout glasses and sampler sizes. A few others you may want include beer mugs, which are great for chilling, pilsner glasses, which are generally fluted or curved, and goblets for those higher alcohol selections.
You can start to get a little crazy at this point, but you may also want to add specialized glasses for the drinks you make and serve the most. I have some Irish coffee glasses on hand, which are perfect for anything served hot (like this almond Irish coffee hot cocoa). There’s also brandy snifters, hurricane glasses, coupes, and more! Thinking of larger batch cocktails, you may also want to have a nice pitcher, carafe or punch bowl.
There you have it. Your bar is stocked, and you are ready to mix up anything from a simple nightcap to the rum punch for a block party. Here are some fun suggestions to start with! And with all of these tools and glassware selections, you know your guests will be impressed!