There’s a little running joke on our street that our house is the place to come when you need a happy hour. It’s no secret that we like to entertain, and over the years Mr. Lovely has become quite the mixologist. At this point, we’ve stocked ourselves pretty well to be ready for any necessary celebrations (even non-alcoholic ones like I’m having these days!). But it doesn’t take years or even a ton of money to stock a home bar — you can stock yourself up with a few simple bottles, mixers, and tools.
For starters, stock yourself with the liquors that you enjoy drinking. If you’re not a tequila drinker, forget it! Go with what you like, or you’ll end up with a bar full of bottles that never get used and just collect dust. Secondly, there’s no need to splurge on every bottle. Some liquors really should be a little more high-quality (read: pricey) to enjoy, but some you can definitely save on. Here’s what we keep on hand. Start with a few of these and you’ll be set to host on a moment’s notice.
Vodka No need to get a fancy bottle here; stick with something mid-range and you should be good. Smirnoff is great for mixing; if you like shots, something more in the Grey Goose range works well. While there are a ton of flavored vodkas out there, you might be better off with a non-flavored bottle and using your own mixers or garnishes for flavor.
Gin New Amsterdam is an affordable choice and a great bottle for mixing Gin + Tonics or any other gin-based cocktail you might like. If you’re a connoisseur, grab a bottle of Hendrick’s.
Rum Ryan’s go-to choices here are Sailor Jerry and Kraken. They’re both dark rums and perfect for Dark + Stormies. I like to have a bottle of clear rum around as well, for lighter drinks like Caipirinas (although if you’re being technical you should really use Cachaça spirits for those), Mojitos, and more.
Tequila I’m a big ol’ fan of a tequila cocktail so we always keep a bottle around! A splurge here never hurt anybody, and Patrón Silver is my fave for that. For a more affordable option is Espolón Blanco.
Bourbon Whiskey It’s nice here to have a bottle that’s good enough to drink on the rocks, but still works well in a whiskey cocktail. Bulleit Bourbon is a goodie.
Beer, Wine, and Bubbles We tend to keep a little stash around of each, in case we’re not feeling cocktails. Trader Joe’s is a great place to wander through the beer and wine aisles for something fun. And for champagne, an affordable but delicious bottle is Freixenet.
MIXERS AND GARNISHES You can really go wild here if you want to, but we just keep a short list of a few items around that you can mix and match to make a whole mess of cocktails. Garnishes can include limes, lemons, salt, pepper, tabasco, sugar cubes, and cocktail olives + onions. Mixers to keep around are tonic, club soda, ginger beer (crucial!), cola, a lemon-lime soda, fruit juices, and bitters. Don’t forget the ice! With a few good mixers and garnishes you can also mix a pretty tasty non-alcoholic drink too.
GLASSWARE This is my favorite because you know a girl likes to collect her glassware. But really you don’t need a whole lot — rocks glasses, highball or tall glasses, red + white wine glasses, and champagne glasses oughta do it. If you like martinis or margaritas, invest in some specialty glasses there too.
Piece of cake, huh? If you’re stocking a home bar the main thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to be fancy or extensive! Pick a few of your favorites, and start there. Then invite some pals over for a test run on your cocktail setup and say cheers! xoxo