The LibationLab guide to stocking your home bar. There are “minimum” (to avoid embarrassment) and “expanded” (to impress others) versions in each of 4 categories with notes. It works well as a shopping list/checklist.
Keep a bottle each of whiskey, gin, vodka, rum, tequila, brandy, Cointreau, dry and sweet vermouth.
Expanded to Impressive:
Spirits and Vermouth: Secure a bottle each of Scotch, bourbon, and Irish whisky; London dry, old Tom and new western style gin; light and dark rum, along with Cachaça; plain, citrus and vanilla vodka; blanco, gold and añejo tequila; and cognac, pisco and calvados brandy; dry and sweet vermouth and a bottle of absinthe.
Liqueurs are innumerable, but to start, one orange flavor liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, triple sec or Curaçao), another fruit flavor (Chambord, cherry Heering, Maraschino, sloe gin or limoncello) an anise flavor (anisette, galliano, or ouzo), a nut flavor (amaretto or Frangelico), an herbal (Chartreuse, Jägermeister or Drambuie), a coffee liqueur (Kahlúa or Tia Maria), a cream liqueur (Baileys or Crème de menthe), a chocolate liqueur (Godiva or crème de cacao) and a flowery liqueur (crème de violette or St-Germain).
2. Mixers and Garnish
Angostura bitters and a couple cans of ginger ale, cola, tonic and soda water, sugar, agave syrup, lemons and limes, cranberry juice, olives, maraschino cherries and make sure you have ice.
Bitters: angostura bitters and Peychaud’s bitters, plus orange or other flavored bitters, and also potable bitters (amari), such as Averna, Campari, Cynar or Fernet Branca.
Mixers: regular and diet cola, ginger ale, regular and diet lemon-lime soda, soda water, tonic water, grenadine, simple syrup, agave syrup, maple syrup, honey syrup, fresh lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit (for juice), hot sauce, cranberry and pineapple juice, coconut cream, sparkling wine, worcestershire sauce, cream, coffee.
Garnish: lemons, limes, oranges, olives, maraschino cherries, cocktail onions, fresh mint and basil, pineapple chunks, nutmeg, salt and pepper, cinnamon sticks.
Ice: cubes and crushed, as well as large rocks for serving pure spirits on ice.
Boston shaker, hawthorne strainer, paring knife, bar spoon, jigger.
A few Boston and 3-piece shakers; hawthorn, julep and fine mesh strainers; paring, channel and chef’s knives; a few bar spoons; 1½-ounce x ¾-ounce and 1-ounce x ½-ounce jiggers; a muddler, juice press, vegetable peeler, Pyrex liquid measuring cup, bar towels, blender, cocktail picks, and microplane zester/grater.
The microplane zester/grater is a personal favorite, as it allows you to limit your garnish needs, because you can buy whole nutmeg, cinnamon sticks and pieces of chocolate and grate them over drinks.
Pint, cocktail, shot, old fashioned and highball glasses.
Above plus collins glasses, champagne flutes, mugs, margarita glasses, brandy snifters and cordial glasses (if you actually have the space).
Keep 2-4 of each on hand for when friends stop by, but if you entertain more often, or in greater numbers, keep a bigger stock, or get to know your local party rental company. It’s nice to rent a bunch of glasses and be able to send them back dirty.