Raise the Bar on Your Host Game with These Home Bar Essentials

Tips for Restocking Your Wet Bar

To quote the song-writing duo Comden & Green (as well as Willie Nelson), “the party’s over.” Well, make that “parties.” And if you hosted often this holiday season, your wet bar may have taken quite a hit. 

Glasses get broken or mysteriously walk away. Corkscrews and shakers wear out. And, of course, the supply of bourbon, tequila, and rum runs low, especially if these classic winter cocktail recipes were hits on the home front. 

With some of our favorite annual celebrations just around the corner—we’re looking squarely at you, Mardi Gras and St. Paddy’s—it’s time to take stock of your home bar essentials.

Invest in New Bartending Gadgets

Head spinning. That’s how we describe the litany of bar tools out there. 

Most of us would prefer to keep our bars stocked with glasses and booze as opposed to bartender’s toys, so we take a cue from Thomas Edison here: “Good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” That pearl in mind, let’s keep the toolkit practical so we’re prepared when opportunity arises!

Bar tools for making cocktails on wooden background with pieces of ice and lemon near a glass of clear liquid
  • It’s all about the ice. The ice mold, that is. Invest in a couple of types (large cubes and spheres) so you avoid the ho-hum look (and flavor) of the stuff your ice-maker spits out.
  • Bottle openers and corkscrews—you’d think they were disposable the way they get lost or broken. Your wet bar needs both a good corkscrew and a good bottle opener queued up at all times. (Combo tools belong in your tailgating or camping supplies.)
  • Include a nice, stainless jigger in your home bar essentials. Only rookies get the measurements wrong. 
  • A cobbler shaker, also stainless, is another must-have. Even in three pieces, they’re quick to clean and easy to use. 
  • Sure you can always turn to a pint glass for mixing. But invest in a nice-looking mixing glass and a couple of long mixing spoons, and your skills might draw comparisons to barman poets like Flanagan and Coughlin.

Other gadget odds and ends to consider include a handheld juicer, for maximum citrus, and a couple of sharp, quality paring knives with a bamboo cutting board. All these should bear the dad rule: “For-wet-bar-use-only.”

Update Your Glassware

Glassware matters, especially when you want to look the part. After all, a good sipping whisky just works better when served in an old-fashioned glass versus the utilitarian tea glasses of our youth. 

Lowball glass with bourbon next to a cork

You’re wiser now. More sophisticated. Make sure your wet bar’s glassware says that by revamping your supply with a variety that leans toward versatility: 

  • Coupe glasses look fantastic on the shelf and work equally well for wine or margaritas. 
  • Taller than highballs, collins glasses are perfect for cocktails requiring carbonation. Few things in life are prettier than a correctly poured mojito in a tall collins glass. 
  • Old-fashioned glasses, aka rocks, whiskey, or lowball glasses, are home bar essentials. Stock your bar with plenty of these so your rotation is always loaded.
  • At 16 fluid ounces, classic pint glasses are the definition of versatile and the perfect vessels for Bloody Marys and well-poured stouts.

Restock the Essential Spirits

The hardest hit to your wet bar during the holidays was probably on the spirit supply, so take time to restock the essentials before your home bar encounters another blitz. Again, quality trumps quantity all the way down the line, so keep your selections “A-list.” 

Whiskey bottle,  two shots, and ice cubes sitting on an old wooden background
  • Always have a good bourbon on hand, either for cocktails or straight sipping. Aficionados have their well-considered arguments for either small batch or single barrel bourbons. Why not try the Bob Dylan–endorsed Heaven’s Door Bootleg Series, aged 18 years in Spanish vermouth rouge casks? 
  • Your wet bar’s scotch supply may have fared better than the bourbon during the holiday season, but it’ll likely get hit hard when you host your first boys night of the year. This time, lean into a bit of history and splurge on a smoky bottle from Lagavulin Distillery, co-star of this hilarious Nick Offerman YouTube series.
  • With St. Patrick’s Day on the horizon, whiskey will soon be the order of the day. Now’s the time to add something unexpected to your lineup, like a smooth Knappogue Castle Single Malt or Liev Schreiber’s Sláinte Irish Whiskey, which gives $1 from every bottle sold to BlueCheck’s humanitarian efforts. 
  • From martinis to white Russians, you’re going to need a bottle or two of vodka. Give Born and Bred a go; co-owned by Channing Tatum, it’s garnering accolades for its 20x distilled small batches. 
  • With Casamigos, George Clooney arguably ushered in the era of celeb-owned tequila distilleries. Though his association with the brand has waned in recent years, their Blanco, Añejo, and Mezcal remain top-notch, and their Instagram account provides all the tequila recipes you want. 
  • Come Fat Tuesday, having good white and dark rums on hand for Hurricanes is a must. Singer and entrepreneur Ciara got into the distillery game by signing on with Marc Farrell’s Ten to One, an evocative sipping brand that blends column still rums from across the Caribbean.
  • Welcome to Wrexham introduced more than English football to the wider American audience. It also put Ryan Reynolds’s Aviation Gin (marketed with his brand of humor) on their radar. Fortunately, Ryan’s gin is no joke—it works well neat and mixes with citrus superbly. 
  • From amaretto to vermouth, the liqueurs in our wet bars say a lot about our preparedness to entertain. So, make sure to have an ample supply to draw from:
    • Legend has it, Giancarlo Mancino started World Vermouth Day (March 21). His brand is solid, as is Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry.
    • Prep early for Cinco de Mayo by buying a bottle of Cointreau Liqueur. In addition to classic margaritas, it’s a nice add-on to your mimosas.  
    • Great for sipping or with coffee, Bailey’s Irish Cream is a St. Paddy’s Day standard. And here’s hoping Ted Lasso’s awesome Hannah Waddingham follows up this fun holiday spot with a sequel. 
    • Celebrate National Amaretto Day (April 19th) by keeping a good sipping brand, like Disaronno Originale, on hand.

Elevate Your Mixers and Garnishes

Now that you’ve set the foundation with hardware and spirits, take a look at those finishing touches: the essential home bar mixers and garnishes. 

Homemade simple syrup in a an uncapped bottle next to a jigger
  • Taste and texture matter when it comes to cocktails, so don’t go cheap on your club soda. We recommend an up-market brand like Fever Tree or even a sparkling mineral water, like Topo Chico.
  • As above, it’s also easy to try saving on bitters. Don’t fall for that trap though. A good bitter can elevate your game. Try El Guapo’s. Born in New Orleans, they’ve made a splash on the sweet side (Chicory Pecan) and the savory (Crawfish Boil). And the retro packaging is flat-out cool. 
  • From Shirley Temples for the kiddos to Hurricanes for their parents, a good grenadine is an early-and-often home bar essential. Austin, Texas’s Liber & Co. brand is a rock-steady choice, if you don’t want to make your own. 
  • Purists say, “Squeeze your own citrus.” Great, sure. But to err on the side of readiness, have a bottle of Nellie & Joe’s lime juice handy. 
  • For old-fashioneds and daiquiris, the simple syrup may be what separates yours from those made by the guy down the street. And here you definitely don’t want to cheat. Make your own:
    • Heat a half cup of quality granulated sugar in a half cup of water until the sugar dissolves. 
    • Transfer it to a glass jar, and seal it tightly.
    • Refrigerate (it’ll keep for a month or more).
  • Keep your favorite brand of Castelvetrano olives (we like Divina and Mezzetta) in the fridge at all times.
  • Luxardo is the standard brand in many wet bars, but if you want a conversation piece—and what guy doesn’t want that from his jar of maraschino cherries?—Fabbri Amarena Cherries have the best packaging by far.

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