How to set up a great home bar, and be everybody’s best friend
Having a killer home bar, and knowing what to do with it, is the ultimate achievement for any host. And (unless you’re an insufferable arse) it will certainly put you in the running for winning that proverbial popularity contest.
Below, I’m going to walk you through what I consider to be home-bar essentials. These include the booze itself – with examples of good local and international brands and cocktails you can use them for – plus other requirements like fruits and tools. (Bonus points go to anyone who chooses all local brands for their bar because #localislekker).
Remember though, your bar is predominantly for your pleasure, so don’t invest in a bunch of stuff you don’t like. Hate absinthe? Unless your BFF (or that hottie you fancy) is a mad Sazerac fan, don’t buy it.
And if you don’t want to dive in with the full shebang, I suggest you make a list of the cocktails you like best, then figure out what’s actually in them (or scan the cocktails below). Get those ingredients first, and build your bar up from there.
Whisky or Bourbon
Local: Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky
International: Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie Single Malt or Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Scotch
Cocktails: Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Whisky Sour, Rob Roy, Boulevardier
Local: 031 Bay of Plenty Spiced Rum
International: Mount Gay Black Barrel
Cocktails: Daiquiri, Dark n Stormy, Mai Tai
Local: 031 Absinthe
International: Doubs Absinthe
Cocktails: Monkey Gland, Death in the Afternoon, Sazerac
Local: Jorgensen’s Afrodite African Aromatic Bitters
International: Angostura Aromatic Bitters
Cocktails: Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Champagne Cocktail, Rob Roy, Singapore Sling
These are common in cocktails, for their juice and zests. Don’t even think about getting fruit concentrates if you want to be taken seriously behind the bar. Rather, keep a stash of fresh lemons, limes and oranges or naartjies at hand.
They not only taste great, but they seriously up the sexy ante – especially if they have stalks.
You’re probably only going to use these in martinis, but they’re good to have. Pitted and stuffed ones are best.
White sugar and kosher salt
Sugar will generally be needed for simple syrups, while salt is used for rimming glasses.
Soda water and tonic will take you a long way, but you’ll need Coke and ginger beer for certain drinks.
First get yourself a jigger, shaker, strainer and bar spoon. Then add a citrus reamer or squeezer, for all those lemons and limes, and a zester, for fruit zest. You’ll need a chopping board and sharp knife too, but you’ll likely already have those in your kitchen.
Bits and bobs
Toothpicks, little umbrellas, straws and swizzle sticks are not essentials, but they do add some pizazz to your drinks.