How To Stock Your At-Home Bar, According To Bartenders

After getting a little taste of what it was like to go back to our favorite bars, a surge in coronavirus cases caused many venues to re-close.

While cocktails-to-go have helped fill the void, now might be the best time to invest in your at-home bar. To minimize the guesswork in getting what you’ll need for this venture, bartenders from Los Angeles to Miami taught us how to build an impressive alcohol inventory and barware collection, as well as how to craft some of their favorite beverages to enjoy during quarantine. 

Matt Landes, founder and CEO of Cocktail Academy
Matt Landes, founder and CEO of Cocktail Academy

Matt Landes, founder and CEO of Cocktail Academy in Los Angeles

How to stock your bar: When building an at-home bar, there are a couple key notes. The first is you are building a bar for yourself; think about what you like to drink and everything else will fall into place. We find that guests love classic cocktails with a twist, so you should have the chops to make a perfect martini, margarita, old-fashioned and Negroni, to start. A well-stocked bar should always have the following: bourbon, gin, blanco tequila, white rum, bitters, vermouth and Campari. From there, get creative.

The tools you’ll need: Glassware is really key here. Different drinks are crafted with the serve in mind. No one wants to have a martini in a highball glass. You’ll also want some general bar tools: a two-piece shaker, jigger, bar spoon, muddler and a Hawthorne strainer. 

On his at-home bar right now: My favorite thing at my bar is this new Mexican corn liqueur, Nixta. It’s so interesting.

His go-to drink during quarantine: Quarantine has called for a lot of tequila in its purest form! For summer I’m also loving a Queens Park Swizzle, which is simple for anyone to make at home.

Queens Park Swizzle
Queens Park Swizzle

Queens Park Swizzle 

2 ounces rum
1 ounce lime
Small handful mint
2 dashes angostura bitters and peychauds bitters
White sugar cube 

Muddle the mint with the sugar cube in a tall glass. Fill two-thirds with crushed ice and pour in all other ingredients (except bitters). Add bitters on top and swizzle with bar spoon briefly. Fill to the top with crushed ice and add a big bouquet of mint.

Ben Potts, co-owner of Beaker & Gray and owner of The Sylvester
Ben Potts, co-owner of Beaker & Gray and owner of The Sylvester

Ben Potts, co-owner of Beaker & Gray and owner of The Sylvester in Miami

The barware you’ll need: Cocktail glasses basically come in a few varieties: stemmed, rocks and Collins. Stemmed cocktail glasses are for drinks that are served up that don’t benefit from additional dilution (think daiquiri, Manhattan, martini). Rocks glasses are for short drinks that are usually served on ice—these tend to be for your sour variety cocktails or tiki drinks (mai tai, whiskey sour, margarita). Finally, collins or highball glasses (there is a distinction, but for most people saying either is fine) are for long drinks, which generally have some sort of carbonate (soda, tonic, ginger beer) and are used for those styles of cocktails (vodka soda, El Diablo, and, of course, a collins).

What to splurge on: Make sure you always buy premium ingredients and high-quality tools. You don’t want to have a beautiful bar with garbage products and tools that rust or fall apart.

On his at-home bar right now: The coolest thing I have is a discontinued bottle of Conejo mezcal, which is a harvest-style mezcal that’s distilled with fruits, berries, nuts, grains, and, believe it or not, rabbit. It’s a really rare bottle, and it tastes incredible.

His go-to drink during quarantine: I’m a pretty simple guy when it comes to drinking at home—usually I drink neat or on-the-rocks or with soda. When I want to treat myself, I usually opt for a Boulevardier. A Boulevardier is an equal parts cocktail that’s basically a Negroni with whiskey.

Boulevardier, Photo by Timur Romanov
Boulevardier, Photo by Timur Romanov


1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth

The method:
Stir the ingredients together in a mixing glass and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Take the peel off an orange and express the oils over the top, then use it to garnish.

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