14 Essential Tools And Ingredients To Make Your Home Bar Next Level

Whether you are a cocktail enthusiast or just beginning to experiment with the world of mixology, creating a sophisticated bar space in your home is the perfect way to entertain family and friends. Taking this space to the next level is about more than just stocking up on alcohol — paying attention to the finer details is what can make your home bar really special.

From selecting the most appropriate glassware to making sure you get the mixers right, each element of your bar will take you a step closer to creating a modern and elegant space that can be enjoyed by you and your guests. Choosing a style for your barware and crafting signature cocktails will allow you to personalize your home bar while incorporating elements such as a drinks cart, which will add some flair to proceedings.

If you are feeling overwhelmed at the thought of transforming a corner of your home into an entertaining space, there is no need. Whether you're starting from scratch or want to upgrade the home bar you currently have, let's peek at the essentials that will bring your home bar to the next level.


One of the key elements of a sophisticated home bar is having the right selection of glassware. Having the perfect glass for each type of drink is about more than just aesthetics — it's about providing the optimal drinking experience by enhancing the flavor and aroma, controlling the temperature, and respecting the history of the drink. If you are overwhelmed at the thought of buying a different type of glass for every drink you want to serve, don't panic. There are a handful of classic glasses that will cover a few different options, meaning you don't have to spend a fortune kitting out your glassware.

If you only have the space or budget for one type of cocktail glass, it should be the coupe. This elegant, rounded glass with a thin stem has become the go-to option for cocktails in place of the classic martini glass. Its long stem allows the drinker to hold the drink without warming it, making it a better choice than a stemless glass. The coupe can also double as a glass for sparkling wine since it is commonly used to construct champagne towers.

For spirits and spirit-forward cocktails, you will need a set of rocks glasses, also known as lowball glasses. They are short, with a wide rim and thick base, and enhance the experience of drinking spirits neat or on the rocks, as well as cocktails such as the Old Fashioned or Negroni.

Tall glasses such as highballs or Collins glasses are also essential, alongside the usual wine and beer glasses, allowing you to serve a wide variety of drinks in your home bar.


When stocking up your home bar, spirits are going to be the foundation. While you can't serve every spirit, having a selection that will cater to your friends and family's tastes and allow you to create a variety of cocktails is essential.

Vodka is used in more cocktails than any other, so it would be foolish to leave it out of your home bar. Starring in popular drinks like the Cosmopolitan, Long Island Iced Tea, and White Russian, it is likely to be a sought-after choice. Similarly, white rum is the base of many popular drinks, from Mojitos to Daiquiris, and many enjoy it with a simple mixer such as Coke.

As well as light spirits, every bar needs dark liquor too, starting with whiskey. It features in a number of classic cocktails, including the Old Fashioned and Manhatten, and is equally revered served neat or on the rocks. Depending on the tastes of your guests, you may wish to offer a number of whiskeys, including bourbon and scotch.

Dark rum and spiced rum are also great additions to your spirit selection, offering rich, complex flavors when served neat or added to cocktails such as the Dark and Stormy or Mai Tai. Gin is another classic, essential for a G'n'T and the star of the Tom Collins and the original Martini.

Beyond these spirit staples, you may want to stock a couple of other options, including tequila and brandy. With all of these on board, you can create a wide range of cocktails and drinks to keep your guests satisfied.


A well-chosen selection of liqueurs is crucial when creating a versatile home bar, allowing you to infuse cocktails with layers of sweetness and color, as well as being served as aperitifs or digestifs. There are many more varieties of liqueur compared to base spirits, so you will need to be more selective and choose a small number that will encompass an assortment of flavors.

Before selecting your liqueurs, think about the cocktails you are most likely to make, and choose drinks that are used across a few of them. For example, Cointreau is used in a number of the most popular cocktails, including Margarita, Cosmopolitan, and Sidecar, making it an important addition if you are planning to make these drinks. For sweeter drinks, Amaretto or Baileys can be used to create mouthwatering liquid desserts.

The beauty of liqueurs is that they can be enjoyed outside the realms of cocktails as well. Aperitifs such as Campari and Aperol can be sipped before a meal and are said to stimulate the appetite. Herbal liqueurs – Sambuca and Chartreuse, for instance — are served after a meal, with the herbs claimed to have a positive impact on digestion, though there is no real proof of this. Whether it is true or not, sipping on a sweet liqueur is the perfect way to end a hearty meal. Ultimately, a carefully chosen selection of liqueurs will give you the ability to concoct a variety of cocktails and enrich the overall drinking experience for your guests.


If you want to take your cocktail-mixing skills to the next level, it is crucial to include an often overlooked ingredient in your home bar — a selection of bitters. A potent blend of herbs and spices, bitters were originally used for medicinal purposes as far back as the late 1600s. They are now used (in tiny amounts) to put the finishing touches on cocktails and add a layer of complexity that would otherwise be missing.

The famous Angostura bitters are used in the Long Vodka and Singapore Sling to add a hint of spice, while orange bitters can be used to give a zing of citrus to an Old Fashioned. But beyond these classics lies an exciting world of bitters, and if you are in the mood to experiment, you may find a flavor to perfect your signature drink.

From fruity cherry and rhubarb to cacao-infused chocolate bitters, stocking a variety of flavors can add new dimensions to your mixology. It may take a little trial and error to find the perfect combination since just a drop of these powerful elixirs can have a significant impact on flavor and balance — but once mastered, they will be the ingredients that take your cocktails from good to extraordinary.


Mixers may not seem as important as the alcoholic ingredients in your bar, but without them, some of your cocktails would be undrinkable. They provide balance and complexity to your drinks, and having a diverse selection is important in setting up your home bar.

To select mixers for your bar, you must consider both quantity and quality. While you don't need every single option available, a range of flavors will increase the number of drinks you can make, and purchasing certain premium mixers can elevate your drinks to delicious new levels.

Fruit juices are a staple, and while freshly squeezed orange juice is always going to beat a carton, you can't be expected to squeeze every fruit on demand when crafting your cocktails. A variety of juices, including orange, pineapple, cranberry, and grapefruit, will cover most of the sweet cocktails, while a carton of tomato juice is essential if Bloody Marys are in your repertoire.

Sodas are another must-have, with ginger beer, tonic water, and club soda all making their way into many drinks. G'n'T may be the most famous use for tonic water, but the bitterness from the quinine can suit a range of drinks, including whiskey and tequila. The mild flavor of club soda means it can lend its hand to all sorts of cocktails, with Mojito and Tom Collins two of the favorites. Ginger ale, with its mildly spicy profile, matches well with whiskey but also goes with liqueurs such as Cointreau to make an unusual and refreshing drink.

Non-alcoholic options

The days of designated drivers being handed a can of Coke as an afterthought are long gone. The Sober Curious movement has led to large drinks brands launching high-quality, alcohol-free versions of their classic drinks, and a modern home bar needs to embrace this trend. While mixers and soda are still legitimate options to serve, you should consider having a few upscale options, too, to impress your guests who are choosing not to drink.

To be as inclusive as possible, consider perfecting a range of mocktails alongside your signature cocktails. You will already have most of the ingredients in your bar, and it means your teetotal guests can enjoy the same drink as everyone else. Serving them in identical glassware to the alcoholic version is crucial to create the same experience for everyone.

You will also want to stock some premium, non-alcoholic versions of some favorite drinks. As a rule, non-alcoholic sparkling wine, beer, and cider are essential choices, offering a sophisticated drink that closely mimics the real thing. There are also a number of non-alcoholic spirits available in different flavors — buying a few to try out will allow you to find the best flavors for your potential guests. A thoughtful selection of alcohol-free drinks will ensure that every guest will feel welcome in your home bar, regardless of their drinking preferences.

Essential pieces of barware

To turn your home bar into a modern, functional space, certain essential bar tools are a must. As well as making the process of bartending more efficient, they will add elegance to the drink-making experience.

First up is the corkscrew — indispensable for any home bar, particularly if you are a wine enthusiast. They are available in a wide range of designs, from simple waiter's friends to fancy electric corkscrews and many others in between. Choose one that fits your decor and that you find easy to use. Bottle openers are equally important for opening bottles of beer and cider and also come in various trendy styles. Consider a wall-mounted one that will look great and make opening bottles one-handed a breeze.

When it comes to creating delectable cocktails, knowing the exact measurements of spirits and mixers is crucial, and a jigger is the key to that precision. Jiggers come in various sizes and usually have two different-sized cups to allow single and double servings to be measured. And on the subject of measuring, a few pouring spouts would be a handy addition to your barware, allowing you to pour drinks consistently and elegantly. They also reduce the chance of spills, meaning less cleaning up for you afterward. By investing in a few quality items of barware, you can enhance the aesthetic and functionality of your home bar and increase your enjoyment of serving drinks to others.

Shakers and strainers

When it comes to making perfect cocktails in your home bar, good-quality shakers and strainers are tools that can take your mixology to a new level. While it is technically possible to make cocktails without them, the resulting drinks will look and taste better if they have been properly prepared — and let's be honest, you're going to have a lot of fun in the process.

There are three main reasons you should shake your drink in a cocktail shaker. Firstly, it mixes the ingredients thoroughly to create the desired consistency. This is especially important for drinks that have liquids of different viscosities, as they won't mix well without vigorous shaking. Secondly, it allows the ice to chill the drink quickly, creating a crisp, fresh flavor much more rapidly than simply adding ice to the glass. And lastly, shaking will aerate the drink, creating the delightful frothy layer that we all love on drinks such as Daiquiris.

To enhance the flavor and texture of the cocktail further, strainers play an important part. They separate any solid ingredients, including ice, from the liquid components to ensure a smooth drinking experience. The Hawthorne strainer is a classic choice and can be placed over either the shaker or the cocktail glass, making it a convenient option. 

To combine both of the essential items, a Cobbler shaker combines the shaker with the strainer, making it a convenient option for your home bar. A Boston shaker may give a more professional feel to your bar, but you will have to strain the drink separately.

Level up your ice

Many people consider ice to be a minor component in the world of drinks, but it can play a crucial role in the presentation of your drinks. Upgrading your ice can add a professional touch to your home bar and take your cocktails up a notch.

A novel way to add a unique flavor to your cocktails is to use smoked ice. Smoked ice is made from water that has been infused with smoke from wood chips before being frozen. It works particularly well with whiskey or bourbon but can also be used in cocktails for a distinctive flavor twist. A cocktail smoking kit is a great piece of equipment to add to your home bar that will allow you to showcase a modern element in your drinks and impress your friends and family.

As well as the flavor of your ice, it pays to give some consideration to the shape and size of your ice cubes. Standard ice cubes are 1-inch cubed and are commonly used in bar drinks as they fit in most standard-size glasses. However, larger ice cubes, approximately twice the size, will look more impressive in your drinks and will keep the drinks chilled for longer without diluting flavor.

Collins spears are a unique way to add ice to your drinks; their long blocks make a visual statement in cocktails such as a Mojito. A few different ice cube molds will allow you to vary the ice you serve depending on the drink or the mood you are in.

Citrus fruits

No bar can function without a variety of citrus fruits — a squeeze of lime or a lemon garnish is the final flourish that can elevate your cocktails to extraordinary heights. In your home bar, it is important to have various fresh citrus fruits and the tools to transform them into stunning garnishes.

Three citrus fruits are needed to cover most drinks — orange, lemon, and lime. Whether you are juicing the lemon for a Whiskey Sour or upgrading a rum and coke to a Cuba Libre with a wedge of lime, these three classic fruits will brighten and balance your drinks.

In order to add visual flair, you should have a few different tools on hand to create beautiful garnishes with your citrus peels. A sharp knife is, of course, crucial, and can be used to create decorative garnishes easily, as well as citrus wheels and slices.

A standard vegetable peeler will be invaluable when it comes to making citrus twists, which are an important aspect of certain cocktails, including the Martini. The oils from the citrus twist influence the flavor of the drink, so it should always be used when a recipe calls for it.

A channel knife is another inexpensive tool that will allow you to create twists and ribbons smoothly, with less chance of injury than using a knife.  This small selection of tools will make the process of creating garnishes efficient and enjoyable and add a touch of sophistication to your cocktails and other drinks.

Bar Cart

Often overlooked when setting up a home bar, a drinks cart is an element that can bring sophistication and style to your bar setup. As a station for creating and presenting your cocktails, it adds a dash of flair to your hosting and provides a fun talking point.

Wherever your home bar is set up, a mobile drinks cart allows you to bring the theatre of the bar to your guests, allowing them to interact with the drinks-making experience from the comfort of their table and chairs. Make sure you buy one with wheels so the moving process is easy and graceful.

Your drinks cart will be a space to display the highlights of your home bar, so it is important to keep it minimalist and organized. Buy as big a cart as you have the space for, so that it isn't over-filled with your cocktail essentials. Ideally, you want to have room for a couple of spirits, a selection of your favorite glassware, a mixer or two, and a few bar tools. Keep it neatly arranged so that the most used items are easy to access.

There are many styles of bar carts to choose from, meaning you can select one that fits your personal style and matches the aesthetics of the room. A well-organized drinks cart will elevate your home bar and make cocktail preparation more efficient and fun.

Wine and Beer

Although cocktails and spirits are likely to be the main focus of your home bar, it makes sense to have a small selection of wine and beers on hand to cater to all preferences. You don't need to be a connoisseur to provide quality drinks to your wine and beer-loving friends.

With wine, it is best to have a mix of reds and whites to offer, as well as a bottle of sparkling for extra special occasions. You can make some of your wines dual-purpose by considering cocktails that they can be used in. A dry red like a Shiraz is great in a New York Sour, while Prosecco features in Aperol Spritz. By stocking these wines in your home bar, you can keep your wine drinkers and cocktail lovers happy at the same time.

For beer, again, you want to have a few different types to cover all bases, ranging from ordinary lagers to more unique craft beers, as well as stout and wheat beer. This variety means that whether your guests prefer light and crisp or rich and malty, you will have a drink on hand to please their taste buds. By offering wine and beer alongside your signature cocktails, you will be keeping your guests happy and ensuring that your home bar is an enjoyable place for everyone.

Specialty items

In addition to the essential items that every home bar needs, you may want to put a personal stamp on your space by purchasing a few unique items that reflect your own interests or those of your regular guests. These distinctive items will add character to your home bar and provide a talking point among friends and family.

If you are an enthusiast of a particular type of drink, you should have some specialist glassware to serve it in. For example, whiskey drinkers could elevate the experience with a wooden bourbon flight set or oak tumblers, whereas tequila lovers could opt for shot glasses crafted from Himalayan salt. For wine connoisseurs, an unusual wine bucket made from marble will catch the eye and add intrigue as it keeps your Champagne chilled.

Coasters are also a great way to add a personal touch, and the list of options is endless, from song lyrics and replica vinyl records for music lovers to artistic and geographical themes for those who appreciate travel and culture. Incorporating personal items into your home bar will make a more memorable space that is a reflection of your personality and a great place to enjoy relaxation time with friends and family.

Juicers and blenders

If you want to take cocktails to the next level in terms of flavor and texture, consider equipping your home bar with a juicer, blender, or both. These appliances can expand the range of drinks you are able to offer and will improve the quality and presentation of them.

A juicer is crucial if you want to serve the freshest possible drinks, particularly those that feature fruit juice heavily. Being able to freshly squeeze a grapefruit, orange, or lime before adding it to a drink will offer a brightness of flavor that bottled juice will never replicate. A hand-press juicer is a great manual option that makes squeezing citrus fruit a breeze, or an electric juicer would allow you to juice a wide range of fruits to experiment with different flavors. Just be aware that these can be a nightmare to clean afterward.

A blender will be a game changer when it comes to serving ice-based drinks such as frozen Daiquiris and Margaritas. These drinks are perfect for the warm weather, and using a blender will ensure they have that desirable slushy texture. A blender can also be used to create various non-alcoholic drinks, including smoothies and shakes, increasing the number of drinks you can offer to non-drinking guests.