Shaken or stirred?

At home bar carts add glam to cocktail hour TV shows depicting the glamorous ‘60s have helped us feel more comfy with the notion of having a full bar at home.

There’s just something about offering a guest a glass of wine and beer from behind a bar that feels very grown up. It’s like wearing red bottom heels instead of ballerina flats. The result? More of us are setting up home bars.

It doesn’t have to be a headache: Invest in basic equipment, stock up on essential liquors, and you can have a spread that will impress amateurs — and even make professionals nod in quiet approval.

Every month Crude Bitters and Sodas offers “how to” classes on creating cocktails at home so we asked owner Craig Rudewicz to help us with a shopping list.

What basic tools are needed for a home bar?

In my opinion, the three most important tools for the home bar are the jigger, a cobbler shaker, and a bar spoon.

The jigger (a one ounce/two ounce split with graduations) allows you to carefully measure for the perfect cocktail with correct proportions.

A cobbler shaker, or three-piece cocktail shaker, is a great tool for most drinks. The pour spout of the shaker allows for easy access to the drink. Cocktails that are stirred are best done so in glass, but a shaker will work for home use.

A bar spoon, while not absolutely required, will make your life easier when making cocktails at your home bar. A bar spoon is elongated and twirled to allow it to fit in any glass, makes it easier to stir, and can help with garnishes as well.

Decanting liquors or whiskeys?

I don’t personally recommend decanting liquors for display. I think it’s a better idea to have an interesting display for the liquor bottles themselves. I used pieces of old pallets and hung them on the wall in my home. It lets you see the brands and interesting bottle styles, and you do not ever run into the situation of not remembering what is in the decanter. Use the label designs and bottle styles as decoration.

What are basic mixers that every bar should include?

The type of mixers is very dependent on what types of liquor and cocktails you prefer. A newer trend for mixers is for small batch companies to produce concentrate syrups and tonics. These syrups and tonics are made without high fructose corn syrup and/or preservatives and allow you to mix a drink as sweet as you’d like. If you need carbonation a simple addition of seltzer water does the trick. It’s perfect especially for homes with a soda stream.

Since I own Crude Bitters and Sodas here in Raleigh, I always recommend having cocktail bitters on your home bar. Bitters are called for in most classic cocktail recipes and there are now many different styles of bitters to choose from. Bitters will add a unique element and round out the drink with just a few dashes or drops.

Barware?

I’ve found that the best glassware for the average home bar is the classic rocks or old-fashioned glass. They’re small and durable and can fit into any small bar setup. Rocks glasses work well for most cocktails, whether the drink is served over ice or neat. Another glass style you should have is the martini glass. I use the rocks glass more often, but the martini glass is a classic and gives the drinker a sense of style, which is definitely a part of cocktails.

Liquor Selection?

This is absolutely dependent on what a specific person prefers. My recommendation is if you like one brand or style of whiskey, rum, vodka, etc., stock at least two different styles of that one spirit. It’s amazing how different two brands can be in terms of flavor and aroma. I love gin and keep a few different styles at home, as well as my favorite bourbon, rye and rum. I will stress to keep your bottles in your bar set up, never in the freezer. The liquor should melt ice and add dilution to a cocktail, using already ice-cold spirits will make your cocktail too strong and harsh.

Christa Gala

Christa Gala worked for 16 years as a newspaper columnist and freelance writer across digital and print platforms before joining Raleigh Magazine. Gala is in her fifth semester teaching Writing and Reporting at UNC-Chapel Hill’s renowned School of Media and Journalism.
Christa Gala

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Christa Gala worked for 16 years as a newspaper columnist and freelance writer across digital and print platforms before joining Raleigh Magazine. Gala is in her fifth semester teaching Writing and Reporting at UNC-Chapel Hill’s renowned School of Media and Journalism.