Home Bar 101

Whether you want it as a decorative touch or for additional storage, a bar is a stylish and practical addition to any home! However, putting together your home bar is more than just buying booze. Equipment, functionality and details are equally important!

Our Home Bar
Our Home Bar

So how do you set one up? Below is a quick crash course in setting up your very own home bar!

The Bar Itself

I fell in love with our bar cart at first sight. In fact, I convinced Peter to buy it before we even lived together. Over time it has proved to be not just our style, but incredibly useful! It has plenty of storage for glassware, and the work space provided by the counter is a must for me.

Metal Bexley Bar
It’s on crazy sale at World Market!

That being said, while this bar really works for us, it may not work for you! When purchasing your home bar, consider what works best for you in your space. Are you currently in a small space? Maybe a smaller, more decorative cart is the way to go. More of an aspiring sommelier than mixologist? Go for a bar cart with built in accommodations for vino. Or maybe you’ve got a built in bar? Lucky you!

Home Bar Equipment

A quick google search will show there is no shortage of bar tool sets available for purchase. However, while you’re just getting started you may not want to pay $80 at West Elm and still not get everything you need. The essential tools are:

  • Bottle Opener
  • Corkscrew
  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Strainer
  • Bar Jigger

Many lists of essentials will include items like a muddler, but unless you plan to make mojitos every weekend, you can probably get by without one.


Glassware is a black hole that can suck in the best of us, but do you really NEED coups, cordials and sherry glasses? Like the bar itself, think about what makes the most sense for you. If you’re just getting started, Martha Stuart says “For everyday use in your home bar, you only need six or eight of each of these three basic types: a short glass, a tall glass, and a stem.” While this is definitely a great place to start, if you really enjoy a cocktail or beer that requires a special glass, get it! Afterall, a Moscow Mule without the copper cup isn’t really even a Moscow Mule.

The BEST Moscow Mule Recipe!
Gimme Some Oven talks about how much she enjoys using her copper cups!

Conversely, if you’re not very interested in wine, look for a glass with a shape that works for both red and white. Keeping it simple will never go out of style.

Liquor and Mixers

Like the glassware, if you are a bourbon aficionado, it would make sense to stock your bar with a variety of bourbons. However, for just starting out, I recommend starting with high quality basics. Just to be clear, this doesn’t mean you have to buy top shelf bottles, but steer clear of anything that comes in a plastic handle (looking at you, Popov’s). For a solid foundation get:

  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Rum
  • Tequila
  • Bourbon
  • Scotch

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. Once again, your purchases should come down to personal preference. Like Dark and Stormies? Get a dark rum. Don’t love the sweetness of bourbon? Select a rye whisky. These are just some of the bones that help build a great home bar.

In terms of mixers, buy as needed. Our must haves include bitters (for Old Fashioneds), ginger beer (for Moscow Mules), hot sauces and Worcestershire sauce (for Bloody Marys). Your necessities may be different, but don’t put a bunch of pressure on yourself to buy items like Cointreau and triple sec if you know you’re never going to want a Margarita.

The Fun Stuff

Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can talk about how to make your bar your own!

  • Add decorative elements, like books, flowers or a framed art print.
  • Feeling fancy? Get decanters! Crystal look glass is a really affordable way to elevate your bar’s look.
  • Invest in reusable straws.
  • Use trays to keep things organized.
  • Have a specific look in mind? Check out Pinterest!

So there you have it! Over all, a home bar cart should be practical but still personal to you. By knowing your preferences and style, you can create a bar that may make you forget to go out!

Need a snack to serve on your home bar? Check out this article on putting together the perfect meat and cheese board!