15 Essentials to Stock Your Bar Cart Like a Pro

bar cart
Photo: © Arielle Cifuentes

Whether you just moved into your first home or you're just ready to graduate from Fireball shots, there's never a better time to stock a proper bar cart. There are a few basics you'll need for all your upcoming cocktail parties, and we've created a list to give you the best results for every Negroni, margarita, and Tom Collins. Read on for all of the essential tools for your home bar.

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Boston Shaker

boston shaker
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The good thing about the Boston shaker (a two piece operation comprised of a tin and a cup) is that it can double as a mixing glass so you can stir or shake as needed.

Stainless Steel Boston Shaker, $20 at crateandbarrel.com

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Bar Spoon

bar spoon
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Whatever you have in your silverware drawer just won't make a martini as easily as the twisted, long-handled bar spoon will. It will fit into any tall mixing glass and the design makes it easy to pour ingredients down the spoon.

Hiware Stirring Spoon, Set of 3, $10 at amazon.com

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Jigger

jigger
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Precision, precision, precision. If you're going to make a good drink it should be measured correctly. It's best to grab a jigger that measures up to 2 ounces in half-ounce measurements.

OXO Steel Double Jigger, $10 at amazon.com

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Muddler

muddler
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Some people use the back of spoon, to mash up herbs, fruit or other solids in their cocktails. But you're classier than that.

Stainless Steel Cocktail Muddler, $6 at amazon.com

Winco Wooden Muddler, $4 at amazon.com

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Bar Knife

knife
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In a pinch a paring knife will do—the most important thing is that the knife be reasonably short for control when you're cutting things like fruit or citrus peels. A knife like this Rabbit is an affordable one that can also help you garnish, but if you want to get really fancy, there's nothing better than the Jackson Cannon knife.

Rabbit Bar Knife, $8 at amazon.com

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Strainer

strainer
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This one should be self explanatory, but you'll have to move those drinks from the shaker to the glass somehow.

OXO Steel Cocktail Strainer, $8 at amazon.com

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Lowball Glasses

rocks glass
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For an old fashioned, a Negroni or anything with ice the lowball rocks shape is a classic. Go with a simple set or splurge on durable glasses from Riedel or Dorset. The reason drinks served up (those without ice) typically come in stemmed glasses is so you don't warm the cocktail holding it in your hand. Opt for a coupe for those cocktails.

Riedel Spey Double Old-Fashioned Glasses, Set of 2, $23 at williams-sonoma.com

Leopold Coupe Glass, 6oz - 6 Pack, $40 at amazon.com

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Highball Glasses

highball glass
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For your G&Ts and most anything fizzy. Highballs usually hold bright, cold refreshing cocktails.

Italian Highball Glasses, Set of 6, $22 at amazon.com

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Vodka

vodka
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Since it's often so basic (as in "not complicated" not as in "pumpkin spice flavored) vodka can get overlooked sometimes. But you can get a great small batch bottle for under 30 bucks that will mix well in any cocktail you please. We're partial to Hangar 1 and Deep Eddy.

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Gin

gin
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The botanicals in gin can leave bottles all over the map, but if you want something versatile and affordable Beefeater dry gin is a safe bet.

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Rum

rum
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We'd recommend starting off with a white rum—the thing for making a mojito or an off-brand (non-cachaca) caipirinha, and we're fans of Brugal extra dry.

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Whiskey

whiskey
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A bottle of whiskey could easily become the single most expensive item on your bar, but a super affordable yet super mixable bottle is a surprising old stand by you might have snuck from parents' liquor cabinet growing up: Jack Daniels.

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Tequila

tequila
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If you're just starting your bar you might be more used to shooting crappy tequila than mixing it in cocktails. A couple good bottles to get started: Espolón blanco or, if you want to bump up a price point, Casamigos blanco.

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Vermouth

vermouth
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A good martini and Manhattan should be in your cocktail repertoire, and that means you'll need some vermouth handy—dry will be the most versatile. Dolin is a solid brand to start with.

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A Few More Things

sugar squeeze bottle orange lime lemon
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Make sure you have some sugar handy for making some simple syrup and some citrus for juices and garnishes.

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