How To Stock Your First Bar Cart For Under $200
You just moved into your first apartment or maybe you’re just ready to graduate from PBR and Fireball shots. Whatever the reason, it’s time for you to act like a grownup and stock your home bar with the basics you’ll need for all your upcoming adult cocktail parties. We’ve got the what you’ll need from gear to bottles—nothing fancy, but it’s plenty to get you started and you can get everything (liquor included) for $200.
Now go forth and start mixing. If you need some inspiration to get mixing and shaking, we’ve got you covered there too.
Here's What You Need...
Click through to find everything that should be on your home bar shopping list.
The good thing about the Boston shaker (a two piece operation comprised of a tin and a glass) is that it can double as a mixing glass so you can stir or shake as needed.
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.
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 measurments.
Some people use the back of spoon, to mash up herbs, fruit or other solids in their cocktails. But you’re classier than that.
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.
This one should be self explanatory, but you’ll have to move those drinks from the shaker to the glass somehow.
For your old fashioneds, your negronis or anything built in a glass. Now, we know that purists will scoff here, but since we’re trying to keep this basic and affordable, these will work for drinks served without ice too, like martinis. 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. If you don’t overhandle the drinks you’ll be able to get by with a couple of these when you’re starting out. When you’re ready to upgrade though, there are plenty of nice coupes out there.
For your G&Ts and most anything fizzy. Highballs usually hold bright, cold refreshing cocktails.
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, but you can find a few more here.
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. Here are a few more bottles to add to your list though.
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. Don’t believe us? Try one of these cocktails and get back to us. When you’re ready for something pricier, here’s a list for you.
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.
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.
A Few More Things
Make sure you have some sugar handy for making some simple syrup and some citrus for juices and garnishes.