The Bottle-by-Bottle Guide to Building Your Home Bar - Part 1

Ilya Dorfman |

Want to be a master mixologist in the comfort of your own home? Here are all of the bottles you'll need, plus the booze that will take your drink-making (and drinking) to the next level


 What is Needed Why It Is Needed Where to get it
Lemons and Limes Few things are more important to a home bar than fresh citrus. Every time you hit the store, re-up on lemons and limes.
Seltzer Takes the sting out of high-proof booze, while adding a little kick of carbonation. Totally necessary for highballs, spritzers and rickeys of all sorts.
Bitters What bitters are—concentrated botanicals preserved in alcohol—is less important than what they're capable of. Which is, basically, making a brand-new drink out of the same old recipe.
Light Rum Even if you're not crazy about Piña Coladas, you need rum on hand to pull off a Mojito (with mint, lime sugar, and seltzer) or a Cuba Libre (just add Coke and lime.)
Dry Vermouth Most martinis call for dry vermouth. Some Manhattans do, too. And if you want to be able to make either drink "Perfect" (half sweet, half dry vermouth) you better have both on hand.
Gin Every bar has gin. This is not up for debate.
Vodka Even if you haven't been able to stomach vodka since college (and, hey, you're not alone) you're still going to need a bottle in your bar to please the ridiculous number of vodka-soda drinkers in your life.
Tonic For Gin & Tonic, bro.
Rye Whiskey Rye was all but dead a couple of decades ago, right up until a handful of brilliant bartenders simultaneously realized that this spicy, peppery grain makes for a better Manhattan than bourbon, which is sweeter. Follow suit.
Italian (Sweet) Vermouth Speaking of those Manhattans: sweet, italian vermouth is key. But buy your vermouth in half-sizes—it goes bad like any wine, and unless you're the world's most pretentious lush, you won't go through a full-sized bottle very quickly.


In the next post, we'll look beyond the basics and review some of the items that will help you take your bar to the next level.