Bar Basics

Want to throw the perfect party? Make sure your bar is fully stocked.
by Lisa Vincenti

Hosting the perfect party isn't just about inviting 50 of your closest friends over for a night filled with free-flowing booze and loud music. You need to create a mood and atmosphere, have plenty of party favors on hand, and make sure your bar is fully equipped to handle any situation. Here's all you need for the perfect bar.

Basic Equipment

You never want your guests to have to improvise when mixing cocktails, so be sure your bar is stocked with essential gadgets:
  • a bottle and can opener
  • corkscrew
  • stirring rod or long spoon for mixing drinks
  • bar strainer with coil-rim (the ones they use to pour martinis)
  • mixing glass or strainer
  • jigger (that metal, double-ended shot measurer)
  • juice squeezer
  • cutting board and a sharp paring knife
  • ice bucket and tongs
  • coasters and cocktail napkins
  • bottle sealers
  • swizzle sticks, straws, and cocktail picks

Advanced Gear

For the serious bartender, the list of essentials gets a little longer. If your mission is to mix the perfect drink, regardless of whether it's a gin and tonic or a Ward 8, you'll need more elaborate wares. Stock up with:

  • a manual or electric ice crusher
  • blender (a must for frozen drinks)
  • ice chipper or pick
  • twist cutter or vegetable peeler for fruit peels
  • funnel
  • ice scoop
  • bowls of sugar and salt for coating the rims of glasses

Liquor Cabinet

All that equipment you're investing in will just collect dust unless you get your bar stocked with the right booze. You'll need the ingredients for the most often-requested cocktails, plus you'll also need to know your crowd. Are they martini drinkers? Do they prefer a nice stiff G&T? Maybe they'd like nothing better than beer in a frosty mug. So do your research. The well-stocked liquor cabinet should have:

  • gin
  • vodka
  • blended whiskey
  • rum
  • vermouth (dry and sweet)
  • tequila
  • white wine
  • red wine
  • beer
  • cognac or other brandy
  • liqueurs

Don't forget the basic mixers:

  • club soda
  • tonic water
  • cola
  • lime juice
  • tomato juice
  • orange juice
  • pineapple juice
  • cranberry juice
  • grapefruit juice

For the finishing touches, you should also include:

  • maraschino cherries
  • green olives
  • lemons
  • limes

Glass Menagerie

No host is expected to have exactly the right glass for every drink, but there are a few must-haves for a basic bar. To serve almost any kind of drink, the good host needs about a dozen or so old-fashioned glasses, highball glasses, and wine glasses.

No More Party Fouls

Regardless of the glasses in which you pour your guests' drinks, just don't fill them to the brim -- this makes for dangerously messy cocktails that can spill. A relatively full champagne glass is okay, but wine glasses shouldn't be filled more than halfway.

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