Creating a home bar has become quite trendy in recent years, thanks to the countless benefits. Home bars add a nice aesthetic appeal to your home, they’re fully functional, and they may even save you some money in the long run.
Whether you build your own, buy a liquor cart, or have one installed in your home, you get to bring the party home instead of out at a bar.
While there are obvious costs associated with starting a home bar, you’ll still save money by purchasing your own equipment and spirits. Alcohol is notoriously expensive, with nearly 1% of consumer expenditures spent on alcohol.
Not to mention the negative health effects that are associated with those who spend more on alcohol. By not spending $10 or more, depending on where you live, on a single cocktail at a bar, you’re really saving money.
However, just because you’re saving money by drinking at home doesn’t mean you have to splurge on the most expensive alcohol and mixers. Rather, keep on the savings trend by stocking your bar on a budget.
As you’ll see, there are endless ways to stock a bar, no matter how much you want to spend. For example, you could spend anywhere between $15 and $30 per bottle of liquor.
What’s more, as you use your home bar over time, you’ll begin to learn what you use most often.
From there, you can begin to stock items that you use regularly and pass on the ones that you know you won’t use enough to justify spending the money on. No matter where you’re starting, check out the following to stock your bar on any budget.
Essential bar items
Before we get into the specifics of what brands of mixers and spirits to stock, you have to know the must-have items for any bar. While there are endless types of cocktail-making tools, glasses, and accessories, there are a few main pieces you should pick up.
- Jigger with 1oz side and 1.5oz side
- A cocktail shaker with a strainer
- Bottle opener
- Cutting board
- Small knife
- Long stirring spoon
That list should be more than enough to get started with a home bar. You can make numerous cocktails and mixed drinks with what you have there. However, if you want to get a little bit more professional, consider the following other accessories.
- Whiskey ball ice tray
- Juice squeezer
- Carafe for holding wine or water
- Ice bucket
- Cocktail toothpicks
- Cocktail straws
If you’re at this stage and feel comfortable, you can consider stocking your bar with various glasses. Next time you go to your favorite neighborhood bar, check out all the types of glasses they have.
You can see what kind of cocktails and drinks are served in which glasses. If you want to follow the professional bar style, consider picking up a few of these glasses.
- Short whiskey glasses
- Brandy glasses
- Shot glasses
- Highball glasses
- Champagne flutes
- White wine glasses
- Red Wine glasses
- Martini glasses
- Other specialty cocktail glasses
However, the minimum number of glasses that you should get includes the following.
- Beer glass
- Wine glass
- Highball glass
- Martini glass
Affordable spirits to stock
The most expensive part of stocking your bar is the alcohol itself. While it’s entirely possible to find extremely cheap liquors, do you really want to serve the absolute cheapest alcohol to your friends and family? Probably not.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to overspend either. There are several options for spirits on a budget. Check out the following options to get you started.
Best Rum: Admiral Nelson’s Spiced Rum
When people think of spiced rum, they often think of Captain Morgan. When they think of standard rum, Bacardi likely comes to mind. However, all those people are missing out on Admiral Nelson’s Spiced Rum.
You can find a 750mL bottle for $15. In addition to being perfect on a budget, it’s also known to be a quality rum. This bottle won a platinum award in 2007 at the World Beverage Competition.
Pick up a bottle of Admiral Nelson’s, and you’ll have all your rum needs checked off.
Best Whiskey: Bird Dog
You, whiskey lovers, have probably already tried Bird Dog. It’s an easy-drinking, well-flavored whiskey that just happens to be affordable as well. Bird Dog Whiskey is distilled in Kentucky using corn, rye, and malted barley, and it’s aged in bourbon barrels.
While this whiskey may sound like a top-notch bottle, you can find it for $16.50 here, a bad price for the quality you’re getting.
Best Vodka: Svedka
For centuries, Sweden has been making vodka, perfecting its distilling methods, and producing well-known bottles. One of these just happens to be affordable as well.
Svedka is made from special winter wheat found in Sweden, giving it a unique flavor. The vodka is also distilled five times to purify the taste of vodka drinkers know and love. While this is great, the best part is that you can find a bottle of Svedka for around $15.
As vodka is called for in countless cocktails, be sure to pick up some Svedka to offer your guests high-quality vodka while staying under budget.
Best Gin: Gordon’s London Dry Gin
Gin is an intoxicating liquor— not just because it’s alcohol but also because of its unique flavor and rich history. While gin has its origins in the Netherlands, Britain is where gin really hit off.
Now, it’s no surprise then that Gordon’s London Dry Gin is London-based alcohol. This bottle is a classic gin with a genuine juniper flavor and a good finish. While it may not be as flavorful as some high-end gins, for around $16.49, you can’t beat it.
Plus, Gordon’s London Dry Gin is the best-selling London dry gin in the world, so you know you’re getting a good bottle for the price.
Best Bourbon: Evan William’s Black Label
Another Kentucky-based whiskey, Evan Williams Black Label, is the perfect bourbon for anybody on a budget. This bourbon is a great mix of corn, rye, and barley, aged in new charred oak barrels for between 5 and 7 years. It also happens to be one of the best-selling bourbons all over the world.
The bourbon has a hint of dark sweetness, fruity tones, and even a bit of spice. The flavor is full, complex, and downright enjoyable. For around $17.49, you can stock it yourself. Even the fussiest of bourbon drinkers will appreciate a glass of Evan Williams neat or on the rocks.
Best Tequila: Jose Cuervo Especial Gold
If you’re a tequila drinker, you already know Jose Cuervo. It’s the number one brand of tequila in the world. Made in Mexico, the Especial Gold is a blend of different tequilas that features a sweet smell, a smooth agave flavor, and even hints of vanilla and oak.
At only $18.49 a bottle, it’s a true bargain. You can serve it over ice with some lime juice squeezed in, you can pour some tequila shots, or you can go all out and make some margaritas. Regardless of your preferred drinking method, Jose Cuervo Especial Gold is the perfect addition to any home bar.
Mixers to stock on a budget
Now that you have a good selection of spirits, you need some mixers to go with them. Although you can use several mixers for one cocktail, you should opt for those you know you’ll use often.
For example, it doesn’t make sense to stock tomato juice if you don’t drink bloody Mary’s. Rather, start out with the following mixers, as they’re perfect for getting you started, and they won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
- Lemon and Lime Juice
- Tonic Water
- Soda Water
- Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer
- Cranberry, Orange, Pineapple Juice (you don’t need all of them)
- Your favorite cola
Other items to stock on a budget
While you may think you need to have many liqueurs to have a well-stocked home bar, you don’t. If you’re having a get-together, and you know you’ll be making some cocktails, you can pick out a couple of liqueurs to buy.
However, it’s not necessary if you’re just making drinks for yourself, and you don’t frequently use them.
If you do want some liqueurs to get started with, consider the following.
Furthermore, you may want to have some garnishes ready. Many of these you will likely already have, as you may use them in the kitchen. For those you don’t use often, you can pick them up only when necessary.
- Coffee Liqueur
- Vermouth (dry or sweet)
Stocking your home bar doesn’t have to be a costly affair. You can find everything you need for a complete and ready bar while staying under a strict budget.
As many common bar items are rarely used, only for specialty cocktails, you can opt-out of many accessories. By following the above recommendations, you’ll have the perfect bar for any party.