Bar Exam: Stocking a Stylish Home Bar

Whether you’re a teetotaler (me) or a Mad Men style lush (my friends), having a well stocked, dapper-cool bar is a simple way to impress guests and add swag factor to your home.

DIY Trunk Rolling Bar via Apartment Therapy

Upcycled suitcase liquor cabinets are all the craze on Etsy. Try your luck in a bidding war or DIY. Image via Apartment Therapy

DIY: Turn an old card catalog into a bar (via Apartment Therapy)

Transform existing built-in structures (closets, bookcases, kitchen cabinets, etc.) into an impressive home bar (via Unabashedly Prep)

A Word on Stocking…

via House of Burbon

Jeff Trexler warns that stocking a bar is a “marathon, not a sprint.” Start with liquors and ingredients used in the essential cocktails (e.g., martini, gin and tonic, etc.) and invest in a few bottles of your favorite spirits. Then, continue to add more expensive and rare finds. Here’s where you can save and where you should splurge when shopping for booze.


  • Vodka: Save – Vodka manufacturers are always in the race to market the “glossiest” label, because, unlike other liquors, cheaper vodkas tend to win taste tests hands-down.
  • Gin: Save or Splurge – The quality of gin for your bar should depend on whether you’ll be combining the gin with a mixer (e.g., gin and tonics, gin and juice, etc.) or using the gin to make classic martinis. Save if the former, splurge if the latter.
  • Tequila: Save or Splurge – As with gin, whether you save or splurge will depend on what you’re using the tequila for (margarita vs. sipping).
  • Rum: Splurge – Remember spring break? Splurge!
  • Burbon: Splurge – Cheap burbon has all the burn without the flavor.
  • Whiskey and Scotch: Splurge – These are usually served on the rocks without  mixers. No mixers = you cannot hide the taste of cheap.

*Q: BTW, what the heck is the difference between burbon, scotch, and whiskey and how can I learn to enjoy them? A: Autostraddle’s Laneia gives you a whiskey 101 here.

Other items to add…

  • Vermouth
  • Crème de cacao
  • Crème de menthe
  • Cassis
  • Benedictine
  • Sambuca
  • Kahlua
  • Drambuie
  • Amaretto
  • Simple syrup
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Juice (tomato, pineapple, cranberry)
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Cream of coconut
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Salt
  • Fruits, veggies, herbs, and seasoning (pineapple wedges, celery stalks, olives, mint leaves, cinnamon sticks)


  • Shaker
  • Strainers
  • Electric blender
  • Muddler


  • Thrift stores are a great place to find unique barware on the cheap.
  • Use Mason jars to serve cocktails in or to store cocktail ingredients.

pdx food love stores simple syrup in Mason jars

*For dapperQ cocktail recipes, see “What’s Hip to Sip.”

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