Perfect your home bar setup – the essential tools for home mixology

Want to wow your cocktail party guests? It's time to step up your home bar setup

Three images of home bar setups
(Image credit: Future / Dominic Black / Davide Lovati)

Whenever I'm out with friends and someone asks me if I would like a pre-dinner drink, the answer is always yes. That half hour spent lounging with a drink in hand before making our way to the dinner table elevates the ‘evening out’ experience. 

So, imagine if you could recreate this feeling without even having to leave the house? With this guide, you’ll be able to bring your home bar ideas to life and curate the perfect space for entertaining your guests (or just indulging in your favorite cocktail from the peace and quiet of your own lounge). 

I'll share the tools that every at-home mixologist should have at their fingertips, along with my industry tips for sourcing glassware and home bar essentials at more affordable prices.

Perfecting your home bar setup 

For some homeowners, a home bar is a bigger priority than a new kitchen, and I understand why. This space doesn't have to take up too much space – I've seen ingenious small home bar ideas tucked into nooks or concealed behind kitchen cabinets – but this playful addition can really elevate your home. 

If you're looking to impress your friends at your next dinner party, few things are as impressive as whipping up their favorite tipple with the correct glassware to match... 

Layout considerations

Home bar with island and bar stools

(Image credit: Future)

When setting the layout of your home bar, it’s good to use the same logic as designing a kitchen. Ask yourself: what are you going to need to hand? Can you easily get into the bottom cupboard? Is the counter at a comfortable height? 

You’ll need a reasonably sized sink and at least one fridge (a mini fridge will suffice), and you can add a built-in ice machine if you plan on using your home bar regularly. Think about the space you have and where the plumbing and electrics are situated. Most of the machinery will run off a standard domestic plug, so you shouldn’t need to do any rewiring. 

If you plan to add a beer pump to the bar, you must leave space for a keg and a gas canister. The setup for this is a bit more technical and is something may want to have installed by a professional. 

How to choose and store your drinks properly

When selecting drinks, the simplest logic is to think about what you like to drink and what you’ll need to make it. If you like spirit-heavy drinks such as classic Martinis or an Old Fashioned, you’ll enjoy having a bar that’s a bit more spirit-heavy. This will make your storage a bit easier, as spirits can be kept at room temperature once opened and won’t go off, so you can keep them indefinitely. Consider having a long shelf or countertop along the back of the bar to make a show of the different shapes and labels of the bottles. Personally, I always enjoy seeing an antiqued mirrored backsplash, as I think it elevates the setup. 

If you prefer a longer drink, you’ll want more space for mixers and lower abv liqueurs for mixing. Unopened mixers will be fine to keep for a year or so, just make sure you’ve got enough fridge space to keep them cool before serving. You can store fruit liqueurs at room temperature and will usually keep for a year after you’ve opened them. 

Essential equipment

Home bar with island painted green and wood floor

(Image credit: Neptune)

Now it's time for the fun part: assembling your tools. First things first, you’ll need a cocktail shaker. The one you’ll see most commonly is a two-part shaker, which is called a Boston Shaker (this is the one where the bottom half is tin, and the top is a slightly smaller tin or glass). These are preferred by professional mixologists because they have the largest volume, so your drink moves around more and incorporates more air as you shake it, creating more texture in the drink. 

Your stirred drinks will require a mixing glass and a cocktail spoon. For strainers, I’d personally opt for a Hawthorne, though OXO have some good options too. Try and avoid buying a cheap muddler as they’re always really light and hard to use, a slightly more expensive one will have more weight to it and be much easier to use. You’ll also want a few spirit measures or a jigger to measure your drinks correctly.

Types of glassware

Close up of a range of different drinking glasses, wine bottles and a cocktail shaker on ledges against a black wall.

(Image credit: Future)

Once again, I’d say the biggest influence on the glassware your home bar setup needs will be what sort of drinks you enjoy making. To get you started, I’d say get some Martini glasses, whiskey glasses, rocks glasses, and highball glasses are home bar essentials. 

The Martini glass is a classic and will not just cover you for martinis, they can be used for Cosmopolitans and Margaritas, too. A Rocks glass will work for any short, spirit-heavy serves, and a Highball glass will suit any longer drinks that use a mixer.

Obviously, if your favorite drink is usually served in something different to these, make sure you always have a few of these glasses on hand!

Where to source the best home bar items

Home bar John Lewis of Hungerford

(Image credit: John Lewis of Hungerford)

You won’t need to go for top-of-the-range catering equipment for your home bar as it won’t be used as much as it would in a commercial setting. You can find some easy-to-install ice makers and under-counter fridges online, or you can check out catering supplies stores and opt for entry-level models.

For bar tools, you can always get a full bar kit set to have one of everything you need – try this affordable Barillio Bartender 17-piece kit from Amazon–  and then see what you use most frequently. Maybe you’ll develop a newfound love of Mojitos and get the most use out of an upgraded muddler, or maybe you’re like me and are permanently misplacing your bar spoon (in which case,

Glassware is always fun to collect over time, and where you like to buy it will largely depend on your tastes. It’s easy to find sets of matching glassware if you like a uniform look. Still, I prefer to browse antique stores for one-off and eclectic pieces because nothing beats elegant, mismatched crystalware that twinkles in the light.

With these home bar essentials at your disposal, I guarantee the next time you host a cocktail party you'll be the host with the most. 

Thomas Litten
Freelance Writer

Thomas Litten is a freelance food and drink writer whose articles and product reviews have been featured in a variety of national publications. His introduction to food and drink came through the hospitality sector, running bars for Michelin-starred restaurants. This experience, plus a love of good food, wine, and spirits, led to a career selling premium drinks to high-end restaurants and later providing consultancy services to food and drink start-ups across the UK. Now, based in southwest England, he mainly divides his time between working for a leading bakery business, visiting coffee shops, and collecting and writing about kitchen gadgets.