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Many homes have a designated area called a wet bar for storing and serving alcoholic beverages, but few homeowners are trained mixologists or bartenders. To stock a bar properly, it pays to understand the basics of the professional bartending world, from the storage of beers and wines to the barware needed to mix cocktails or blend frozen drinks. Whenever you stock a bar for entertainment purposes, you need to make sure you have everything from glasses to garnishes.
One consideration when you stock a bar is the storage capacity. Liqueurs and spirits usually rest on shelving units along the back wall of the wet bar. Estimate how many bottles you can display safely on existing shelves, or be prepared to add a few more. Specialty items such as Galliano are often sold in very tall bottles, which can be difficult to accommodate in a private bar. When you stock a bar with limited shelf space, display the most popular liqueurs and cocktail ingredients and leave the rest in a cabinet or under the bar itself.
A home wet bar should have some refrigerated storage space for beers and wines. When you stock a bar with beer, try to include an assortment of domestic and imported varieties. Canned domestic beer may be acceptable for very casual events, but bottled beer is usually preferable for more formal events. Most bottled beer should be kept on ice, but several imported varieties are traditionally served at room temperature.
Wines should be kept chilled in designated wine refrigerators whenever possible. When you stock a bar with wine, provide a selection of red and white table wines for dinner service, along with a few bottles of vintage sherries, Pinot Noir, port wines and dessert wines. Be sure to stock a bar with the proper glasses for each variety of wine - red wines are not served in the same style of wineglass as white wines.
When you stock a bar for a formal party, you will need a complete set of bartending tools and barware. These tools can be found in kitchen supply stores and some department stores. Important barware items include a heavy-duty blender for mixed drinks and frozen cocktails, a martini shaker for martinis and cocktails, a stirrer for blending juices and spirits, a shot glass or jigger for measuring alcohol and a bar knife for preparing garnishes.
Other important items you'll need to stock a bar are napkins, straws, swizzle sticks and a bottle opener. Some barware sets contain a holder for garnishes such as lemons, limes, olives, pearl onions and maraschino cherries. When serving margaritas or certain martinis, you may need to coat the rim of the glass with coarse salt or sugar. Professional bartenders use a circular tray filled with salt or sugar to perform this task.
Every wet bar set-up is different, so you may have to decide how to stock your bar to suit your particular needs. At a bare minimum, you should have a supply of domestic and favorite imported beers, red and white table wines, blended whiskey, several white liquors, mixes for frozen drinks and a recipe book for popular cocktails. You can always stock a bar with more exotic ingredients, such as flavored Schnapps and expensive top shelf liqueurs, as the need arises.
There are actually books available that discuss how to stock a bar for a party, or for everyday home use. If I needed to stock a bar for a party, I'd probably get one of those books. Most of them also cover how to mix drinks, along with recipes, too.
Having a well stocked bar is an expensive proposition, though, unless someone does a lot of entertaining and has the money to buy good liquor. Just a basic set-up can run into the hundreds of dollars. Liquor isn't cheap, and neither is good barware. By the time you've bought liquor, mixers, wine, beer, glasses and mixware, you could spend as much as $500-$600 USD, depending on what you get. You don't think about stocking a bar as an investment, but it definitely is.
It all really comes down to personal preference. Some people will want to stock a bar with every kind of liquor available, especially if they entertain a lot, while others will be content with a couple of bottles of tequila, rum, bourbon or whiskey, along with a bottle or two of wine. Most people usually purchase beer the day they think they will need it.
One item I'd say is necessary is a jigger. You have to know how much liquor you're pouring so you can make drinks the right way. Most people also stock soda pop and fruit juices in their bars too, for drinks like a rum and coke or a screwdriver.
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