Do not let the gadget junkies try to convince you that a home bar is made by the bar tools. What is the point of that wine aerator if your wine racks are empty? Here are the most important ingredients you need to keep on hand to make the most classic drinks and keep your guests happy.
You should keep a few different kinds of beer on hand. Just “light and dark beer” is a terrible suggestion. Do you know what an IBU is? How about the difference between a Swartzbier and a milk stout? I suggest keeping an American IPA, amber ale, wheat beer and a rich stout on hand. This covers the spectrum pretty well without getting too crazy. If you want to replace your wine racks with kegs then you can go farther but this will be a good foundation.
The essential liquors and ingredients are pretty simple but they might not be obvious. Bourbon, scotch, vodka, gin, light rum, dark rum, brandy, dry vermouth and sweet vermouth will treat you well for alcohol. For mixers you are going to want to stock some ginger ale (I suggest ginger beer), standard cola, lemon-lime cola, soda water, tonic water, orange juice, cranberry juice, grapefruit juice and bitters. You will need some fresh fruit as well but you should be fine with lemons and limes for most classic drinks.
The last consideration is wine. Like with beer, there is a lot more to wine than just white or red. I suggest a merlot, pinot noir, pinot grigio, muscato, champagne, Riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. That should fill up your wine racks nicely and offer a different flavor for everyone.
If you have these things in stock, you should be able to whip up something for anyone without any fancy gadgets. I do, however, suggest getting a Boston shaker, jigger and proper glass ware.
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