Basic Bar Essentials for Your Next Party Hosting Experience

Last Updated on November 20, 2019 by Diane Hoffmaster

With the holidays fast approaching, many people are planning on a bit of entertaining in the coming months.  The family will be visiting, friends want to celebrate the season, and everyone loves a good wine and cheese event, right? If you are planning on party hosting and serving a cocktail or two, there are a few basic bar essentials that you may want to invest in.  Sure, you can drink wine out of your kid’s plastic juice glass but it takes something away from the ambiance of the evening!  My husband and I have been slowly stocking our bar with a few things that we find useful and I thought I would share our favorites with you.

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Basic Bar Essentials for Your Next Party Hosting Experience

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Basic Bar Essentials for Your Next Party Hosting Experience

Since my husband and I are rather practical people on a limited budget, we generally invest in inexpensive items that can be used all year long.  I have no desire to invest in wine glasses with holly leaves on them that will not be very usable on the 4th of July.  Here are a few things to stock in your bar for your next party hosting experience.

Basic Bar Essentials for Your Next Party Hosting Experience

Choose your spirits carefully:

Don’t choose huge bottles of spirits that you have never tried.  You may not like them and after your party, you will be stuck with a bottle of booze you won’t drink.  Stick to the classics of vodka, rum, wine, and maybe gin and vermouth.  Get the smallest bottles you can find of liquors since you use very little of those.  Ask the people at the liquor store for recommendations on scotch and bourbon.  Stock up slowly or your bill will be astronomical.  Buy quality over quantity.  College was a long time ago.  No need to drink large quantities of cheap vodka anymore! You will need to stock up on a few mixers like:

  • Club soda
  • Tonic water
  • Cola
  • Sprite or 7-up
  • Ginger ale
  • Orange juice
  • Cranberry juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Pineapple juice


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A collection of Barware

You don’t need a million different things but here are the basic bar essentials that we keep in our liquor cabinet:

  • Shaker:  This is one of the most basic bar essentials.  Use a cocktail shaker to mix ingredients, blend flavors, chill, aerate, or dilute your cocktail mixture.
  •  Jigger:  A jigger is a fancy word for teeny, tiny, measuring cup.  It makes measuring ingredients easier since most cocktail recipes call for small amounts of ingredients. Our personal preference is a stainless steel jigger.
  • Strainer: No, you should not use your pasta strainer for your cocktails. Use a basic Hawthorne strainer, which has coils that help it snuggly over your shaker.
  • Bar spoon: Your shaker vessel is generally taller than a regular spoon is long.  A bar spoon has a long handle for reaching the bottom of a mixing glass or shaker. It’s good for scooping up garnishes as well as stirring.
  • Muddler: This is great for smashing up fresh herbs or fruits in your shaker before adding the alcohol.  This helps release more of the flavor.  There are a ton of varieties available.  We have a stainless steel muddler and have been using it for years.
  • Mixing glass: A cocktail mixing glass with straight sides, a heavy base, and a pour spout works far better and looks nicer than using a pint glass.  Have you ever tried pouring from a pint glass with no spout?  Makes a big mess!
  • Ice bucket and tongs: For serving ice to guests for their cocktails, you can certainly just have them go into the freezer.  However, putting out an ice bucket and tongs keeps them happy without warming up your freezer all night.

Basic Bar Essentials for Your Next Party Hosting Experience

The right glassware:

Your glassware does not have to be made of crystal and be incredibly expensive.  Invest in the basics like wine glasses (skip the ‘red wine and white wine’ glasses!), cocktail glasses which can also be used for bourbon or whiskey, and maybe some martini glasses.  Personally, we like stemless wine glasses.  They are great for cocktails but I also love just drinking my juice out of them with breakfast.

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Cocktail Recipe Books

I know a lot of people are giving up old-fashioned cookbooks but personally, we still have our copy of Old Mister Boston’s Bartender Guide and absolutely love it.  Pick up a few general cocktail recipe books.  Most of them sort the cocktails by type of alcohol and have some beautiful photos.  Pick out a few cocktails ahead of time and make sure you have all the ingredients.

Basic Bar Essentials for Your Next Party Hosting Experience

A few of the extras:

There is an assortment of things that go with cocktails that aren’t necessary but that make your party hosting much more festive.  You could get a few rimming sugars to dress up the rims of your glasses.  Consider getting a few wine glass charms to add some whimsey and help guests identify their own glass in a crowd. Maybe add a few cocktail swizzle sticks to your basic bar essentials list.  The list is endless, even if the budget isn’t!  If you start small and slowly add a few things every year, eventually you will have an amazingly well-stocked bar to make your party hosting experience completely upscale!

If you are planning on party hosting this holiday season, check out my posts about pairing wine with music and choosing the right wine to make your event perfect! And don’t forget that you can reuse wine bottles instead of tossing them in the trash!

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Basic Bar Essentials for Your Next Party Hosting Experience

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