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How To Create the Perfect Home Bar

Pottery Barn

For hosting friends and colleagues at home, there's nothing more impressive than a well-stocked bar

Pictured, above: Brady Bar Cart, $399; PotteryBarn.com

Entertaining with an ice tub filled with twist-off beers is fine if you're taking your party on the road. But for hosting friends, neighbors, or colleagues at home, a well-stocked bar is infinitely more impressive. And whether you want to butter up your boss or romance a date, a well-made cocktail will get you a lot further than anything that'll fit in a red Solo cup. Start your bar with the essential elements to make your own favorite drink, then gradually expand your cocktail repertoire.

Start Small

You don't have to buy the whole liquor store in one fell swoop. If a Manhattan is your go-to drink, stock your bar with rye whiskey, bitters, maraschino cherries, and vermouth. Add bar staples incrementally. Your rye plus Herbsaint or pastis makes a Sazerac; pick up some gin and Campari to add to your vermouth for Negronis.

Looking Fly

Easy as 3, 2, 1

Plan on roughly three drinks/glasses/napkins per guest for a two-hour cocktail party, and one pound of ice per person.

Serious Citrus

Every time you shop for groceries, pick up a few lemons and limes. They're indispensable for your bar, and if you don't make enough cocktails, they're super healthy just squeezed into some filtered water.

Substitutions

Don't have Cointreau on hand? Try another flowery or fruity liqueur like a maraschino or St. Germain. Ran out of rye whiskey? Use bourbon -- or almost any other brown liquor. If your vermouth stores are low, try another fortified wine, like port or sherry. Think about the function each ingredient performs in a cocktail, and switch in something that'll do roughly the same thing. You may discover a favorite twist on a classic.

Keep It Cool

Liquor will last for a long time if you keep it away from direct sunlight. But vermouth is a fortified wine, and won't last like spirits. Vermouth should be refrigerated and drunk within three months; buy smaller bottles if you can find them.

Your essentials

Click on the links below to start your own home bar:

Must-haves for beginners

For the advanced mixologist

For a pro-level bar

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