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Build your perfect bar. Photo by Amanda Faison
Booze, Eat and Drink

How to Build the Ultimate At-Home Bar

Happy hour can’t come soon enough these days, making now the perfect time to upgrade your liquor stash.

Back when bars were truly open for business, we craft cocktail drinkers would luxuriate in dreamy spaces, sipping a bartender’s shaken or stirred creation without a care in the world. Now, we must take happy hour into our own hands. For some, ice-cold beer or chilled rosé might do the trick. But for others, the in-situ cocktail experience is greatly missed.

And thus, we turned to some of our favorite bartenders and bar managers—Sean Kenyon of Williams & Graham, Occidental, and American Bonded; Emily McKenna of Room for Milly and Queens Eleven; and Minetta Gould of Lady Jane and Hudson Hill—for advice on building the ultimate at-home bar.

Gould was quick to parse our question, saying “It’s important to determine why you want a home bar. Is it for yourself or do you want to have a bar to entertain?” The answer will help guide how extensive your bottle collection should become. “If it was just for me, I would have gin, Cognac, Dolin Blanc vermouth, and sherry, but I probably have 80 bottles because my bar is for entertaining,” she says. The idea being, if you drink only old fashioneds, there’s no real need to “build” a bar. But if you’re interested in expanding your repertoire or eventually (post COVID-19) mixing cocktails for others, here are the building blocks you need.


**Of course, let your preferences guide you: If, say, you hate tequila and vow never to drink it, nix it.


“Everyone has that one drink that feels like putting pajamas on. But a home bar should be fun, especially when we’re stuck there,” Kenyon says. With that in mind, the below additions will elevate your bar game exponentially.

Now, what to do with all this booze? Kenyon recommends getting to know Bar Smarts, which details the 25 cocktails every bartender should know. “Knowing those formulas and ratios allows you the foundation to play Mr. Potato Head and have whimsy,” he says. “At worst, you mix something bad and you dump it.”

Bonus: Not sure about the home bartending thing? Sign up for one of Room for Milly’s virtual cocktail classes. Or, pick up cocktails and bar snacks from Hudson Hill or order from NiteCap, a collaboration between Occidental and Williams & Graham.

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