17 Feb 2017
How to set up a great home bar & be everybody’s best friend

From booze to tools, let me walk you through the essentials to create a great home bar.

Having a killer home bar, and knowing what to do with it, is the ultimate achievement for any host. And (unless you’re an insufferable arse) it will certainly put you in the running for winning that proverbial popularity contest.

Below, I’m going to walk you through what I consider to be home-bar essentials. These include the booze itself – with examples of good local and international brands and cocktails you can use them for – plus other requirements like fruits and tools. (Bonus points go to anyone who chooses all local brands for their bar because #localislekker).

Remember though, your bar is predominantly for your pleasure, so don’t invest in a bunch of stuff you don’t like. Hate absinthe? Unless your BFF (or that hottie you fancy) is a mad Sazerac fan, don’t buy it.

And if you don’t want to dive in with the full shebang, I suggest you make a list of the cocktails you like best, then figure out what’s actually in them (or scan the cocktails below). Get those ingredients first, and build your bar up from there.


Whisky or Bourbon

Local: Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky

International: Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie Single Malt or Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Scotch

Cocktails: Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Whisky Sour, Rob Roy, Boulevardier

Light Rum

Local: Zulu Rum

International: New Grove Silver Rum

Cocktails: Mojito, Cuba Libre, Mai Tai

Dark Rum

Local: 031 Bay of Plenty Spiced Rum

International: Mount Gay Black Barrel

Cocktails: Daiquiri, Dark n Stormy, Mai Tai


Local: Six Dogs Karoo Gin

International: The Botanist Gin

Cocktails: Tom Collins, Gin Martini, Gin Gimlet, Negroni,French 75


Local: Jorgensen’s Primitiv Vodka

International: Ketel One Vodka

Cocktails:Moscow Mule, White Russian, Vodka Martini, Cosmopolitan, Bloody Mary


Local: La Leona Blancho

International: Don Julio Reposado

Cocktails: Margarita,Tequila Sunrise, Matador, Blue Monday, Tequila Holiday


Local: Caperitif Vermouth

International: Cinzano Dry Vermouth

Cocktails: Gin Martini, Negroni, Boulevardier, Americano,Corpse Reviver

Triple sec

Local: Brothers Triple Sec

International: Bols Curaçao Triple Sec

Cocktail: Margarita,Cosmopolitan, White Lady, Sidecar, Long Island Ice Tea, Mimosa


Local: 031 Absinthe

International: Doubs Absinthe

Cocktails:Monkey Gland, Death in the Afternoon, Sazerac     


Local: Jorgensen’s Afrodite African Aromatic Bitters

International: Angostura Aromatic Bitters

Cocktails: Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Champagne Cocktail, Rob Roy, Singapore Sling


Citrus fruits

These are common in cocktails, for their juice and zests. Don’t even think about getting fruit concentrates if you want to be taken seriously behind the bar. Rather, keep a stash of fresh lemons, limes and oranges or naartjies at hand.

Maraschino cherries

They not only taste great, but they seriously up the sexy ante – especially if they have stalks.

Green olives

You’re probably only going to use these in martinis, but they’re good to have. Pitted and stuffed ones are best.

White sugar and kosher salt

Sugar will generally be needed for simple syrups, while salt is used for rimming glasses.


Soda water and tonic will take you a long way, but you’ll need Coke and ginger beer for certain drinks.


First get yourself a jigger, shaker, strainer and bar spoon. Then add a citrus reamer or squeezer, for all those lemons and limes, and a zester, for fruit zest. You’ll need a chopping board and sharp knife too, but you’ll likely already have those in your kitchen.

Bits and bobs

Toothpicks, little umbrellas, straws and swizzle sticks are not essentials, but they do add some pizazz to your drinks.

Good luck!

This post first appeared on Food24 on 17 Feb 2017.

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